Malawians Love Dance Music

Two weeks ago, on these very pages, I intimated on how inveigling Lawi’s 17-track album has proven to be. As I predicted, it has trail-blazed the local entertainment scene.

Lawi has been over generous. He has 17 tracks in one album. To me, it was being unnecessarily pretentious. Considering the slow soulful music in the album, I was meant to believe that people will really fall for them, but I know and I can now confidently say that Lawi over-compensated for his many well-thought out slow-tempo structured tracks by going a little bit faster in the track ‘Amawona Kuchedwa’.

At least this is what everyone is calling ‘the track’, I am not even sure if this is the title.

This is the track which has once again exposed Malawians’ musical nature which has an affinity for danceable music. The country’s proclivity for music that has to thump their innards and threaten to split their eardrums has made them fall for this track at the expense of more other tracks in the album. Their attraction to this track has blighted and eclipsed all those good ones, including the Country and Western piece, ‘Whistling Song’.

I am not sure what the fans are demanding from Lawi whenever he is performing live as I have not had time to patronise his shows. But one thing for sure, by the show of this track’s dominance, Malawians’ love for danceable music will remain ‘indeterminable’, for lack of a better description.

Mte Wambali Mkandawire, Peter Mawanga and Faith Musa at least have managed to come up with tracks that dwell on the attractive elements of musicality which is what breaks into the international market. These artists and others of their ilk have tried to dangle tracks that ooze class and ingenuity but have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

But bring them Moses Makawa, for example, whose albums are full of danceable music, they will have it shared from Nsanje to Chitipa, Nkhotakota to Mchinji in no time at all. Most of the radio stations will snap it up.

Audience reaction to music that our musicians come up with spoils their reasoning and creativity as they will try to come up with something that the people hanker for.

Such craving from the local audience has impelled our music industry to lack ambition; they only leap as far as their noses end just to buy fleeting popularity.

Without beating about the bush, Malawian audiences do not encourage our musicians to produce good music. They encourage noisy and danceable music stuff, sometimes mistaken for good music. The Malawi audiences measure the goodness of the local music by how much it can make them jump in the air to outdo each other in dancing antics.

Over the years I have asked what makes the audience glued to their seats and listen to artists such as Salif Keita with their souls being filled to the brim with satisfaction even when he is performing in a language that they cannot understand.

The answers have always been on the musicality that such music contains to begin with, and the knowledge of an artist of Keita’s competence who knows what is expected of them when performing to an audience that enjoy music whilst seated.

If Malawians continue to encourage artists to churn out only danceable music, we should not expect our musicians to break on the international scene any time soon.




Creating Malawi music leaders

The Karonga-based Lusubiro Band has great youthful musical entertainers that proved their natural endowment and adapted musical understanding by winning last year’s Chibuku National Competition.  

But according to Prof. Chungja Agnes Kim, the brains behind the Lusubiro Music Centre, they do not want to train music entertainers but music leaders.

Understanding the Korean Music Queen speak at least I stat understanding that Malawi has been saved from the bottomless pit in as far as its lack of music destiny is concerned.  

Prof. Kim as the Director of the Lusubiro Music Centre says, unlike creating music entertainers, creating music leaders is the win-win scenario for Malawi because a music leader is someone who is able to use the language of music to change the world.

She says music softens the heart. It can stop wars. Music can help us sympathise with each other. Music can end poverty and injustice. Music is the language that God gave people to go beyond themselves. Music inspires in us noble feelings. Music humanises us. Music can save the world…it is the purest language of love, joy and peace.

She says it would have been easy to establish a music centre in big city like Lilongwe or Blantyre but she chose Karonga because she wants to give the poorest and remotest people of the country a chance to become the Lord’s ambassadors, just like Jesus chose the fishermen of Galilee to become his disciples. 

Listening to her story, one clearly understand that had all of us possessed a spirit like one she displays the local music industry would have been somewhere in terms of achievements and success.

She recalls that she was only eleven years old when she met Irish missionaries who encouraged her to learn to sing and play piano. It looked impossible, just as it might now for the youth of Karonga. The professor says she hails from a poor family and a poor country as in 1955 South Korea was just emerging from the Korean War and it was therefore very poor although it is now the 10th richest country in the world.

As a girl she says she realised her rich talent and that she was feeling the passion to become a musician and she followed it to an extent that when she was completing her secondary education she met a second group of missionaries from Germany who played a bigger role in her life. They made it possible for her to go to Germany and study music where she attained a Bachelors Degree and then later a Masters Degree in Vienna, Austria.

And to show her gratitude to the missionaries she established the Lusubiro Music Centre.

Why this is going to change the music terrain in Malawi is because she has love and passion to train music leaders for Malawi. She does this by giving them a chance to go outside the country to study music and become professional musicians.

She has already sent several young boys and girls to the Korean National University of Arts which she says is the best in Asia. She should know, she has taught music there for 15 years.

In October last year, Phillip Mwanjasi and Limbani Munthali, who were playing saxophone and trumpet in the Lusubiro band, were sent to the university where they will spend four years studying music under the Korean Government scholarship. For the next four years the Korean government will be spending K4m on each student per year.

Next time the Music Association of Malawi will be staging another of their ‘Mickey Mouse’ music awards they should not forget Prof. Chungja Agnes Kim.

Lawi’s mellowness


Francis Phiri is a name that you will find in many countries in this part of Africa, including Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and across the length and breadth of Malawi.


But there is one Francis Phiri, also known as ‘Lawi’ in Malawi showbiz circles, who is proving to be not just a common Francis Phiri with his music that has made him stand out from the humdrum that has bedevilled the local music industry.


He came on the scene with music that had his creativity written all over it – ‘Amati Andikawe’ (2008) and ‘Satana Luma’ (2012). In an industry where others have tried and faltered, it is clear that unlike many who force themselves into music, Lawi was born a musician.


And now Lawi has released an album whose title track is called by his very showbiz name ‘Lawi’ and has demonstrated that he has come of age.


The arrangement of all the 17 tracks on the album speak volumes of how much patience he has with the rigorous process of recording which has eluded most of the music production on the market.


On Lawi the artist has given all those who appreciate good music beautiful tracks. He has also made sense of how and where he wants to take his music to. For instance, he composed one track about a girl-child and he convinced Plan Malawi to adopt it for their Girl-Child Programmes. To this extent, Plan Malawi facilitated his album launch at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe. 


Well, I have always lamented the hotchpotch stuff that our so-called musicians bring out of studios which when played it takes the intelligence of the baby to realise that it was just some spur-of-the-moment compositions.


Here Lawi has taken after the likes of Wambali Mkandawire and Evison Matafale whose lyrics leave your imagination flying about. He has potently filled his music with verses that can pass for any good piece of poetry which is supposed to be the case with good lyrics.


Mundiwerenge; Mundikhonze; Ndaza ngati buku lotsekula —


Ndaza ngati munthu wothodwa – Chonde munditule


Ndamangidwa maunyolo – Chonde mundidule


Machimo anga ndamizidwa – Chonde mundivuule


Then one big thing he has managed to do with his Lawi album is that he has made instruments complement each other to bring out beautiful sound.


There is also the question of originality as has been demonstrated ever since he came on the scene. To demonstrate that, Lawi has done a ‘Whistling Song’ which can pass any ‘Country and Western’ test. He has also tried a ‘Salif Keita’ with a track he calls ‘Ufulu’. This is just to prove that he is so talented he can try his hands on anything and get away with it.


‘Itananani Onse’ is one example of how he has weaved Chichewa and English to make one language of music such that if one does not know either Chichewa or English one would think this is just one language.


Lawi has been able to sing English tracks in English and not English in Chichewa as has been the case with most of our cartoons that masquerade as musicians.


Here is some music that can find its way on the international market because it has the universal musical language.




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