Malawian music has come a long way since the introduction of recorded music in the country. From the Kwela days of old, to the sole MBC recording studio that housed the legendary MBC Band, the journey of Malawian music has taken a whirlwind journey across the globe leaving its own unique mark and tastefully adopting foreign elements in its evolution.

Historically, Malawian music was influenced through its triple cultural heritage (British, African, and American). Malawians have long been travellers 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 fused and blended their music styles with local musical tastes and dialects, giving rise to music styles like Kwela.

Through its evolution the one theme about Malawian music that has always stood out, is the cry for social justice from Malawian musicians. Due to the country’s history of strict government censorship of the arts in the H.K Banda days, this cry was not extended to politics even though a voice could be heard here and there. It was not until the entrance of Lucius “Soldier” Banda aka “Son of a Poor Man” burst onto the scene with his Reggae tinged revolutionary music anchored in its strong Balaka roots. The cry was “Down Babylon” as the political landscape changed. The Balaka era was here to stay!

Things moved along.

Somewhere in Chileka, things were taking shape. The musical heritage of the Fumulani clan had given birth to a new voice, a new philosophy and most importantly, a new King, Evison Matafale.

“Kodi tidanirananji?” – Evison Matafale

When the King spoke, the people listened and the government shivered. A leader had emerged armed with a voice and backed by The Black Missionaries band. Basslines shook the corridors of power in Sanjika and the New State House, those in authority could not stand his ‘renegade’ though honest chants of a Rasta. He was arrested and taken away, never to return. The Black Missionaries carried the torch through in what we now call the Chileka era. The Kuimba saga continues to live.

Music in the Cashgate Era

The Cashgate era has not escaped the attention of the Malawian music industry. The cashgate scandal that has seen taxpayers’ money being looted by unscrupulous government officials has given rise to a new cry and political commentary from Malawian artists. Most notable are:

The artists manage to uniquely capture the mood of a large section of the Malawian society’s feeling towards the Cashgate scandal. “It is a big shame, Jah fire burn dem”, cries Don Tarz on Capital Hill the song he voiced on the hot and massive Cashgate Riddim.

Dan Lu takes a different approach to his dancehall coumterparts. On a solid Dj Sley production, the musician croons his commentary on the issue.

 

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