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Music of Malawi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The music of Malawi has historically been influenced by its triple cultural heritage of British, African, and American music. Malawians, known for their history as travellers and migrant workers, have contributed to the spread of their music across the African continent, blending it with various musical forms. A significant factor in this musical amalgamation was World War II, during which soldiers transported music to distant lands and brought it back, leading to the popularity of guitar and banjo duos as dance bands by the war's end. Both instruments were imported. Additionally, Malawians working in mines in South Africa and Mozambique influenced the fusion of music styles, giving rise to genres such as Kwela.

In the colonial period, Malawi witnessed the emergence of a few well-known singers. Notable among them was Tony Bird, a folk-rock singer-songwriter born in Nyasaland, whose music blended Malawian and Afrikaner traditions. His popularity led to tours with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1980s.

Under President Hastings Banda, the Malawian state censored music deemed sexually or politically subversive. This policy limited the international recognition of artists between 1964 and 1994. Following the first multiparty elections in 1994, artists gained the freedom to express themselves publicly, fostering the growth and development of Malawian music into the diverse forms heard today.

Since 1994, the country has experienced steady growth in its music industry and local celebrities. Due to past suppression, many emerging artists are young, with figures like Young Kay receiving support from industry veterans, contributing to the evolution of Malawian music.

Internationally, numerous Malawian artists have gained recognition. Notable names include Wambali Mkandawire, Erik Paliani, Lucius Banda, Tay Grin, Esau Mwamwaya, Tsar Leo, and Lawrence Khwisa (LULU). In a historic moment, Malawian music received recognition at the 58th Grammy Awards in 2015 with the nomination of Zomba Prison Project's "I Have No Everything Here" for Best World Music Album.

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Music of Malawi[citation needed]

Kwela Music

In the late 1960s, South African kwela music was popular in Malawi. The country produced its own Kwela stars that were not as popular as the South African counterparts, but contemporary Kwela artists like Daniel Kachamba & His Kwela Band have enjoyed popularity. South African Kwela music was first created by Malawian immigrants who, upon moving to South Africa, fused their music with local sounds.[1] The word, 'Kwela', in Chichewa means 'to climb' which is similar to the South African definition, which means to "get up" or "rise".

Malawian jazz

Malawian jazz bands also became popular. [citation needed] In spite of the name, Malawian jazz has little in common with its American namesake. Rural musicians played acoustic instruments, often in very traditional ways. These performers include Jazz Giants, Linengwe River Band, Mulanje Mountain Band and Chimvu Jazz. By the beginning of the 1970s, electric guitars had become common and American rock and roll, soul and funk influences the music scene, resulting in a fusion called afroma.[check spelling] New Scene, led by Morson Phuka, was the most well-known exponent of afroma.[citation needed]

Contemporary Malawian jazz artists include Wambali Mkandawire, South Africa based Ray Phiri and US-based Masauko Chipembere Jr.[citation needed]

Jazz concerts can be seen throughout Malawi. Many Malawian Jazz bands perform regularly at local hotels and clubs. Sunday Jazz is a popular event in many lodges and hotels in Malawi, where it is a social event for people in the suburban areas to meet and listen to Jazz music on Sundays.[citation needed]

Malawian kwasa kwasa

Influenced by the 1980s music from the Congo, Malawi's own kwasa kwasa music grew. The 1980s saw soukous from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) become popular, and result in a Malawian variety called kwasa kwasa.[citation needed]

Malawian hip-hop/rap

Since 1994, rap has surged in Malawi from urban centers such as Blantyre and Lilongwe to rural areas as Nkhata Bay or Chitipa. Rap scenes in Malawi has been connected through nationwide institutional networks of radio and newspapers. Hip Hop culture from the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean arrived through satellite television and video cassettes.[2]

Real Elements,is the first Malawian music group to record Malawian urban music. [3] who brought to Malawi an urban American sound with chichewa lyrics. They were featured on Channel O and performed in Malawi and opened in the UK for hip hop artists like Blak Twang. They inspired a new genre of Malawian music in the form of the urban hip-hop and rap music styles that was uniquely Malawian.

Since the days of the Real Elements, the Malawian hip-hop genre has grown. This includes Young Kay, Third Eye a.k.a. Mandela Mwanza, Phyzix, Dominant 1, Incyt, Cyclone, A.B, The Basement, Pittie Boyz, The Daredevilz, Lomwe, the Legendary Barryone, Nthumwi Pixy, Biriwiri, Renegade & Pilgrim, Jay-T Pius Parsley as well as international stars like Tay Grin, Gwamba, South African based St Bosseratti.[citation needed]

The hip-hop scene in Malawi continues to evolve with new school artists like Gwamba and Martse. Home Grown African, Tsar Leo and Lxrry are some of the different hip-hop acts that are making news as part of the new school, but with an international appeal to their music.[4][5][6] Rap and ragga competitions sponsored by private organizations are a common showcase for young performers.[2]

English is the most used language in Malawi rap music, including in newspaper articles, discussions among youths, and radio broadcasts. However, for certain situations, Chichewa is considered the most appropriate language.[2]

Malawian gospel music

Gospel music is one of Malawi's most popular music forms. It became popular in the 1990s. Pope John Paul II's 1989 visit did much to inspire the rise in gospel music, which was also fueled by the country's economic conditions and poverty. Popular Malawian gospel artists include Ndirande Anglican Voices, Ethel Kamwendo-Banda, Grace Chinga, Lloyd Phiri, George Mkandawire, and the Chitheka Family.[7]

As some secular artists become 'born again', Malawi has seen a rise in the diversification of gospel music, particularly in the urban genre. Early hip-hop rappers include Chart Rock and The Strategy. Currently,[when?] David (formerly Stix from Real Elements, KBG, the founder of NyaLimuziK,[8] and Gosple (Aubrey Mvula) [9] are now the leaders in this form of gospel rap.[7]

As we[who?] continue analysing the impact and growth of gospel hip hop or urban music, we cannot just go without mentioning two other up-coming members in this section; based in Lilongwe, the popularly known area 18 youthful crew, the Brothers In Christ (BIC) and the King of Malawi Gospel House beatz DJ Kali have taken the spreading of the gospel to greater heights.[citation needed]

Malawian R&B[citation needed]

Malawi's genre R& B is growing and has been made popular with artists like Maskal, Theo Thomson, Sonye and Dan Lu. There has also been other new upcoming Artists like, Kumbu, Bucci, and Kell Kay, Tremone Trun.

Malawian reggae[citation needed]

Reggae has always been popular in Malawi. Malawian reggae has become immensely popular in recent years, especially amongst the Malawian Rastafarians and along the tourist-filled lakefront.

Music groups such as the Black Missionaries have become one of the most popular reggae bands in Malawi.

Individual artists like Lucius Banda, and Evison Matafale helped to bring the Malawian music scene on the national and international scene. There are also various growing roots rock reggae bands playing their own international standard music such as Fostered Legacy, Soul Raiders, and Wailing Brothers whom their contributions to music has been outstanding. The Malawian reggae music has been music of resistance and of struggle. Many of the themes in the music center around injustice, corruption and equality for all people of Malawi.

Malawian traditional music and dances[citation needed]

Traditional Malawian music has also found some commercial success, like the folk fusionists Pamtondo, whose music uses rhythms from the Tumbuka, Lomwe, Makuwa and Mang'anja peoples. There have also been more traditionalist performers and banda, like Alan Namoko, Micheal Yekha, Ndingo brothers, Millennium Sound Checks and Waliko Makhala. In Malawi traditional dances include Manganje, Mganda, Tchopa, Beni, Malipenga, Ngoma, Chitelera, Likwata, Chiwoda, Masewe, Chimtali, Visekese, Khunju, Gule wa Mkulu and Chisamba.

Malawian pop/fusion[citation needed]

Malawian artists have been known to creatively mix rock, r&b, and the American urban sound to create vibrant fusion music. One such artist is Esau Mwamwaya whose music fuses traditional Malawian, pop and urban sounds.

