Return of the Ben: The legend is back

The kaleidoscopic multi-award winning music kingpin who took the Malawi music scene by a storm who disappeared into thin air a decade ago after mesmerising the masses with his heart-warming but honest-filled compositions is back into the mainstream fold.

The man who conquered the airwaves with Moyo Wantauni, Kamba anga Mwala and Fire-fire Cassava among many hit songs, Ben Michael Mankhamba has announced his return to music 10 years later after swapping the music stage for leadership as a village chief in Nsalu in Traditional Authority Kabudula in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

The iconic of Ben Michael: The legend is back home to music.

After disappearing from the music scene in 2010 to concentrate on his role as a traditional leader as Chief Chingalire, the Malawi Gin award-winning artist, the iconic Ben Michael back perhaps to take over as the music industry’s chief.

In an interview with Nyasa Times Ben Michael, whose real name is Benjamin Mankhamba, said: “After a long time in the wilderness outside the mainstream music industry due to ‘chieftarial’ engagements and commitment I have decided to come.

“To relaunch my career, I am dropping a first single after a long absence and the many years of inactivity in the industry.”

Ben Michael said his new song will resonate with many people as it tackles day to day real life issues.

Said the Ndiopa Kutenga hit-maker: “After a long time I went back to a recording session and I was in the studio with Ras Rejected cooking a tune which lasted us a eight-hours straight with producer Ralph Ching’amba for a massive production. I think this will be a better tune.”

Ben Michael during his 10 year long absence from the music industry, said while he has been occupied working as village head, Chief Chingalire his passion for music never faded or got rusty.

“I am so happy to be back home to music and I am so glad to be reunited with a good old-time friend, Ralph Ching’amba on the project.

“He (Ralph Ching’amba) is an experienced talented music producer who I have worked with him for some time. Being a reggae piece, I had to involve someone who knows that too; hence, featuring Ras Rejected.”

Ben Michael, who promote arts and culture in his village especially among the youth and women, confided in Nyasa Times that for his new song the trio has had set up a studio in Chingalire Village.

The song which was written by Ben Michael and is titled Pilato talks about the injustices in the society and the country, at large.

“There are certain things that obviously are supposed to be done in a certain way, but because there’s no justice in the world, they happen differently,” said Ben Michael.

Ben Michael, the former Zig-Zaggers frontman, said mostly he is looking at it from the Biblical perspective, when Jesus was taken to Pilate’s court.

“The king knew the truth about Jesus, but he did the opposite,” said the guitarist and lead singer.

“Similarly, there are so many people that have the power and capabilities to change things or help other people, but because, like King Pilate, they protect their interests, and justice is trampled upon and everything changes,” said Michael, typical of a chief’s wisdom.

“With this song, I am officially back to the game. This song will surely show music lovers and my fans that I am very much still around.

This is how it happens in music, you go up and down. There was a time Oliver Mtukudzi went mute for a while and he came back with more energy.

“I still have the energy to perform on stage. I have still more to give. The new generation will have a chance to see me reminding those from my generation how we used to do it,” he said.

On the impact of his comeback in his role as a village head, Chief Chingalire said he will juggle the two roles without hassles.

He said: “It’s possible to do music and be a leader in my village. Nothing will suffer. As for a band, I am not going back to Zig Zaggers. I will identify artists I will team up and to work with, moving forward. I will have to audition them.”

Scheduled for release at the end of the first week of July, Pilato is currently being mastered and mixed by the legendary producer, Ching’amba.

The project is being sponsored by Costen Mapemba, who said in a separate interview that the support is one way of reviving old memories.

“I was his manager at one point. When an opportunity for him to return to music arose, I had to come in and continue from where we left off,” said the Munthu M’kalulu composer.

Ben Michael is an acclaimed international music versatile artist one of the most decorated local musicians and won awards like Malawi Gin Music Trophy and Kuchekuche Music Awards.

Ben Michael, who plied his music alongside guitar maestro, Eric Paliani, Sam Katimba, Uncle Layi among others in the Zig-Zaggers Band, also represented the country in many international festivals through, music, film, theatre and drama, thereby putting Malawi music on the world map.

The Ben returns.

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