Written by HENRY MVULA
Birth of a star:
Ellen Kadango (Elly K) was born on Tuesday, August 5th, 1989 to Shaban Kadango and Mercy Mbera; the only girl in the family of five.
Her musical interest started at the age of ten. Way back in 1999, Elly K and her band of brothers, as kids, would emulate live performances.
As is the case with many youths, and especially with the male dominance in the family, soccer mania inevitably assumed superiority over music and the ‘live band performances’ declined, then died.
It was when Elly K was sixteen (around 2005) that she triumphed over soccer mania and gravitated to dancing. Her parents supported this by availing her of dancing and music lessons, following which she established a dancing club. The club lasted till 2009.
Of that time Elly K recalls with nostalgia:
“During this time, I my musical instinct expanded, and with that came the realisation that music and dancing are inseparable. And so in 2006, I wrote my first song titled “Wonderful” – a song which essentially talks about who I am. It is in my album titled “Ndikanakhala nyerere”.”
Breaking onto the musical scene:
My major break came in May 2012 when I got the opportunity to work with the Zembani Band. This lasted from May to 31st August 2012. Then I moved on and worked with Maskal’s Umunthu band, which used to back me until my own band was made with support from Mr Entertainers Promotions.
Education is the key:
Elly K got her my primary education at Walani Private Schools in Lilongwe, left when in Form One and went to Mlanda Girls Secondary School in Ntcheu where she did her Junior Certificate. For Forms 3 and 4, she was back in Lilongwe, at Bambino High School.
After high school, she briefly studied Computer Science at the Don Bosco Technical College, after which she secured a job at Sana Cash n Carry followed by Forever Living Products as a marketer. She has since returned to school and is now studying Social Sciences at the Skyway University.
She is – for a musician – very focussed in her studies and she declares: “I want to serve humanity as a passionate, loving and caring social worker.”
The first is none other than Malawi’s musical guru, “Soldier” Lucius Banda who she admires for “his passion for music and his ability to make a life out of it.” Again, there is the versatile gospel songbird Ethel Kamwendo Banda. Of Ethel Elly K says:
“She knows what it means to survive with music and her local touch from her beginning amazes me so much.”
Then naturally, come Malawi’s Reggae Kings, the inimitable Black Missionaries:
“They are just great; I love their stage work, performances and how they take time to arrange their songs,”
Elly K says, exuding a lot of respect for the Chileka outfit.
Internationally, she still remembers with awe, the late Brenda Fassie. About whom she says
“She was just exceptional; to me she was so crazy with her lyrics and on stage too.”
And South Africa’s departed reggae maestro Lucky Dube:
“He was so good, conquered the international stage; yet he never lost or forgot his roots. His voice was awesome.”
And then there is Whitney Houston, Yvonne Chakachaka “a female with so much courage, loving and caring” and of course: Zahara. “She is so natural,” observes Elly K.
With this diverse inspiration, Elly K’s music is essentially local and but is flavoured in a way to appeal to both “my people and the international stage.”
Challenges so far?
Elly K hates being viewed as a sex object and warns that being a female artist singing secular music should not in her case be interpreted wrongly. She aspires to become a professional, which she appreciates is a long road but she is determined to make it.
“I will get there despite it being a male dominated industry in Malawi.”
· 2012: “I really worked so hard to get all my songs written and recorded.”
· 2013: An album is on the cards for release.
The album titled Ndikanakhala nyerere will hit the market by end of April 2013 and it has 10 tracks namely:
1. Mitala pa chibwenzi,
2. Ambeleje moni,
3. Not a cassanova,
6. Ngati wandikonda,
7. Take you to my mama,
9. Love ya mushe, and
Some of these can be sampled and savoured via this link: http://www.reverbnation.com/ellyk. Her goal is to electrify music lovers, put Malawi on map and make Africa proud.
Her current album revolves around four themes:
· Fighting against HIV/AIDS, - the song “Lilia” touches on this.
· Reaching out to the needy, - “Tiwafikire” is all about helping those in need.
· Love and Unity, - “Nyerere” explores the theme of oneness.
· Emotions- “Ngati wandikonda” is an appeal to a mystic lover, imploring (nicely) that lover to commit /prove their love.
In the vernacular, her songs are the stuff referred to as nyimbo zatanthauzo – not the quick jobs common these days.
The internet and Elly K’s music:
“Technology and the internet have helped me to breakthrough musically and to reach out to a wider audience. My fans can follow me on Facebook, online magazines like the Maravi Post which are all playing a very big role in building careers for all talented youngsters who without this would not be able to showcase their talent.”
To your music lovers:
“I plead to all music lovers out there to stop piracy and help us break through. Please do not kill talent, but rather help to promote and reward talent by buying our music through legal channels.”
For fellow young female artists:
“This is not the time to fear to release the hidden treasure that you have. Let it out and it will shine to the world.”
To her fans:
“I love you so much, I don’t take your support for granted, without you am nothing. My wish is to give you the best you deserve!”
To fellow musicians:
“Let us avoid pulling each other down, but strive to make Malawi a better place to live through music. Unity is a precondition for our success as individuals and as Malawian musicians.”
To the world:
“Being a Malawian is the best gift I have. I cherish my nationality, am proud of my rich cultural heritage and this is why most of my songs have a distinct local touch. I am proudly Malawian and the global stage, here I come!”
“Thank you for your support and belief in me. I am determined to make you proud.”
Final word from Maravi Post:
Elly K as can be seen is highly motivated and dedicated; open to new ideas and surprisingly humble and she can be contacted via this link http://www.reverbnation.com/ellyk or through her Facebook page. Concerts, appointments etc. can also be contracted via same link.
We will now share a secret we have failed to keep to ourselves about Elly K. What we have sampled of her music is, to put it mildly, a breath of fresh air, in an industry riddled with meaningless and monotonous songs devoid of depth and originality.
It has been a pleasure working with her on this first article in this column of Malawi’s Shooting Stars @ Maravi Post and we are certain, the best is yet to come.
The Maravi Post team wishes Elly K and her band all the best.
Go for it girl, go!