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.