If someone asked me to describe the music here in Malawi, even after nearly three years living here, it’s hard to know where to begin. They live in music in completely different way. Malawians grow up with music in their everyday lives - I’ve seen whole choirs on the back of pick up trucks, people singing on the side of the street (not busking like what we know, but for the total joy of music).
When I first moved to Malawi I had no idea how I was going to transition the type of career I had at home to a new country, let alone a developing one. But over time I’ve realized that if you let go and say yes to more things, so much more comes your way. I do believe music in the first world is often viewed as linear; that unless you “make it” through the aid of some talent competition, or in the top 10, your efforts aren’t authenticated. Malawi has taught me this is 100% not true. I’ve met THE most amazing musicians here, and I’ve never seen people love music more than them. The artists here have made me value the act and power of music more than I ever thought was possible, I mean before, that type of thinking just wasn’t on my wave length. There always seemed to be that feeling of ‘what’s in it for me?’ and unhealthy competition. The truth is the world’s a huge place and the more you learn the less you really know, and there’s something about that I love.
Over the past year I’ve be able to sit down with local musicians here for sessions and really study them, the way they connect with the music, they want to know the message behind the song, and how somehow they make a song with just three chords seem like a masterpiece. I’ve been so inspired and have tried to incorporate some of these techniques into my pieces. When ever we play, the guys are always like ‘Eeee, you English, you use too many words!’ I’ve learnt that simplicity can be just as powerful as complexity.
But oh my goodness, the musicians themselves are far from simplistic. Their talent is extraordinary. I see children playing rhythms on the side of a dust track, and I’m like, damn, I had to go to uni to study that and here they are playing it on a drum made out of a tin can.
Recently i’ve been playing with a great group of musicians - Manyozo Tchado, Anthony Spriano, Kennedy Phiri, Goma Nyondo and Vincent Manyozo to name a few!
Kennedy and Manyozo are awesome lead guitarists, adding such a fresh, African flavour to the sound. Goma, an acoustic guitarist and songwriter, has the most wonderful, rich voice, not to mention an extremely talented player. We’re writing a piece together at the moment and it’s a pleasure singing with him. And Vin and Anthony are vibrant percussionist with the the best smiles! For a long time we just referred to Anthony as ‘shaker guy’ - he has shakers made out of old roller deodorant bottles - so cool.
Playing with these guys is like hearing my music again for the first time, they add a whole different life and emotion. I just need to make sure I do the best job I can of capturing it... watch this space!