in the words
years after the passing of former president Hastings Kamuzu
Banda Catherine Fellows finds new life emerging in Malawian
One of Malawi's first pop groups, the Alleluya band, was
formed in the late 1970s by Paul Banda, now a veteran
solo musician and producer.
Banda is now one of Malawi's top producers
"Under Banda, almost anything was impossible,"
writers were forced to just stick to the bible. Those
were terrible days."
Paul's more extrovert brother Lucius, now Malawi's most
famous musician took over the Alleluya band in the early
He began writing songs that were deliberately controversial.
He was also the first to introduce the reggae beat,
taken up by so many of the young musicians who have
day he was stopped at a bus stop and an official asked
for his identity cards.
He got upset, because he had his card at home and didn't
see why he should carry it around. So he gathered everyone's
cards and threw them in the air.
knew then that I wanted to fight Dr Banda's regime.
And from then on people have called me Soldier."
victim to Aids
music is also experiencing a new freedom of expression.
highly inventive Kasambwe Brothers
of the original mbiras and zithers, the Kasambwe brothers
use guitar, home-made drums, and a wonderful percussion
instrument fashioned from a cleft branch, a string of
bottle tops and bicycle parts.
>"One of the pressing issues at the moment that is making
us compose more songs is the death rate in our country,"
says one of the band members.
deadly disease AIDS is one of the big problems."
Many musicians have themselves died of AIDS.
Recently Malawi has also lost some of its finest performers
from the older generation.
of the greats of Malawian music is Saleta Phiri.
Phiri sings of everyday issues
"My songs are songs that come from the village>" he
am like a teacher advising people what to do and what
not to do."
Phiri's popularity rests on his ability to talk about
the stuff of everyday life, and
because of a renewed enthusiasm for Malawi's own regional
One of the key figures behind recent attempts to reinvigorate
Malawian music is Martin Chilimampunga, controller of
the national music station, Radio 2.
He is angry about the quantity of foreign music, especially
reggae, being played on national radio.
should we sound more Jamaican than the Jamaicans themselves?"
in the villages
has encouraged reggae artists to incorporate indigenous
Malawian sounds into their music.
Banda: "I haven't changed"
many are getting picked for the weekly Top 20.
One track that has hogged the top spot in the charts
for weeks is Ndatherapano by relative newcomer Geoffrey
As for Lucius Banda, he is now criticised for playing
at many of the ruling United Democratic Front's big
Has the soldier abandoned his people?
>"I cannot go to each and every one and explain that
I am the same Lucius, " he says.
"I have not been bought. I have not changed anything
to be in good relations with the president."
But while things may be comfortable for a star such
as Lucius, many in the villages are struggling as never
For Paul Banda, this is one reason why music is so important.
"Music in Malawi is everything. Without it, life
is meaningless. Local musicians are surviving by playing
get a lot of feedback. Somebody says they've lost their
husband and wish to die. But when they listen to the
music, they find something to live for."