Changing the face of music in Malawi


Her name may not ring a bell among many Malawians but Professor Agnes Kim is a woman who has contributed a lot to music in Malawi.

She travelled all the way from South Korea to Africa and ended up settling in Malawi, a country described as one of the poorest yet richly blessed with cultural activities including music.

She is a mother to many children in Karonga, who lost hope. And today through the Lusubilo Orphan Care Centre, she has changed the lives of many children, some of which have been given opportunities to travel to South Korea and learn music.


Professor Kim is a woman, who today has raised a musical group known as Lusubilo Band through the Lusubilo Music Centre. This is the band which is among the past winners of the Chibuku Road to Fame Music competition spearheaded by Chibuku Products Limited.

And for those who have watched the group perform including their recent exploits at the 2015 Lake of Stars Festival held at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi have attested that this is one of the future bands to watch not only in Malawi but the African continent.

A woman of few words, Professor Kim says she did not come to Karonga for people to start listening to her stories but rather people should know her mission in Karonga and Africa.


Born in 1944 in South Korea, Professor Kim had a chance to go to a Roman Catholic Church when she was 11 years old where she ended up meeting some Irish missionaries and gave her a chance to learn one of the musical instruments – the piano.

“So I met there the two most important pillars of my life and that is God and music,” says the soft spoken Korean.

Professor Kim adds:

“I was a very talented girl with my beautiful voice and piano playing and decided to become a musician.”

And so in 1963 after high school she met a German father, a missionary who brought her to Germany to study music.

“My family was poor so they could not afford to support me in my music studies but through this German father I ended up having a chance of pursuing studies in music,” she explains.

Coming from a poor family, she had no choice but to work hard in her studies having found this opportunity to pursue studies in music.

And so in 1970 she finally finished her studies courtesy of the support from Germany people who she acknowledged her talent and passion for music.

She graduated and became the first Korean opera singer to perform at the opera house in Europe.

Since this time, Professor Kim went on to perform in lots of opera houses in Europe for close to 25 years.

In 1994 she came back to Korea started teaching at the Korean National University of Arts. She taught for close to 15 years before retiring in 2010.

Instead of sitting back and enjoying her retirement package, Professor Kim decided to dedicate the rest of her life to God.

“I am where I am today because of God who opened the doors for me to go and pursue music studies in Europe. And to say thank you to God for all the favours I thought to giving back too and thus coming down to Africa,” she says.

“I decided to dedicate myself and the rest of my life to God and African people. This was the only way of saying thank you to God. I have been so blessed throughout my whole life and I am so grateful for that,” says Professor Kim.

Kim says she had no idea that she would come to Malawi and settle in Karonga but she says all this was the plan of God.

Professor Kim could have made way to any African country but she ended up landing in Karonga in 2010 joining the Lusubilo Orphan Care project.

“I found that Malawian youth have great talent for music and that brought me to open the Lusubilo Music Centre,” she says.

At Lusubilo Music Centre according to Professor Kim, they select students every year through an audition and that through the centre she is providing everything for free to the students.

“We started off with students from Karonga but now Lusubilo Music Centre has grown and there are students who are coming from as far as Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu and we provide them with accommodation and other necessities,” she says.

Professor says Malawi has talent and that this is why she decided to help in uplifting the creative industry.

“Through the project we formed Lusubilo Band which has done so well and has received an overwhelming response. We want music to grow and so this is why we have not stopped here, the students are learning so many things and there are artists who have been coming from outside to train the students,” says the pianist.

She has laid the musical foundations through Lusubilo Music Centre – training lots of students but she felt this was not enough.

“I have sent three students to Korea to study music at the National University of Arts. They will be back in 2017 and will be our first faculty members with bachelor’s degrees majoring in music,” she reveals.

Last year as part of giving the Lusubilo Band exposure, she made it possible for the group to travel to Korea where they performed at the Korean National Theatre.

The trip also accorded a chance to Lusubilo Band to record a DVD of their performances in Korea titled Sing for Hope which features jazz and afro pop songs.

The group whose producer is a renowned musician Tiwonge Hango has also managed to release an album titled Africa Inuka. This is an album which has mature songs most of which are fused with the popular traditional dance of Karonga known as Minoghe.

Through the album, Lusubilo has also exposed the Nkhonde language which is spoken in Karonga and some of the songs are ‘Kyala,’ which means God knows, ‘Mwana Mpina’(An orphan) and ‘Lupakisho.’

“There is more coming from the group and for your information we are going to Germany in October 2016 where Lusubilo Band will perform with Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra,” she says.

Professor Kim says the music centre is not the only project she is doing in Karonga but also revealed that she is running two youth centres with libraries, sports and drawing schools.

As this is not enough, Professor Kim recently also opened a primary school.

“I have drilled 14 boreholes in Karonga and I have 30 bursary students who are going to the secondary schools. Four years ago I opened a drawing school at Mwakifwamba village,” she says.

Professor Kim reveals that she found there seven talented children and that after two years teaching them, they produced several artworks which she later took to Korea for exhibition.

“Through two exhibitions in Korea I was able to raise funds to build a full primary school at Mwakifwamba village and the school has been named Agnes Primary School to remember me,” she says.

It is now five years since Professor Kim came to Malawi and although she takes time to go back to Korea, she says she has fallen in love with Karonga and that she wants to stay on and help develop Malawi and Africa in different areas with the creative industry as the key.

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