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Let’s celebrate our culture—Ben Mankhamba

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Singer and guitarist Ben Mankhamba on Saturday called upon the government, artists and other stakeholders to come up with a day to celebrate arts and culture as it is done in other countries.

Mankhamba, who is Village Headman Chingalire, said this during a jazz afternoon organised by US Embassy in conjunction with the American Corner Library at the University of Malawi –The Polytechnic in Blantyre.

“I am impressed with the event this afternoon and I am happy that I was one of the performers. As Malawians we need to borrow a leaf and have a day to celebrate arts and culture,” said the ‘Kamba Anga Mwala,’ hit maker.

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He said the country is rich in its arts and culture and that it was important that they have a day celebrate it.

“We have our own music which we could celebrate, we have songs which were done long time ago such as ‘Napolo,’ we need to celebrate them. It’s not all about music but the arts and culture as a whole and the government and other stakeholders can assist,” said the musician.

The musician said there is a lot of material on jazz music but it was difficult for local artists to utilise it because there are no proper music schools.

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“Most musicians in the country have learned music on their own and so they just improvise with the little knowledge they have. But there is more to learn. Jazz makes an artist to be creative because it has a lot of things in it,” said Mankhamba.

He observed that in the past years jazz was advancing because people used to travel to different places.

Mankhamba with his three man team including bassist Felix Jere performed last at the event where he impressed the audience dominated by Polytechnic students.

He offered close to four songs among them ‘Cassava,’ and also took people down memory lane when he invited veteran musician Wendyham Chechamba to perform the penny whistle songs.

Chechamba playing his clarinet performed to his best.

Earlier on Chechamba also performed on his own playing the clarinet and then the piano.

He dished out the song ‘Liny,’ originally done by another veteran musician Giddes Chalamanda but he fused in the jazz genre.

Chechamba, who told the audience that he had the priviledge of welcoming to Malawi US jazz maestro Louis Armstrong in the 1960s, rekindled the memories by showing the audience how he (Armstrong) used to perform.

“It was a good event and I am happy I was part of it,” he said.

The event according to American corner coordinator Agnes Salule was part of celebrating jazz music which is observed in the month of April every year.

Salule said the United States of America has themes celebrating different things every month citing February Black History Month, January Martin Luther King and March Women.

She said the month of April they celebrate environment and jazz.

“Of course we will have programmes on environment but we thought of taking time at the American corner to celebrate jazz which is not that popular in the country. This is why we thought of a jazz afternoon,” said Salule.

She said she was happy with the event.

“Actually I have discussed with artists like Chechamba, who want this to continue and we are looking at holding it every three months as part of helping unveil skills,” said Salule.

During the event there was also quiz as an icebreaker, where people had a chance to win bags, drink bottles and writing materials.

There was also a presentation of jazz from US Peace Corps volunteer Nikolai.

Acoustic musician Mun’deranji Lungu of the Young Stones also performed rekindling memories of his father Stonald Lungu.

Lungu has since been signed by Ins Media and will launch a double CD and DVD later this year.

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