KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
Matteo Phiri, aka Matty P, was buried on December 23 last year at Memorial Park in Lusaka, and three days later, veteran broadcasters Ben Kangwa and Manasseh Phiri and musician Ricky Ililonga anchored a special tribute programme for the king of radio on 5FM.
The programme, like his funeral procession at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, was about celebrating the life of Matty P, who succumbed to prostate cancer after a three-and-a-half year battle.
The programme played some of Matty Pâ€™s favourite jazz songs, including those of Frank Sinatra, Hugh Masekela and a jazz version of Aphiri Anabwela, having opened with Isililo by South African jazz musician Sakhile.
The three also talked about how they met Matty P. One of the callers to the programme was Vernon Mwaanga, who talked about his time with Matty P at Fleetfoot Advertising, which the former Cabinet minister was running after having bought it from Donald Lightfoot in the 70s.
â€œI interacted with him almost on a daily basis when he worked for my company. We could discuss both company and family matters, and in the process developed a healthy respect for one another,â€ said VJ, as the retired politician is called.
â€œI got to know his wife and children, and each time we had a New Year or Christmas party, I would ask him to bring his wife along, and we would talk about how things were going. At some point, they went through bad times, and the wife would confide in me, and thankfully, they were amicably resolved.
â€œMatty P had a way of making people laugh, had respect for everyone. He was one of the most loved members of staff. I admired his professionalism and command of English language and the manner he put it to good use. He kept inviting me to appear on his station. He told me about his health challenges and that heaven can wait. But of course it got to a point where heaven couldnâ€™t wait.â€
Ricky talked about how he met Matty P in 1969 or thereabout. He remembers him as one who loved his bottle, and most times, he would be in a state where you would wonder whether he would make it home.
Dr Phiri also commented on Nashil Pitchen Kazembeâ€™s Aphiri Anabwela, and how he and Matty P did not like it because they both came from Zimbabwe and the song in a way implied that they never came with any suitcase.
And most importantly, the good doctor talked about the need for men to go for prostate cancer screening, saying if detected early, it can be cured.
This was no sombre programme; it was one about celebrating the life of a man who believed in being happy, like his radio station, the Happy World of 5FM.
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka