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Music of Malawi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music of Malawi has historically been influenced through its triple cultural heritage (British, African, American). Malawians have long been travelers and migrant workers, and as a result, their music has spread across the African continent and blended with other music forms. One of the prime historical causes of the Malawian musical melting pot was World War II, when soldiers both brought music to distant lands and also brought them back. By the end of the war, guitar and banjo duos were the most popular type of dance bands. Both instruments were imported. Malawians working in the mines in South Africa and Mozambique also led to fusion and blending in music styles, giving rise to music styles like Kwela.[1]

During the colonial period, Malawi saw rise to very few well-known singers due to the oppressive colonial regime of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. One such singer was Tony Bird a folk rock singer-songwriter who was born in Nyasaland and performed anti-colonial music about life for regular Malawians during the colonial period. His music is described as a fusion of Malawian and Dutch, and Afrikaner traditions. His popular style led him to tour with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1980s.

During the Banda years (post colonialism), a lot of Malawian musicians could not express their artwork, due to repression of the arts in Malawi. The repression and censorship in music was largely due to lyrics of a political, controversial, or sexual nature in a largely conservative country. This led to few internationally renowned artists entering the international arena from 1964-1994. Music during this period was restricted to praising Kamuzu Banda and non-political, non-controversial messages. After multiparty elections, however, many artists could now practice their art publicly, and Malawian music began to grow and develop into the music forms that can be heard coming out of Malawi now.

Since the fall of Banda regime, from 1994 onwards, the country has seen a steady growth in its music industries and in its local celebrities. Due to the period of music suppression, many of Malawi's new and up-and-coming artists are young. Artists like Young Kay are being supported by the veterans in the industry and are working together to give Malawian music a distinct new identity.[2]

Many local artists are also making headway internationally. Contemporary well-known international artists from Malawi are Wambali Mkandawire, Erik Paliani, Lucius Banda, Tay Grin, Esau Mwamwaya and Tsar Leo. In 2015 Malawian music was recognized in the 58th Grammy Awards for the first time, with the nomination of Zomba Prison Project I Have No Everything Here for Best World Music Album.[3]

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  • Malawi Music with Giddes Chalamanda


>> Announcer: From the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. >> Laverne Page: Thank you so much for coming today. I would like to welcome you to the Library of Congress, to this concert, which I expect to be wonderful. I'm so pleased to see you here and with us to enjoy our visitors from Malawi. My name is Laverne Page. I'm in the African section of the African and Middle Eastern Division here at the Library. And my comments are short because I want to have the time for you to enjoy our visitors, our performers from Malawi. So, now I will introduce the Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division, Doctor Mary Jane Deeb. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Mary Jane Deeb: Thank you. Thank you, Laverne and your Excellency. Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to the Library of Congress. I am Mary Jean Deeb, and I'm delighted to see you all here in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library. I'd like to thank Ambassador Necton Mhura for having made possible this program. He visited the Library less than a month ago and already we have a new project. So, I mean, that's really wonderful. This is a most appropriate location to hold this very exciting cultural and musical program from Malawi with legendary performer Giddes Chalamanda and with I understand Edgar and Davis who are actually the students of the Ambassador. They are lawyers themselves. The Whittall Pavilion is located in the Thomas Jefferson building. And this building was the first separate Library of Congress building, which opened its doors to the public on November 1st, 1897. It represented an unparalleled national achievement. At that time, it had a 23-karat gold plated dome capped with the largest and costliest and safest dome. And it had the Library building, which was at that time, the largest library building in the world. Its elaborately façade and interior was designed by more than 40 American painters and sculptors and surpassed any other library building of its kind. The Whittall Pavilion in which you are now sitting was opened in 1939 and holds some of the rarest musical instruments in the world including some Stradivarius violins, which are there. It has hosted numerous national and international artists and musicians. And so we are really happy that we could host here in this building Giddes Chalamanda and his group. As we mentioned, our division, the African and Middle East Division is made up of three sections, the African Section, the Middle Eastern, and the Hebraic section were responsible for materials from 78 different countries. And we hold collections. We do programs. We do exhibits, and we bring together our readers and our visitors from all over the world to hear and to enjoy and to participate in the culture programs that we hold. And now do you want to start or do you want to introduce or Ambassador, would you like too say a few words to our guests? Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Ambassador Necton Mhura: Good afternoon everyone. I also want to welcome you to this performance by the legendary Giddes Chalamanda. He is 86 years old. The story about Giddes Chalamanda and Edgar and Davis will be told very briefly by Davis. My job really is to introduce something about Malawi. Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa. It's known as such because it is friendly and it is, it has smiling people. You find people smiling all over the country. It is small as a country. Land locked. Bordered on the east and southeast by Mozambique, on the east by Zambia, on the north by Tanzania. Malawi is unique in sense despite its relatively small size, it has a number of tribes and clans from the north to the south flanked by a beautiful lake, which if I may do a little tourism advert here, I would advise everyone and urge them to come and visit the waters of Lake Malawi. But most importantly, Malawi is a very peaceful country. Perhaps that's why you hardly hear of it. Dance and music are an integral part of Malawian life. Each of the tribes have their strong cultures and beliefs which give them their own identities. These cultures influence the arts, particularly music. Just to give a few examples of Malawi and music. There is vimbuza, which is a traditional healing dance. It is practiced in the northern part of Malawi. There is gule wamkulu, translated literally, the big dance. It is practiced in the central region of Malawi. Tchopa is a celebratory and sacrificial dance. It is important at this point to mention that vimbuza, gule wamkulu, and tchopa have been recognized by UNESCO as part of Malawi's intangible heritage. Malawi and music largely mirrors the diversity of Malawian culture and is strongly influenced by popular music sung by people in the moonlight during harvest times, weddings, and such other locations including funerals. Modern day artists have used the same traditional templates of music to spread messages, social developmental messages for instance about HIV and AIDS, civic education and such other developmental matters. To this end, therefore, one would say that music is used as a tool for social development. Perhaps one would say a tool of social engineering. In my days as a law professor, I used to say that law is a tool for social engineering. Now I am saying music is a tool for social engineering. Giddes Chalamanda is a legend in Malawian music and one of the most recognizable faces in Malawi. He is 86 years old and has played the guitar since he was a young boy. He plays traditional music and has composed many songs although only a few have managed to make it to the international stage but he is still soldiering on as perhaps you'll hear from one of these songs called "Buffalo Soldier," in which he talked about his dreams to come to America. Edgar and Davis are the two young men that play with him these days are lawyers and part-time musicians who have taken Giddes Chalamanda as their protégé for now close to 12 years. Just as with Giddes Chalamanda, the music duo of Edgar and Davis talk of every day lives in their music to ordinary Malawians. Their songs are [inaudible] fused with poetry, humor, and a lot of double entendre. They play folk music, which is an adaptation of traditional story telling where African Children would sit under a fire and listen to stories told by elders, which stories which will be interspaced with music. I said before, these stories and songs make social commentary are used to educate people, especially the youth. Music like law, as I saw, is therefore used as a tool of social engineering. And I would like to say by recording Giddes Chalamanda at the Library of Congress, we are making an invitation to researchers to come and study Malawian music. One of the possible areas of study that could be looked at is an impact of music on societal values and behavior. Developmental practitioners would therefore be interested in that kind of research. Edgar and Davis are in the U.S. primarily to fulfill the dream that Giddes Chalamanda had as a young man to see and taste the United States of America. Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to enjoy this afternoon's performance by Giddes Chalamanda accompanied by Edgar and Davis all the way from Malawi, the warm art of Africa. I will ask Davis to say one or two things about their collaboration with Giddes. And then we can get on to the program, the musical program. Thank you so much. [ Applause ] >> Davis Njobvu: Thank you very much Ambassador Mhura. I will just let my colleague Mr. Edgar Kachere introduce the members of the band. >> Edgar Kachere: Thank you very much. Ambassador Mhura and everybody. I am Edgar as already told. And this is Davis. We're accompanied by Uncle Lai. Uncle Lai is a producer. He has produced two of our four albums. So, he's a genius in his own right and he's also a musician as well. At the far end we have Mr. Chimwemwe Maloya. He does vocals for our band. He's been with us for more than ten years now. So, he's part of the group. And of course Mr. Giddes Chalamanda himself. So, I'll let Davis explain a bit about our project. >> Davis Njobvu: We met, Edgar and myself, we met in high school in Malawi. I think that was in the early '90s. We started playing in a school band. Then we didn't really have much in terms of technical knowledge, but we did have a lot of passion for music. We had a school boy band. And then later on, we met in college where we were both doing law, and we were being taught by the Ambassador Mhura. We still kept on playing music. And this band, you know, started as a duet between myself and Edgar. We produced our first album I think around 2000 after receiving a lot of encouragement from students and Malawians living around the college. When I graduated, I was lucky to meet Mr. Giddes Chalamanda. And, you know, naturally I introduced him to Edgar, and we started playing together. you know, because the idea was to try and see if we can give a platform to Mr. Giddes Chalamanda who has played music for well over 40 years. And he has, as the Ambassador said, a very recognizable face in Malawi. But we felt that he was not maybe getting the recognition that he should have been getting. He was still carrying his guitar, you know, every day walking in town playing for less than, I'm actually thinking it is about a quarter of a dollar for a song [multiple speakers]. We felt it wasn't right. He should have maybe had a bigger platform. So, the whole idea was to see if we can use the fact that we are law students and we're lawyers, you know, maybe to fool some people to inviting us. And then we bring, we thought the real deal. You know, Giddes Chalamanda comes now [inaudible] to perform. So, we can see that we're still managing to fool some people [laughter] because we are not the, you know, it's not about us. You know, the stage is for Mr. Giddes Chalamanda. And that is the idea of bringing it to the United States of America. You know, at the same time, as the ambassador said, he sang a song. This song has been playing for 40 years. He sang this song before we were born. You know, none of us were there. He sang, "I would want to go to America." Today, he is in America. I will not talk much. I will just let him say hello to you. He does speak English, and he understands everything I'm saying. Mr. Giddes, could you greet the people before we start playing our songs. >> Giddes Chalamanda: Thank you very much. Good morning all of you. >> Audience: Good morning. >> Giddes Chalamanda: [inaudible] to me. [inaudible] I don't think that if I don't go to [inaudible] America very good country. I see on the news [inaudible]. It was very good. Now I am here to America to see it's a very good country and it's a very good city. I am very [inaudible]. I am very happy we are here. I can say anything. Thanks very much. >> Davis Njobvu: All right. [ Applause ] [ Music ] So, I think that it will be perfect if we can start with the song that we say has been playing for over 40 years where he sang about wanting to come to America. Enjoy the show. OK. [ Music ] [ Applause ] Thank you. You see, one of the things that amazes me and I wish I had never found out from Giddes Chalamanda is how did he come to know about Indiana and all those places, you know? Because he was singing this in the early '70s. You know, that was quite some way back. But he had the knowledge. You know, he knew where he wanted to go. And tomorrow he will be going to Indiana to cross the boundaries of Indiana and see America. That's the song. He has his own style of play. You know, the style of singing as you're going to see in this song. He does something with his voice. It's unique. Nobody else does it in Malawi. Maybe it's, the closest you can come is what you call yodeling. You know, I think here that's what you do. Just listen to what it does. [ Music ] That's a typical, thank you, that's a typical Giddes Chalamanda song. You know? He does what he was telling you about that he is unique. You know, I can't do what he does. I don't know how he got it. I think that's [inaudible] believe that music is a natural in born talent. Either you are Giddes Chalamanda or not. You know? We have only one Giddes Chalamanda. His wife is called Abiti Alafuledi. And there is a special song that he did, but, you know, it seems to me that he did this song before she became the wife. I don't know. Maybe. I don't know [laughter]. And what he talks about in this song is not very wife-husband stuff because he is saying that she left him and ran off to another man to, you know, Zambia, the border, the bordering country that the Ambassador was talking about. So, maybe there's a second song that she came back [multiple speakers]. Yeah. You know, she [multiple speakers] passport. And he's wondering, you know, having gone through the visa applications and all that I think she can't understand how did she pull it off. She ran out with another man, you know, very [inaudible]. OK. [ Music ] [ Applause ] I don't know how one can manage to sing so happy about a woman who, you know, it's one of his most danceable tunes. But I don't know if I am allowed to say that we have these CDs here. Am I allowed to say that? OK. I don't know what you're going to do then [laughter]. All right. Mr. Giddes Chalamanda has been, you know, out of Malawi before. He worked, I think he went to work in the 1930s, '40s as a teenager because he was born in 1931. So, you know, he would have been a teenager around late '40s and early '50s. He worked in Zimbabwe and I think after I came to know him, we were lucky to have some people who invited him to Germany twice. He has been to Germany twice. But on this particular trip, we had to do some fundraising shows because we didn't have any, you know, funders for the trip, but we really wanted to make sure that his dream is realized. So, he's here basically because the people of Malawi, you know, well wishers can, you know, everybody gave him something to make the trip possible. And we are being hosted by Mr. [inaudible] wonderful gentleman who is wearing, you know, he is very modest. [ Applause ] >> Edgar Kachere: Also not forgetting our Ambassador. >> Davis Njobvu: Yes. >> Edgar Kachere: Who was very instrumental in making sure that we got the visas to come here. >> Davis Njobvu: That's right. Yes. Yes. >> Edgar Kachere: It was a bit difficulty and tricky to get all these people, you know, come together with the visas. >> Davis Njobvu: Yes. >> Edgar Kachere: So, the Ambassador is very handy in doing that. A big hand for him. [ Applause ] >> Davis Njobvu: We are honored to be here. And, indeed, the Ambassador has kept to his word. We knew that, you know, in the Ambassador's hands we are very safe. He said, "You know, if you come to America, we will take care of you, and he is taking care of us. This coming to the Library of Congress, you know, is actually his initiative. So, for that we are honored. There's a song that Mr. Giddes Chalamanda did way back. It's a folk tale. It talks about a snake. I've seen a DVD of him playing this song in Germany. So, I would like him to do what he did to introduce the song. Mr. Giddes, Napolo. What is Napolo? >> Giddes Chalamanda: Napolo is a big snake. >> Davis Njobvu: What of it? >> Giddes Chalamanda: Big snake, Napolo [inaudible]. >> Davis Njobvu: An Englishman? An Englishman? >> Giddes Chalamanda: [Multiple Speakers] He was living in his own body. He was [inaudible]. >> Davis Njobvu: OK. >> Giddes Chalamanda: Now, he [inaudible] wrong way. I don't know [inaudible]. That time when he was coming from a long way, he came [inaudible] deliver, deliver [inaudible] to make it in. When [inaudible] up, when he [inaudible] he had a [inaudible] order. Now he said too much loading up on the water. He said [inaudible] said [inaudible]. >> Davis Njobvu: People were warning him. >> Giddes Chalamanda: Yeah. >> Davis Njobvu: OK. >> Giddes Chalamanda: That time [inaudible] drowning because of that snake. >> Davis Njobvu: They capsized. OK. All right. >> Giddes Chalamanda: Now he is now dead. His wife is crying. >> Davis Njobvu: How did she cry? >> Giddes Chalamanda: She cried and said, "My husband has died. Has gone away." >> Davis Njobvu: Yes. >> Giddes Chalamanda: And [inaudible] Napolo [inaudible]. >> Davis Njobvu: A very sad story. What this song talks about, I don't know, here you call it flash floods. And back in Malawi, you know, it's not flash floods. There's a snake that lives in the mountain. This snake decides, you know, when it pleases to move, you know, maybe go around. So, it comes from one mountain, maybe moving to another part, maybe, you know, to go to Zambia across the border. So, it sweeps whatever it finds in its way. And Mr. Ingram typically of an English person didn't listen to the warnings that the villagers told him. You know, they said there is a snake here. And [inaudible] said I'll drive past. Unfortunately, he became history and he became a song. So, in the song, the wife is crying, you know? "My husband has gone away." So, that is the song that Mr. Giddes Chalamanda is talking about, this snake that took away [inaudible] is like [inaudible] the boss. OK. [ Music ] [ Applause ] Thank you. In the song he also mentions his mother. You know? Mr. Giddes Chalamanda's songs are quite lauded because, you know, in there he talks about his children, his wife, the village, you know, Malawi. I think he has given a brief introduction about the country of Malawi. He said something like we use, we use needles to eat. You know? And he actually also interprets to say by that he means forks. Yeah? Here, come to Malawi. We eat with fingers and needles. You know, we can choose whatever. That's what he says. One of the things I wanted you to know is that Mr. Giddes Chalamanda plays the guitar. These songs that we're playing, he composed, he composed the music and, you know, everything. In fact, he's very particular about how we should play the guitar [laughter]. Last night he was trying to teach me a new song. You know? So, he wasn't very happy with the way we were playing it. He wants the guitar to sound the way he plays it. And I can get quite [inaudible] if it's not coming out the way you want it. So, if you see him frowning just know that I'm not [inaudible] the music. It's not easy, you know, to play the way he plays. Let's see if we can give you, there's a song that he did for women, you know, the women of Malawi. >> Edgar Kachere: Yes. >> Davis Njobvu: But, you know, we believe a woman is created as a woman, so this song, although it is talking about the women of Malawi, it applies to the women of America as well and all the ladies in the house. OK. I will not say what it says. I will let him [laughter]. All right. [ Music ] [ Applause ] Mr. Giddes Chalamanda is quite a very well liked figure amongst, you know, people. It's the same wherever we've gone. Especially young ladies that like him so much. I don't know. Maybe they think of their grandfathers. But we usually get in trouble with young ladies wanting to come and get photographed with him. And they like to post on Facebook. Right now in Malawi they're actually sending us questions to say, OK, so what exactly is happening here [laughter]? You know because they, they just like to do that, you know? It's something that we can't explain especially because my colleague here thought maybe he would be the one getting all that [laughter]. >> Edgar Kachere: Yeah. I thought I would get the attention but. >> Davis Njobvu: It's not quite happening that way. >> Edgar Kachere: We are not there yet. We are not there yet. But we will get there, you know? >> Davis Njobvu: One day. It gives us a little of encouragement. >> Edgar Kachere: Yes. >> Davis Njobvu: You know, we are looking forward to getting old and, you know, being like Mr. Chalamanda. We are going to play our own songs as well. >> Edgar Kachere: Just maybe two songs because of the time. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. Yes. >> Edgar Kachere: So you see what we have as well. >> Davis Njobvu: Exactly. >> Edgar Kachere: Taught by Mr. Giddes Chalamanda. >> Davis Njobvu: Yes. We've been influenced by Mr. Giddes Chalamanda and quite [inaudible] musicians that we've come across. We are [inaudible] as a band. We play also live, you know, heavy band. But this is how we started out. Very acoustic. But we like it, you know? We can adapt to any situations. Our music contains a lot of education and messages but we fuse it with a lot of humor. And as the Ambassador said, double meanings. We don't mean to say anything really. It's up to the people to interpret the way they see it. This one talks about [inaudible]. >> Edgar Kachere: Yes. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah [inaudible] can mean the job. The job. >> Edgar Kachere: It means a profession. >> Davis Njobvu: It can. >> Edgar Kachere: Some jobs are dangerous. Some professions are dangerous like the law profession [multiple speakers]. Yeah. So, we say that some occupations can be very hazardous especially, you know, if they require to come in contact with certain situations. Yes. People of the opposite making. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. As well as people of similar making. >> Edgar Kachere: Of course. Of course [multiple speakers]. It's a very dangerous job being a tailor. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. Yes. Because you have to take measurements of a woman [laughter]. >> Edgar Kachere: Yes. Yes. >> Davis Njobvu: Even a pastor too. >> Edgar Kachere: Even a pastor sometimes when you're a priest. >> Davis Njobvu: Yes. >> Edgar Kachere: Because it's very difficult as well because they have to work at all hours. >> Davis Njobvu: And you ask to close your eyes. >> Edgar Kachere: Yes. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. So, that's. >> Edgar Kachere: Yes. In front of a woman. >> Davis Njobvu: Or anywhere else. All right. OK. >> Edgar Kachere: Even as a lawyer. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. So, that's what this song talks about. As you can see it talks about occupations, professions. Nothing else. OK? [ Music ] [ Applause ] >> Edgar Kachere: You know, because of time, because of time, we'll give you one last one. This one, you know, I turn 38 the day after tomorrow [inaudible] my colleague in two months time. So, he always that go where he wants to go. >> Davis Njobvu: Follow me. >> Edgar Kachere: So, he says I follow him. >> Davis Njobvu: He always follows me. >> Edgar Kachere: So, he is telling me please don't follow me, but I always follow him. I know it. [Inaudible] was the name of this song. [Inaudible] is the name back home in Malawi. So, he says I'm the naughty one. but who is the naughty one here because I'm following his footsteps. >> Davis Njobvu: No. No. No. No. No. No. >> Edgar Kachere: You take what I do and then you turn it back [inaudible]. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. Yeah. >> Edgar Kachere: Because I do it. Not you. >> Davis Njobvu: Yeah. Yeah. You see, he is following. He is a copycat. I went to Ambassador Mhura, you know, to teach me law. He goes there after me. You know? >> Edgar Kachere: Mr. Mhura, Ambassador Mhura [inaudible] said no please don't follow your brother's footsteps [inaudible]. Be a better student please [laughter]. >> Davis Njobvu: But it didn't work out. So like [inaudible]. [ Music ] [ Applause ] Thank you. That was a special dedication to Mr. Edgar here. >> Edgar Kachere: Thank you very much. >> Davis Njobvu: By me. Yeah? Is it? That's it. OK. Thank you. >> Edgar Kachere: We thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Ambassador Necton Mhura: Wasn't that wonderful? >> Audience: Yes. >> Ambassador Necton Mhura: Can we give them another round of applause? [ Applause ] For someone at the age of 86 to be able to perform and sing as well as he does, it's a great achievement. You should have seen him on Saturday. The kind of energy that Giddes Chalamanda has. I mean, it puts some of us younger people to shame. It remains for me to appreciate the fact that the younger people who are supposed to be taking over from Giddes Chalamanda have managed to make his dream of coming to America true and performing at the Library of Congress is part of that dream coming true. And thank you so much Edgar and Davis. [ Applause ] I may have taught these young men law in law school but I didn't teach them their kind heartedness. It came from their heart and we appreciate that. I didn't teach them music either. I only taught them law. I would also wish to thank you all for coming to attend this concert. Thank you for coming to appreciate Malawian music. I believe that that's only a taste of what Malawi can offer. And I would invite you to sample what is available. I believe the CDs will be available for sale at some point as we go out. But I also wish to thank particularly Mary Jane Deeb, the Director of the Department that is hosting us this afternoon. It was a chance meeting at which we talked about the possibility of these young men and Giddes Chalamanda performing at the Library of Congress. And they agreed that they should host the old man in fulfillment of his dream. And I thank you so much for hosting us. [ Applause ] I must say that this event would not have taken place without Laverne Page. I would like Laverne Page to stand up please. Well. [ Applause ] It was a, Madam Deeb put me in the hands of Laverne to go around the Library of Congress. It was out of the conversation with her that the idea of performing here came up. And she worked tirelessly. Actually pushing me and my staff and others to make sure that this does happen. Making all the behind the scenes arrangements. I would like to thank you particularly Laverne for ensuring that this indeed does happen and it has taken place. There are others behind the scene who will have worked to make sure that this event actually takes place. I would like to record my thanks to them as well. Once again, thank you all for coming to attend this event and I hope you have enjoyed the day. [ Applause ] Yes. One more from, yes? If I had a choice I would choose my own, but I'm sure they have one ready. [ Music ] >> Davis Njobvu: We'll let him choose a song [multiple speakers]. [ Music ] He says [inaudible]. [ Music ] In this song, he is talking about the death of his parents. I think it must have been a very sad time, you know, for him. I know, you know, I've gone through that. He says, but the way he is, you know, very artistic, he says he was dreaming about the death of his parents. So, he is not talking about the time that they actually died but the time that he was dreaming about it. I don't know whether it was before or after because he also says now he is alone. You know? Now he is alone. He was dreaming about their death but now he is alone [multiple speakers]. OK. So [inaudible] but that's the song. [ Music ] [ Applause ] We hope this song is not prophetic because it says he will die far away from home [laughter]. >> Edgar Kachere: So, please [inaudible]. We need to go back with him. >> Davis Njobvu: I think we need to [inaudible] or Canada or somewhere, you know? >> Edgar Kachere: At least not here. >> Davis Njobvu: All right. [ Applause ] >> Announcer: This has a been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at


Music of Malawi


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. It is a little-known fact that South African Kwela music though had its roots in Malawi from the Malawian immigrants that went to work in South Africa and fused their music with the local sounds, creating Kwela.[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. 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. New Scene, led by Morson Phuka, was the most well-known exponent of afroma.

Contemporary Malawian Jazz artists include, Wambali Mkandawire, South African based Ray Phiri and US based Masauko Chipembere Jr.

Jazz concerts can be seen throughout Malawi. Many Malawian Jazz band 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.

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.

Malawian hip-hop/rap

Malawian urban music really began with the popular group Real Elements.[4] The group consisted of Marvel (Loius Chikuni), Plan B (Kimba Anderson-Mutaba), Stix (David Kalinani), and Q (Quabaniso Malewezi).[5] They brought to Malawi the 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 & Unique squard international stars like Tay GrinSouth African based St Bosseratti, and Ireland based/award winning rapper Pop Dogg. Best Artiste Male 2011 and Best Song Collaboration-2011.

The hip hop scene in Malawi continues to evolve with new school artists attracting a lot of interest locally like Gwamba and Marste. Home Grown African and Tsar Leo are two different hip hop acts that are making waves as part of the new school but with an international appeal to their music.[6][7]

Malawian gospel music

Gospel music is one of Malawi's most popular music forms. It became popular in the 1990s. The Pope'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.[8]

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 [3] and Gosple(Aubrey Mvula) are now the leaders in this form of gospel rap.[8]

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

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

Malawian reggae

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.

Traditional Malawian music

Traditional Malawian music has also found some commercial success, like the folk fusionists Pamtondo, whose music uses rhythms from the Lomwe, Makuwa and Mang'anja peoples. There have also been more traditionalist performers, like Alan Namoko.

Malawian pop/fusion

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, and pop and urban sounds.

International music scene

There is a Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, and frequent listeners to "Radio One" will know that Malawian's favorite foreign artists are Don Williams, Shaggy, and South Africans Lucky Dube and Brenda Fassie.

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.[9]

Notable Malawian musicians


  1. ^ a b Jecks, Nikki (2009-08-06). "Reviving Malawi's music heritage". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  2. ^ malawimoto says: (2010-08-19). "Jamati Online | Malawian Music has no identity". Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  3. ^ "Malawi Prisoners Score Surprise Grammy Nomination" Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  4. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Music in Ghana, Ghana Music ,Music Ghana, Music for Ghana, "] Highlife, Hip Life, Hip Dia, Rag Life, Reggie Rockstone, Obour, Tic Tac". Music in Ghana. Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  6. ^ "AAA EP : #BlantyreBlues – HGA [Malawi]". All Around Africa. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Tsar Leo prepares to storm africa as malawian hip hop comes of age". MTV. 26 August 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  8. ^ a b [2] Archived October 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Lucinda Beaman Last updated January 29, 2012 2:31AM (2012-01-25). "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  • 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 11 December 2017, at 15:06.
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