The theme of love in Kuyimba albums is systematically handled, perhaps a lot better than any other band has ever done. The point of departure is clear and the journey visible.
The journey of love starts from the beginning, in Kuyimba One. The founder of Kuyimba albums, Evison Matafale, starts on a rather doubting note. Nkhawa bi in Kuyimba 1 is a song about a persona, a man revealed in the voice of Matafale, hoping for love, a girl, from a distance, both economic and social.
Ndikakuona utakwera motocar,
Makamaka utakwera kutsogolo,
Ndimangoti mkazi uja wapita,
Ine nkhwa biii.
She is just a hope, a man’s hope of love. Yet the second part of the first stanza brings some tangible hope and almost a guarantee that there is something, already.
Ine mtima ziii.
Matafale, his voice or the persona, is like a man watching a girl from a distance, admires her but knows she was not born for him only. Anyone, even the voice in the song, can win her love. But he thinks like any other man; he has that insecure feeling that someone else has won her love. This is someone driving. Call it power of a car.
But is it that simple, that a girl goes for a car? Love is more complicated than that and the second part of the first stanza in which the girl assures of her love, is evidence. Women look for more than money although economic security is crucial.
Here, too, Matafale shows the bewitching power of love. Even if people saw her riding a car, the character in the song forgets all people are saying and believes in her love assurances. This is not strange, it is part of life. People stick to one another for reasons others cannot understand. Which is why Edgar ndi Davis in one song wondered what a man liked in a wife who did not do any household chores. The man knew what he liked.
But was the girl’s assurance real? It does not seem so. Which is what we see in Kuyimba 2. Matafale sings about a love affair that is failing to take off the ground after years of assurances.
Sunachite kulemba kalata,
Kuti mwina ndiziti sunalembe ndiwe,
Sunachite kutuma munthu wina,
Kuti mwina ndiziti anandinamiza,
Ndi pakamwa pako unanena wekha,
Nanga lero bwanji?
This reality comes after years the persona has spent believing that he is in love. But the stark reality is unfolding: the girl is not necessarily in love.
Of course this song can have several interpretations. It can be political, a reference to MPs who come with promises that are never fulfilled at the end of five years. It might be that Matafale was borrowing from politics: how parliamentary candidates speak with their own mouths about their commitment but after years, nothing happens.
Then, Matafale died in circumstances Malawi has not understood up to now. But the Kuyimba journey did not die with him. The mission continues with the Black Missionaries. In Kuyimba 3, there is a new attempt to win the girl’s love. The persona is now revealed through the voice of Anjiru Fumulani in a composition challenging the girl:
Ngati umakonda undikonde ine,
Ngati umadziwa undidziwe ine.
He challenges the girl with great love, dare to love me, he says. Love begets love, so we say. But there are grains of doubt. If, the word if (ngati), means the persona is not sure of the girl’s love. Are we ever sure of love?
"That’s a good question," says Pierson Ntata, a Zomba based musician. "If not, then what are we? Are our lives all a pretence? Are they a hoax? We love and we are loved."
There is a point when people are sure of love, he says, hence people are shocked when a spouse breaks the sanctity of marriage. "If we were not sure of love, then we would not be shocked," says Ntata. "In practice, people convince themselves of love not because there is proof but because of fear of the opposite, the consequences."
Still, in a world where love does not last, the man is compelled to ask his girl’s assurance. And, for the first time in the Kuyimba journey of love, relatives are introduced into the love theme. They are uncles, and they are crucial in any journey of love that aims at destination success.
The scene is in public, before uncles and aunts. Perhaps the man’s side had gone for a formal visit to the girl’s home. The two, it seems, are growing in love, hence in Kuyimba 4, Ndamusowa, tells it all.
Now love is flowing like water in a river and there are such bodies of water in Chileka. So, the analogy of love flowing fits well because the missionaries from Chileka grew up watching water in the rivers and streams of Chileka.
In a way, Ndamusowa suggests that the man wants the girl to be the last to see when he goes to bed and the first to see when he wakes up. This is how love is supposed to be but, sadly, not the case always. It’s a theme explored in detail by arts: true lovers, says common sense, never meet; they only contemplate each other, existing in the mind.
But the Kuyimba 4 lovers are true, at least seen at this stage of the love journey in Kuyimba albums. Kuyimba 4 was the end of the first part of the journey. After hoping for her in Kuyimba 1, courting her love in Kuyimba 2, pleading for her love in Kuyimba 3, the two are in love and can declare so to the world in Kuyimba 4.
It seems like a journey that resonates with all of us. We start from hoping, move on to courting and when that fails, we plead, even kneel down and ask for love. Isn’t that what pleading is all about? So, the two have agreed and they move on in love.
Now wonder in Kuyimba 5, it is clear the two have invited the world to witness a union, a wedding of some sort, which takes place at the man’s rural home: Chileka, for example.
So, you can imagine the man, Anjiru in this case, singing:
Tsono uti bwanji iwe,
Nditinso bwanji poti umandikonda,
Uzinena za ine,
Ndidzanena za iwe poti umandikonda
What else? The journey is at a climax. In fact, one can imagine that the two are singing as bride and bridegroom, at their wedding, assuring people that they are one, they are in love, married, the beginning of a new journey, the reality, so to say, whose fruits appear in Kuyimba 6.
Ngooneka Bwabji? is a song in Kuyimba 6. The journey of love, or call it flight, is now in troubled skies. The woman is questioning the man because rumour is that he is going out with someone else, hence the question, ‘how beautiful is she?’
How beautiful is she, that I should leave you for her? This is the question the man asks in defence. He means to say, "My girl, you are beautiful, more beautiful than anyone else that I can’t go for someone else." Here, says Ntata, starts true love.
"In premarital love," says Ntata, "interaction is minimal. The affair is more romantic than love [because] there is a refusal to look at the negative side for fear of straining the relationship and you don’t want that to happen."
But after marriage, people live together all the time and the idea that you have secured the deal makes you less cautious and less careful. Yet here starts true love because people accept each other and learn to live with each others strengths and weaknesses.
This is what is happening in Kuyimba 6. The man might have been talking carelessly with girls and people have reported that he is going out with someone else when in fact nothing might be happening.
Kuyimba albums are addressing different circumstances faced by men and women, boys and girls. But most importantly, they are painting a truly practical, positive picture of love. Some musicians have mastered hopelessness music. There is a lesson from Kuyimba albums that there is a lot of love in the world and artists need to sing about it.
What about Kuyimba 7? The Blacks are in the studio working on a seventh album, what will be the next step on the journey of love?
"You would bet the song in Kuyimba 7 will be a continuation of this trust," says Ntata. "It will be something like people wanted to disturb this love but they are still loving each other."
Hopefully, the Blacks are working on something in line with the journey of love in Kuyimba albums. It has been a rich journey, one that engages people in real issues. It is, in short, a journey that reflects reality but also shines on reality—our daily complicated lives.