* He had a deep quest for high quality class and desire to conquer
* He was quite principled, very religious and down to Earth too
* A great music maestro we have lost
* His quality music and well composed productions shaped the music industry
* We remain grateful to God for your life and the lessons you taught
* One who sung and preached and walked the talk. Nkhongono watikhoola Wambali
By Duncan Mlanjira
Music genius Wambali Mtebeti Mkandawire died on Sunday morning, becoming the latest high profile social personality to succumb to COVID-19 related complications.
Tributes poured in on all social media platforms and in many households, people are dedicating the day to reminisce his life by playing his music.
Writing on his Facebook page, football and social issues commentator, Charles Nyirenda describes Wambali as ‘the lynchpin of Sounds Pentagon’ a music band which was a household name playing at Kudya Motel in Soche Township, Blantyre.
He writes: “It is in the fall of 1967-68 when we receive a new pupil at Mzuzu CCAP in Standard 6 — his name is Glyn Mkandawire — he has come from Mlowe in Rumphi and is staying with relatives in Mzuzu.
“Within a short period of time, we become close friends because we both love music and we keep song books in which we write relics of popular hits of the moment.
“And we are joined by Chatonda Mhone, whose parents have returned home from Zambia and are doing business in town. I am privileged because I stay in my father’s shop that sells music records and I am able to update my two colleagues in the triad frequently on latest releases.
“Fast forward, Glyn delves very deep into music such that he gravitates from a mere music enthusiast to a full blown musician himself after dropping off in Form 3 at Robert Blake Secondary School and moving to Blantyre City where he becomes a founding member on vocals for a rock band, Sounds Pentagon that has Kudya Motel in Soche Township as its base.
“He plays high grade rock music from the mid70s and 80s before leaving the country. Once he returned, his brand name was Wambali Mkandawire and now he was at yet another level of music making and evidence of that is public knowledge in Malawi and abroad.
“I knew Wambali in childhood as well as during his adult life. And this is what I can say about him: he had a deep quest for high quality, class and desire to conquer.
“He was quite principled, very religious and down to Earth too. The last time we met, which is nearly three years ago, he urged me to return to Mzuzu and join politics so we could be fighting social vices together.
“He blamed me for taking too long to get involved with politics and I promised him I would do so soon. As he passed on, he was still waiting for me to go back to Mzuzu.
“Post humously, I say to him, I am sorry, my dear brother Wambali that you have left this sinful world without seeing me in active politics. Rest Well! Will Meet There!”
Christopher Msuku responded, saying: “A great music maestro we have lost. His quality music and well composed productions shaped the music industry. The creation of Manyasa and the musicians that came from that band are a cream in the industry many to mention. Rest Well Mtebeti.”
Khumbo Bonzoe Soko explained that Wambali called himself ‘Mtebeti’, which in Tumbuka language means servant — “and boy, did he serve. Death may have robbed him of life but its sting won’t touch his voice”.
“He will continue to ‘teach, rebuke and correct’ us even from yonder, from the indescribable wealth of his ‘utebeti’, for ages to come.
“Wambali was probably one of the most refined musicians that this country ever produced — by some ridiculous distance actually.
“Thanks for such priceless gifts Mtebeti. Thank you very much. Now go home and rest.”
He rounds it up with a poem;
Kulijeso citima na nyifwa/
Njirani mu nyumba, yiwemi.’
Journalist Ephraim Nyondo remembers covering Wambali’s last main performance at Comesa Hall in Blantyre on July 11, 2011 and how his fellow scribe Mzati Nkolokosa wrote a touching story reviewing that farewell performance.
“During the performance, as a junior reporter then, I sat behind Khumbo Bonzoe Soko and his reactions throughout the performance was all I needed to craft a story for my editor.
“And Wambali is dead…Khumbo is sad he won’t have Wambali sing again for him. Malawians are pain as their brook of music has run dry. The world is in pain as it has sent to the ages another greatness.
“Yendani makora baliska. Sumu zinu zitichizgenge kuvitima ivyo mwatilekera.”
Peter Mlauzi said: “He was a highly gifted musician. No doubt, his music has left a lasting legacy in the country, and beyond the borders” and was described by another commentator that the country has “lost an icon in music — the best we have had so far, one who sung and preached and walked the talk. Nkhongono watikhoola Wambali”.
Innocent Nyangulu said Wambali has left behind a legacy that shall be cherished for many generations to come.
“We have learnt a lot from him. One of the lesson is being humble. He turned back the doctorate degree which had political spice in it . ‘Yayi wapeni agho vikuwayenerera, people suffer in class for these papers,” he had said. What a humble man! Till we meet again.”
Lewis Chidindira Silungwe: “We remain grateful to God for your life and the lessons you taught. Of your music — we will surely let our kids and grandkids know.”
Roger Kadammanja said Wambali came on Earth with the Light in his hand. “His music was not just a mere good jazz — the messages in it were too bald.
“Unarguably, he is Malawi’s all time best musician, seconded to none. His legacy remains with us. I should not drop a tear because his departure is the beginning of his new life with the Lord he had served for decades through his music career.
“Now Playing ‘ODALA’. This song heals all the wounds I have from all the COVID-19 deaths.”
Ignatious Kaphinde wrote: “You never wanted to be treated like a celebrity even though you were much more than most of the celebrities we have.
“There was a time when you were awarded an honorary doctorate so that we should be calling you Dr. Wambali Mkandawire (you deserved it) but you surprised all of us by declining it.
“There was a time when you called and said you wanted to work on a project to translate spiritual films to Chitumbuka and you wanted a video expert. We met, designed and planned the project.
“Sitting down with you, all I was getting was wisdom and hey, you were a very good listener. You could say, ‘let it be that way…You’re right…’
“From your house to the bus stop there is a distance but you escorted and walked with us to the bus stop and waited for us to board the bus.
“And on a lighter note…Just as Kondwani Masina has rightly put it, you taught us how to drink Coca-Cola correctly. A few things that I remember about you and you have left us with lessons.
“You were a great man yet so humble. Hamba kahle Mte. Rest, Sir, rest.”
John Nthakomwa mourned: “Wambali, you are in a better place, my brother — you lived your live serving Christ and bringing others to Christ, I believe you will be received by the angels singing and rewarded for your faith in God and a life well lived.”
While Golden Matonga said Wambali “has left his mark. The authenticity, persistence and genius of his music has been recognized from generation to generation and traveled across borders.
“Even when the most vocal and inconsiderate of loudmouths trashed our music, they were cautious to put a caveat: except Wambali’s. His life was lived simply — without scandal or much in terms of attention seeking. His legend will live forever. The man rests now.”
Shadreck Nyanja said the legend “was born with a mission for a historic music career. He taught us, he fought a good fight and he surrendered his weapons. His music will speak good for his life for generations to generations, may his soul rest well.”