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The Lhomwe Musical Award

Those who know about the Professor would think I am biased towards anything within the Lhomwe belt because that’s where my umbilical cord fell off and got buried.
I was born at Chonde Health Centre near Thuchira River and therefore wrong conclusion would be that I biased because I am a Lhomwe by birth and therefore my view on the matter would be tainted.
But I would still stand my ground. The declaration I am about to make has well placed proof.
That the Lhomwe belt has entertained Malawi more than any other in as far as generating music that has soothed, left people jumping out of their skins in some dancing antics is concerned is something none can dispute.
What is very, very strange though, is that we have coined Balaka Beat, for example; we have touted Chileka for all the music goodies, but we have not written a deserved story for the Lhomwe belt productions.
I would not desire to take you further away from your memory by mentioning the all greats; Michael ‘Mukhitho’ Phiri a.k.a Michael Yekha and Alan Namoko.
Their music if played in places of musical entertainment, keep sending those listening to it spell bound, due to the innovativeness that is employed when on play.
To put you into perspective, I have to mention here Joseph Nangalembe, Mikoko Brothers Band, Murimwa Brothers Band, Diamond Kudzala, Namakhwa Brothers Band, Fyson Ngwezu & Mulanje Mountain Jazz Band and Chimvu River Jazz Band to mention but a very few.
Most of these bands were using locally made instruments but they would send you into a trance, nonetheless.
The Lhomwe belt has also not been left out when it comes to modern day instruments usage. There is Joseph Nkasa, Thomas Chibade, Collins Bandawe, Moses Makawa to mention but a few…
They come with a kind of innovation never heard before. Yes some bring bubble gum musical stuff, but more linger longer, while most have cut a permanent place on the musical assembly even when none of them can’t read music but are merely rote musicians.
In fact, the rote status is not exclusive to musicians from the Lhomwe belt, 99 percent of our music is done by rote musicians and this include those that are categorised as the best of Malawi.
Now the Inc Media has brought what is calling the Malawian Music Awards 2011.
I do not want to go attacking the initiative; it would be daft if I take this route considering that such initiatives are wanted hundred folds if we have to create a robust music industry in the country.
I would say these guys would best be encouraged to show appreciation of their effort by us writing them words of encouragement.
But when I observed, that like has been the case all the time, we have no special mention of the Lhomwe Belt musicians who have filled most seats in our hall of fame, I sensed that something was amiss. I was like, you mean on 24 JUNE the awards for great work will not include them as well.
More so when the criteria will include quality of production, popularity – air play / requests among others. These people would not come in categories like Best reggae, R&B, Hip Hop etcetera, but would perhaps make a challenge for the awards in Best Local, Folklore, and even acoustic.
Of course it is comforting when those Best Local nominees include Symon & Kendall, Wilson Mwale, Lawrence Mbenjere, Thomas Chibade and Moses Makawa. If you look at this category, you realize that out of five nominees three there are a representative of the Lhomwe belt.
There is none is Best Folklore nor in Best Acoustic.
Not that the LIFETIME ACHIEVER AWARD which has Lucius Banda, Giddess Chilamanda, Mjura Mkandawire and Flora Jolly Makonyola has missed anything, but at least Alan Namoko should also have made the list posthumously.
But if it would be seen to be asking too much, then let the Lhomwe grouping, Mulhakho wa Lhomwe – I hope this is how best we spell it – will realise that it is not only Tchopa that has made the Lhomwe people looked at as entertainers for the country.
The musicians have superseded most, it not only entertaining Malawi as it were, but has also perpetrated the cultural belief of the Lhomwe people through diverse subjects that have been discussed in their music over the years.
Youi look at Nkasa for example, he is the only musician so knowledgeable that what most artists pack in a 12-track-album, he packs in a single song.
It also explains how Lhomwe elders train their young ones to be great thinkers, you look at small boys like Chibade and Makawa and appreciate the subject matter in their lyrics.
So, if all can not be done, at Chonde where I was born, where Muhlakho commemorate the Lhomwe culture, I want this special category to be introduced… Bring up several Lhomwe musical awards that need to recognise the contribution that musicians from the Lhomwe belt have made towards Malawi’s entertainment industry.
If this could also be part of a permanent fixture on display at the Lhomwe Museum at Chonde, then it would help more as it could be the scent that would attract tourists form the length and breadth of the earth. Remember we are in need of forex.


About The Author

I am GREGORY GONDWE, 36-year-old Malawian journalist currently working as Chief Reporter for Zodiak Broadcasting Station. I was its Regional Editor and Northern Region Bureau Chief from 2007 to November 2010. Currently I am Correspondent for BizCommunity as well as BiztechAfrica. Initially I was a senior reporter as well as Features Desk Head for Malawi’s The Chronicle which disbanded in 2005. I was a Malawi stringer for the African News Dimension network but also worked as a Malawi Correspondent for The Windhoek based The Southern Times. I started practicing journalism in 1993 when the country was undergoing transition from one party dictatorial rule to multi party democracy while I was still pursuing my secondary school education. Briefly, My career span through paper reporting where I have produced quality news and feature stories for major publishing houses for the country’s daily newspapers; The nation and The Daily Times two Weeklies, Malawi News and The Weekend Nation besides stringing for the country’s public broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

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