Thomas, fourth born, in a family of five was born in 1986 in Zomba, Likaluma village, tradition authority Chikowi. He went to Mtima Woyera Primary school where he did his primary school education up to standard six. He lost his mother when he was only twelve. Like many orphans, what followed was disaster.
“I was staying alone and I had no clothes,” recalls Chibade. Going to school on an empty stomach was the order of the day. No wonder he could mistake an ‘a’ for ‘o’. He then dropped out from school and decided to go to Chileka in search of ‘gold.’ He joined the band wagon of other street children in Blantyre in the bricks business. He was not in the lorries ferrying the bricks but in the fields moulding them.
When life became too unbearable he decided to go back to Zomba. Milepa Trading centre, Jenala and Mayaka markets became his usual ‘show’ venues. Together with his friend, Patrick Gambatula, they trod in the neighbourhood with their guitar, K5, yes five kwacha per song they entertained those who paid and even those who bargained for less than the five kwacha. Come sunset, they counted what they had collected; 5, 10, 15 … up to 200 kwacha. They thanked God, ate and slept.
Come 2004, Thomas was brought back to Blantyre not to mould bricks but to record his first ever single Ulova which was recorded at Pro Sounds studios. Had he collected enough 200 kwachas to manage to pay exorbitant fees they charge in the studios?
“Mr Chikwatu, having noticed talent in me, decided to sponsor me to record a single which exposed my talent to other people,” says a thankful Chibade.
2005: Chibade Meets Ralph Ching’amba
Chibade moves in the company of big people except in other days when he remembers to go around with his friend, Patrick Gambatula, to give him backing vocals. He has one of the latest Nokia cell phones. He eats in good restaurants in town. He sleeps in motels. He leaves a motel without knowing how much he paid for his accommodation. Ralph Ching’amba, the ‘saviour’ who recorded his album and offers him accommodation at his home in Chigumula, takes care of everything. He goes to another show.
People close their recording studios. Other musicians go to studios in Blantyre just to find the studios closed. Chibade has taken (or have they followed?) them all to his shows. They come the following day, they find Chibade in the studios, not recording but coating the ‘buy me’ magic to the music of the renowned musicians who fail to see why their music cannot sell much any more.“Bola tiyese Chibade,” they try him.
Life is not the same with other musicians. Just a year ago, they were in the print houses reprinting their cassette covers.
Allegations erupt. ‘He is singing like me. That is my beat. I’m original and I sing serious music,’ one musician says yet people are not serious with him but Chibade’s.
Ralph backs his production, “Aren’t these two from Zomba? Can they have very different dialects? Can somebody claim ownership of local reggae?”
The fact remains, the market’s smile is on Chibade now. He says he has 33 songs from which he will select the best for his next album to be released come April, 2006. The questions that many of us have are: Is Chibade really benefiting from the sales of his album and the shows he is holding regularly? When the market denies him the smile like it has done to other artists before, will he continue to smile? Will Chibade stay in his house one day with his fiancee Esthere Maulana of Mpanje Village in Zomba and say, all this you see came from my music career?