The first time I listened to Patience Namadingo’s ‘Msati Mseke‘ was when I found my cousin’s houseboy dancing in an eager wild abandon upon the veranda. He thought he was alone, and I did not want to cut that joyful moment off, so I quietly crept by and went to my room. I lay upon my bed, listening to the song carefully. At first the song sounded very intelligent, produced by an intelligent mind; I even told the houseboy that one cannot avoid dancing to such an amazing song. So I established the song as a success, one of its kind Namadingo has ever produced.
However, one night I went to drink with a friend at a nearby lodge. I implored the barman to play Msati Mseke, and my wish was granted. They often say that a strong drink reduces ones judgement, but it proved otherwise for me that night as I sat upon the stool listening to the song. Every word that came out of the artist’s mouth reached my ears, got through the eardrum unobstructed, on to the auditory nerves. My brain reacted to the stimulus, and began its work.
First, my brain told me that the song is anti-Malawian, using Christian doctrines to trash Malawian traditional dances . To use Marxist terms, it implores all Malawian traditional dancers, on pain of cultural extinction, to adopt a new dancing mode, one acceptable to God . Gule Wamkulu dancers are portrayed as violent, barbaric; they are ready to pounce on innocent victims and rob them of their possessions. Malipenga dancers, in their smat dressing, are told to stop wasting their smart dance steps for the sake of cultural traditions, rather, they should start dancing to the rhythms of Godly songs. In other words, Namadingo wants Malawian traditional dances to become extinct, and a new kind of dance, the dance of God, should prevail.
Secondly, I found out one surprising thing about this young artist. He does not realise that in as far as he is a christian, he has no right to trash traditional dances. Traditional dances are part of Malawian cultural tools, part of the identity with which we identify ourselves as Malawians. We often claim that Malawi is a God fearing nation, but we don not even know that we are making a very big scandal, a mistake that has compelled one religious group, mainly Christian, to think that it solely owns Malawi, and it alone is the true religion for Malawi. I admit my statement sounds very sweeping, but if we may rummage through our cultural landscape, a lot of beautiful traditional dances have died at the hands of Christian evangelism like the one epitomised by Namadingo. Girls can no longer go to learn Chirimika dance steps because they are busy in the praise team, dancing a new and holly dance. The future of Chrimika is therefore doomed.
Now here is Namadingo, pouncing on Malipenga, one of the most cerebrated Malawian dance. He says Malipenga dancers are called by God to come and dance for him. in other words, Malipenga dance is worthless, a waste of time and energy; the dancers should come and dance to God’s drums. Tis is pathetic, especially considering the fact tat Namadingo is also a Malawian.
I am, like Namadigo, a Christian as well, but I understand that Malawi is a circular country, so when I write my things for public consumption, I write within the spirit of Malawian culture. This is my role as an artist. If I should write anything about God, I should not do so at the detriment of Malawian cultural values.
Otherwise, Msati Mseke is a successful but confused song.