When I was still in college, my plan was to graduate, find a job in the Social Sciences and climb my way up that corporate ladder. It was all set out. In few years, I would be out of my parents’ house, living on my own somewhere, buying my own furniture and basically being the independent lady I’ve always dreamt of being. I graduated from college, and came to realise that the job market siimagawa Kamba was not playing games. There were no great jobs waiting for me; and I was not climbing up my hypothetical ladder. Instead, I was stuck at home, being Nambewe in my parent’s house for months. Honestly, it was a blow to me. That was when I first realised things were not going to go as I had planned.
By the grace of God, after some months, I managed to find a job. I went on to work in the capital city, Lilongwe, as a Research Assistant and I thoroughly enjoyed my job. However, I fell ill every other month. The last straw was when I suffered from pneumonia. I was seriously ill and quit my job so I could fully recover at home. I won’t get into too much detail because I wrote about it already in this post, which explains how I decided to get into music. In short, I promised God I would record more music if He let me live.
Let me just tell you upfront: I am not a risk taker – I have always been a safe and cautious person. I always valued security and comfort. That is up until I realised how fragile life is, and that my health can fail me at any time. While I was ill, I thought long and hard about my life… what did I actually spend my time doing? I noticed that I dedicated a lot of my time going with the flow, and just barely living. So I told myself I would spend my time doing the things I love that glorify God before my time here on earth is done.
First thing was deciding that I was not going to be formally employed, and that I was going to put all the money I had saved from my last job into music – an industry that is known to not return what you put into it. It was a very huge and risky move for me, but I took it. By the way, I wouldn’t recommend what I have done in my life to anyone (please stay in school, get a job and have financial discipline. Following your passion is not for the faint hearted, especially in this economy. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk).
Ok, where was I? Yes, I had just promised God I would do more of what I love doing, which included music. I had just taken a step towards one of the hardest roads in my life and I was already lost. I started looking for someone who could help me come up with the songs, the music arrangement, musicians willing to work on the project and a suitable studio. After some weeks, a good friend of mine recommended someone from church called Mclean Kumala. The day I told him about my plan, he was all in. Mclean has been the executive producer since day 1. A lot of the work I was supposed to do, he did. I don’t even know how he did it because he always had his plate full. All I can say is, I am so grateful he came on board.
For over a year (yes I said a year…), we spent our time practising, planning, arranging and doing more practice. The team came together eventually: Enoch Mlenga – guitarist, violinist, cellist; Chipiliro Chambamba – pianist and saxophonist; Mclean Kumala – guitarist and organiser of right about everything. It was difficult to find time for practice – juggling everyone’s busy schedule – but these guys really sacrificed their time. We would practice like mad in the little time we came together, sometimes till late in the night. We finally started recording in October, 2018 at Ituma Music Productions (IMP) Studio in Kanjedza, Blantyre and the album was produced by the talented Gresham Mukwena. I am really grateful for his dedication throughout the project and how at home he made us feel in the studio. I also just want to say, I was so blessed to work with people who know and breathe music; and made the whole experience fun.
Video: Chipi on the sax and McLean on the guitar. McLean wore many hats throughout the project and I’m grateful for his direction.
There were some months when we had to take a break, because of reasons beyond our control: my grandmother’s sickness and death meant time off from the project. I also fell ill a couple of times, sometimes bedbound for a month. All this did was confirm to me that I was on the right path, following my passion. Sickness and death has always been a reminder to me to live life doing what makes the heart joyful. But it’s been a long and hard road. I have almost gone down the road of depression, I have questioned my path countless times, and I have been so broke – sometimes even going offline for weeks because I can’t afford to buy a data bundle. I won’t even lie to you, some days, I felt like giving up. But the joy of actually doing what makes my heart full overtook the setbacks. I have come to learn what patience and sacrifice is – for that, I am grateful. It makes me appreciate the journey more.
Half of the songs are covers – I either sung them as a kid in church, I grew up listening to my father sing them (and thought I should record them so they are not forgotten) or I was asked to cover them (for instance, “Chete” was a song that was highly requested after I did an acapella cover of it in early 2018). I had a deep desire to include songs in my mother tongue, Chichewa (I explained this better in this post “Singing in a Foreign Language”). I had the opportunity to include songs written by Elijah Saidi – an incredible musician that I am highly indebted to. He penned two tracks in the album – “Ndilandireni” and “Greater is He”. Mclean composed two songs in the album – “It’s My Prayer” and “Miry Clay”; “Chikondi” is a song written by my big brother, McDonald Chitekwe which is also the single and album title. I enjoyed singing and taking in all the words from songs I believe were truly inspired. May God bless you richly.
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who was there for us (hosting us during recording, praying for us, checking if I was eating lol) throughout the project. It will take me all day to mention y’all one by one, just know from the bottom of my heart, I am very thankful. But of a special mention are the two people that started the fire of singing in me and have been the best support system – my mum and dad. I don’t even know where to start. A huge part of chasing my dreams was done because you encouraged me. You let me live in your house (your little ‘unemployed’ graduate daughter…) thank you for ‘bearing the shame’ and letting me go against the flow. Dad, for your endless support… once, you had to drive us to the studio and wait for us outside till late because I was so sick, I could hardly walk. That day has never left my mind… Mum, letting me use your car while we recorded for a whole week! Inuyo kumayenda pansi ine ndikuyenda chokhala. Your big heart, mama! I can’t thank you two enough! God bless you for all you’ve done for me. Your reward is great. I know it.
I also want to give a huge shout out to my sister, Grace who organised the photoshoot, was behind selecting my outfits and really just kept me sane throughout. I ran most of my ideas through her, and she has been an awesome creative consultant.
Photo and design credits: Goblin Arts.
I’m so grateful I had a chance to work with Larry, an incredible and professional artist. I can’t wait for y’all to see the amazing work he did with the digital booklet (which contains lyrics to all the songs) – something you’ll get when you purchase the album.
Lastly, I just want to thank You, Lord for the amazing people You placed in my life to be a part of the making of this album and for letting me go down this path. What a journey! Would I trade it for anything else? No, Lord! I. Would. Not! I love that you keep assuring me that YOU lead me, by Your own hand! I know I am not the best singer in the world… I didn’t somersault my voice through the twelve tracks, but I know this; and Lord, I know You know this too: I only used what You gave me and I gave it MY best. As long as I am alive, You are not raising stones to sing in my stead.
May you be blessed.
“Chikondi” will be available for purchase from 23 February, 2019. You can download the single from the homepage.
Contact +265 994 494 241 for a copy if you’re in Malawi. If you are outside Malawi, here’s the link to an online store: https://t.co/kFzFRPC2nahttps://store.malawi-music.com/product/faith-tsoka-chikondi-2019/