Veteran radio-play-actor Smart Likhaya Mbewe, popularly known as Kapalepale on MBC Radio, has died.
Mbewe died Friday evening at Mulanje District Hospital and will be laid to rest at his home Muliya village, Traditional Authority Juma in Mulanje.
The veteran actor, whose voice powered through the airwaves reaching ears of millions and warmed their hearts with joy and laughter for several decades and spanning across different generations, died as he was about to clock 83-years of age having born on October 10, 1934.
He is survived by nine children and 33 grandchildren.
History would remember the 1980s and 90s as the great times when Likhaya Mbewe’s voice was at its pinnacle and a must listen to whenever time clocks 6.30 every Saturday when he brought on MBC Radio, to be precise MBC Radio One which was the only radio station then, the Sewero La Sabata ino episode which later wore the moniker of Kapalepale the lead actor in the 30 minute play.
The lead actor was Likhaya Mbewe himself who was also the producer of the program.
For many years Likhaya Mbewe was also the producer of another 15-minute play Pa Majiga which to date also remains one of the most followed radio play.
Before his death, Likhaya Mbewe has for some time been bedridden at Muliya Village where he has been fighting the debilitating effects of stroke he suffered in 2004.
Likhaya Mbewe, also nick named “Mbwiye”, is undoubtedly one of the great voices to have graced radio drama in Malawi.
“Mbwiye” was the nickname generated from his radio drama days as in and out of acting, old Likhaya Mbewe loved to call every male counterpart “Mbwiye”, which simply means “mate” in Lhomwe.
Even in his last days Likhaya Mbewe maintained his jovial character that was always associated with him during his hay days.
Visiting him at his house while he was sick, one was greeted by a helpless sight of the old Likhaya Mbewe seated in his chair, with his clutches by the side but once you start chatting what follows is an exciting shocker; the frail looking Likhaya Mbewe would greet you with such a punchy, sharp voice with a huge smile on his face, a true jovial character who maintained high spirits even in sickness and lonely old days.
In his old age and sickness, he still maintained his commanding voice.
Likhaya Mbewe’s career spans 39 good years. He joined the public broadcaster in 1964 as a member of the administration team. But September 19 1965 marked the day his career took a whole different path when he was invited to take part in the radio play, Sewero la Sabata Lino.
“I made my first and lasting impression and this was the beginning of my radio acting career. In my first appearance, the producer felt my voice was good and said I had what he called a ‘moving idea’, he narrated in one of the interviews he has had with the media.
It was late Willy Khoza, the then producer of the radio play Sewero La Sabata Ino who saw this character of having a ‘Moving idea’ which is an idea referred in acting as an ability to logically present facts with a good sequence by omitting unnecessary information in order to best drive the message home.
Unfortunately, the collaboration with Khoza did not last long. Khoza, who was working with Chancellor College, moved to Zomba when the college relocated from Chichiri, Blantyre.
However, something good emerged out of this separation. When Khoza moved, Likhaya Mbewe was recommended to produce both Sewero La Sabata Lino and Pamajiga plays.
“I was writing, directing and producing four plays in a week, which was extraordinary,” recalled Mbewe.
Reminiscing on his most memorable play, Mbewe pointed to one in which his “wife” in the play, a Namukhoviwa, sold their dog in order to raise money for her to enroll for an adult literacy school. He then explained the play was special because it was advocating women empowerment.
Likhaya Mbewe served at MBC from 1964 to 1993. He was recalled from retirement in 1999 and worked for another decade until 2010.
Likhaya Mbewe’s life story in radio drama deserves to command respect from modern generation artists.
A radio and television drama artist Michael Usi, popularly known as Manganya at one time crowned Mbewe as the “father” of radio drama in the country as he recalled his youthful days when every Saturday at 6:30 pm he would rush to listen to Kapalepale on Sewero La Sabata Lino.
“It was during those days that I got inspiration and motivation to venture into radio drama. I enjoyed the plays he produced and participated in,” said Usi.
Usi said he once acted in a play produced and directed by the radio drama legend.
“He is the one who realised my acting potential and advised me to always remain humble in my work,” said Usi.
Usi is one of the people who came to the aid of Likhaya Mbewe in his sickness.
During the visit to Likhaya Mbewe’s home, Usi grieved what is becoming a familiar pattern and path that celebrities like artists, footballers are forced to take in the times of pain.
“There will not be much to call a future if people like Likhaya Mbewe are not taken care of,” said Usi.
It will indeed take several generations to forget Likhaya Mbewe’s legacy because of his brilliant works. He was indeed an entertainer extraordinaire, as one writer said “whose greatness still flows like a river into the dry terrain of a struggling radio drama industry in Malawi”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :