The very first Christian Hip Hop concert I attended was 10 years ago, at Kairos Christian centre, by Bwaila Secondary school in Lilongwe. I had then recently heard the song ‘Chikondi’ by Purpose AKA Tanaposi, and I was excited to find out that Christians can also rap, so attending this concert was a no-brainer for me. It was at this event I was introduced to the likes of KBG and David Kalilani. Many Years later, on the 5th of May 2018, It is safe to say that I attended the biggest Christian Hip Hop show, headlined by a Malawian rapper, at Mbowe filling station grounds. If you had asked me then about a show of such magnitude happening, I probably would’ve doubted and called you crazy. Not because the rappers weren’t good then, but mainly because then, CHH was still finding it hard to get accepted and respected in many of our local churches. Also because some of the rappers weren’t as good then, Lol.
“Many Years later, on the 5th of May 2018, It is safe to say that I attended the biggest Christian Hip Hop show, headlined by a Malawian rapper, at Mbowe filling station grounds. If you had asked me then about a show of such magnitude happening, I probably would’ve doubted and called you crazy.”
In January 2018, I got a call from Letswai CEO and Suffix’s ex-manager Bob Phondo, to meet up to discuss some business. In true African fashion, I arrived late and found him in another meeting with Suffix and Marumbo Sichinga. These 3 young gentlemen, were having their first meeting, planning what would be the ‘Before I Sleep’ album launch. As the fly on that wall, I heard all the plans they had, gave my input where I saw fit, but was very excited at the vision Suffix had. The Narrative was indeed about to change.
Months later, the road to the album launch began with a college tour. The aim was to get word to college students that Suffix would be launching soon, but this was also a way of fundraising as no sponsor had come forward to support the launch. Having no sponsor did not stop Suffix and his team, as they took on these colleges from as far as Bunda all the way to the African Bible College. There were moments Suffix got bookings and appearances on opposite ends of the country, in a short space of time, just to promote and finance the launch. Just to paint a vivid picture about this, there was a particular week Suffix travelled beyond Rumphi, North of Malawi to Perform at the University of Livingstonia. A week later, he got a booking in Nkhoma, which is about an hour away from Lilongwe, Capital city and in the central region of Malawi. He travelled back late in the evening from Nkhoma. The next morning, running on a few hours of sleep, he was on the early morning bus to Blantyre, South of the country for an MBCtv appearance, and a Made on Monday Interview that evening. Every booking that came their way went into financing the album launch and finalising the album itself.
Days before the album launch, I met with suffix at 1five in area 15 Lilongwe. 1Five is a creative hub, and Suffix had chosen it as the place for his rehearsals. On this particular day, they did not rehearse, but the rapper secluded himself in the studio finalising his set. I remember finding him there with his Dj Chizmo, trying to have a conversation but only being able to attract half of his attention. Changes were being made, songs were being added to the set, all in the name of giving his fans the best show he could.
The preparations weren’t all glitz and glam, and there were moments where frustration was the elephant in the room. At one point, I remember Marumbo Sichinga, the Album Launch producer, came to the team with some bad news which put Suffix off. In as much as Marumbo had a solution to whatever the problem was, it was clear that Suffix wasn’t happy. The day before the show, we drove to the venue to realise that the team mounting the stage had right aligned, instead of centre aligning the stage. A mistake clearly made from a lack of communication that cost the team an extra MK20,000 just so the stage is moved. Fast forward to the day of the show, the back-line to the sound equipment arrived late, which meant the sound engineer had to reconnect whatever was previously connected. This led to the show starting late which angered the fans who had been waiting for a long time.
With everything going on, my biggest concern was Suffix’s peace of mind. From spending the previous week before the show with him, I know first-hand at how hard he worked, what he had to go through and the sacrifices he had to make in order for the show to go right. In a post-mortem hangout, we had the day after the show, Liwu and KBG admitted that they were ready not to perform and to just let Suffix hit the stage as soon as he arrives, because of how late the show had started, and also because the people had come for Suffix. That was not the case because at the time was a little after 3:40 PM, the show started.
Dj Goxy and I went up the cold stage, apologised to the angry show goers and assured them that the show was beginning. We were met by a hostile crowd, as we tried our many attempts to get any positive reactions from them. We introduced Mista Gray as the first performer of the afternoon. The crowd halfheartedly welcomed him but seemed to have forgotten all their problems when Chimwana Chosamba was performed. Cozizwa followed, then the Nyali Muzik crew individually from KBG, Liwu and then Samuel. This was all orchestrated by Suffix himself. He wanted to perform with his friends on the day. People who have supported him from the beginning of his career. These are the artist you will find him discussing life with, rebuking and challenging him and playing FIFA with on a chilled Sunday Afternoon.
The moment everyone had been waiting for had come. It was like, God held back time just so that the show runs smoothly even though we had started late. The Forus dance crew from Dzaleka Refugee camp in Dowa hit the stage dancing to Suffix’s song Creator, which is the outro on the new album. As they danced, Suffix steadily sang along from backstage, making his way to the stage. The crowd went crazy in excitement as Suffix appeared and rapped, with the Forus crew performing a mixture of dance and acrobatics, blowing fire sticks behind him.
Pastor Sean Kampondeni of Flood Church shared the gospel, accompanied by a freestyle and his testimony in the middle of Suffix’s set to the 5000 people that patronised the event. In the chaos of all the organisation and trying to get things done, it was very pivotal of the event to have Pastor Sean share, and some volunteers from Flood Church and supporting artist to take on the role of praying, and engaging with some young people as the show was going on.
A couple of days before the show, on one of the teams many errands, while waiting in the car, Marumbo asked me and Bob what Narrative was being changed. I sat in the driver’s seat with no answer, with the hopes that Bob would come to the rescue. In true Bob fashion, he did manage to finesse a response. Now a week after the show, I can confidently respond to the question.
10 years ago, Christian rap was deemed cocky, with nothing to offer but self-righteous individuals who think they are better than everyone. 10 years ago, churches did not want to associate themselves with anything to do with hip-hop, and pastors stood and denounced it in their churches. 10 years ago, the only Christian hip-hop shows you would hear of were organised by church youth groups, patronised by the youth of those churches. 10 years later, God has used a young man, raised in Chilobwe township, with an amazing talent, not just to conquer the music charts, not just to rub shoulders with the big names in the International Christian hip-hop space, but to use his gift to bring 5000 young people of Malawi, at a place where they could possibly be at their worst behaviour ‘Mbowe Filling Station’, to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.10 years later, God has used a young man, raised in Chilobwe township, with an amazing… Click To Tweet
“10 years later, God has used a young man, raised in Chilobwe township, with an amazing talent, not just to conquer the music charts, not just to rub shoulders with the big names in the International Christian hip-hop space, but to use his gift to bring 5000 young people of Malawi, at a place where they could possibly be at their worst behaviour ‘Mbowe Filling Station’, to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Come to think of it, the narrative has been changing as of late. We have veteran CHH artists and DJ’s becoming pastors now. We have churches and organisations opening their doors and embracing the impact CHH has. Not to say everything is good now, but we are better than where we were 10 years ago. Nevertheless, Before I Sleep is a moment of its own. A milestone for CHH in Malawi. To borrow some words from one of our generations most influential artist, Aubrey Graham, ‘What a time to be alive’.
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“Nevertheless, Before I Sleep is a moment of its own. A milestone for CHH in Malawi.”
Written By: Dali Mizaya @DaliUja
Creative Direction: Daniel Mtombosola.
Photography: Daniel Mtombosola, Kondwani Phanga & Mpho Laisi.Editor: Diana Nkhoma, @iamnotagoddess