Music production

Before 1968, recordings in Malawi were made by mobile recording studios, and by the Federal Broadcasting Studios in Lusaka, Zambia. Nzeru Record Company (NRC), established in 1968, was the first recording studio in Malawi.[10] However, the studio disappeared in 1972 due to a limited local market.[11]

Between 1972 and 1989, most of the recordings were made in the studios of Radio Malawi, later called the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. As the broadcaster was controlled by the government, the studios helped to filtrate music. Music was recorded in open-reel tapes and never was released on vinyl.[10]

In 1988, the liberalization of the economy and the establishment of the Copyright Act of 1988 allowed entrepreneurs to found their own studios. At the end of the 1990s, small independent studios spread in Blantyre, Balaka, and Lilongwe.[11]

The Church in Malawi opened Andiamo Studios, where the Christian Alleluya Band recorded its first album on cassette in 1988. In 1991, Alleluya Band's guitarist Paul Banda started Imbirani Yahwe Studios in Balaka Town. Since then, most of the Musicians in Malawi expect to have their own recording studio. For that reason, it's hard to find professionally-run recording studios in the country and record labels often have short lives. In some cases, music projects in Malawi are recorded by multiple studios.[10]

Blantyre is the home of most Malawi recording studios. Young musicians interested in recording their song will record in recording studios which offer accessible options for recording a single (generally, one copy of the song) and then give them to a deejay with the hope they play the song on the air.[2]

Music festivals

  • In 2004, Englishman Will Jameson started Lake of Stars Music Festival which has international artists and Malawians performing together. It currently has been voted by the British newspapers The Independent and the Times as one of the top 20 Music festivals in the world.[12]
  • Since the advent of Lake of Stars, Malawi has seen a myriad of festivals pop up, some longer lived than other.
  • Sand Fest
  • Tumaini is a free festival organised in Dzaleka refugee camp.
  • 2021 Saw the first edition of Zomba City Festival after cancelling the previous year due to Corona. Zomba City Festival is an annual event, taking place on Labour Day weekend. Zomba City Festival aims to showcase the attractivity of Zomba to its visitors.[13][14]
  • Also in 2021, Lifest was organized, a music festival in Lilongwe, Malawi's Capital.

Notable Malawian musicians


  1. ^ Jecks, Nikki (2009-08-06). "Reviving Malawi's music heritage". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
  2. ^ a b c d Perullo, Alex; Fenn, John (Fall 2000). "Language Ideologies, Choices, and Practices in Eastern African Hip Hop". English and Cultural Studios Journal.
  3. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "AAA EP : #BlantyreBlues – HGA [Malawi]". All Around Africa. Archived from the original on 4 February 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Tsar Leo prepares to storm africa as malawian hip hop comes of age". MTV. 26 August 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Lxrry Announces New His Project". www.massplug. Mass Plug. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b [2] Archived October 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "NyaliMuzik". Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  9. ^ Music from Malawi, Gosple, accessed 16 November 2020
  10. ^ a b c "The recording industry in Malawi". Music In Africa. 2015-06-17. Retrieved 2021-02-04.
  11. ^ a b Lwanda, John; Kanjo, Chipo (2013). "Computers, Culture and Music: the History of the Recording Industry in Malawi". The Society of Malawi Journal. 66 (1): 23–42. ISSN 0037-993X. JSTOR 23611942.
  12. ^ Lucinda Beaman Last updated January 29, 2012 2:31AM (2012-01-25). "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Retrieved 2012-01-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "FESTIVAL – Destination Zomba & Liwonde (Malawi)". Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  14. ^ "3-day Zomba City Festival to put Zomba on the map". Malawi Tourism. 2021-03-24. Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  • Lwanda, John. "Sounds Afroma!". 2000. In: Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. pp 533–538. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

Related links

Interview with Kenny Gilmore director of Deep Roots Malawi 

Deep Roots Malawi the Official Film directed by Kenny Gilmore

This page was last edited on 16 June 2024, at 20:49
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