Lilongwe-based group Madalitso Band, the duo of Yobu Maligwa and Yosefe Kalekeni, has built itself a base outside the country with their traditional sound which, to some extent, has not been given much attention in the country.
Based in the outskirts of Mtandire, Maligwa and Kalekeni have utilised their talents well to create traditional music that also promotes and preserves the country’s culture.
Their rise in music stems from their performances in the streets, where they have performed for long and continue to do so to eke out a living.
But little did they know that they will win the hearts of other people who would in turn help record their music and thereafter taking them to international platforms.
Emmanuel Kamwenje who has worked with a number of artists including Ndingo Brothers is the one who noticed their talent in the street before he connected with Neil Nayar.
Today, Madalitso Band is a brand that is well known in Europe and this is why it continues to hold tours.
Their performance at Sauti za Busara Festival in Tanzania marked their breakthrough and it is their where they got noticed by an agent who later initiated gigs for them in Europe.
Every artist dreams of performing in top outlets in Europe but to get such opportunities is no mean achievement, one has to do better and bring in music that has the real elements of African music – Madalitso Band passed that test.
Their acoustic instruments of a one-stringed guitar known as Babatoni and acoustic guitar have won the hearts of people in Europe where they have held several shows and there is one moment when they shared the stage with Faith Mussa.
In Zimbabwe, there is a band known as Mokoomba which is not that big at home but they are big outside the country.
This is a product of Music Crossroads but it has made inroads to use their music to appeal to the world and no wonder they are always globetrotting. Their music is traditional and African and this is why they are loved and respected in Europe and America.
It is the same with Madalitso Band which is loved and respected in Europe and this is why they continue to get booked for gigs.
In 2020 the duo got booked for a number of gigs in Europe but they could not make it due to Covid. It was a blow for them.
And so having been on a long break, the duo is back on the European ladder of gigs and this time holding over 35 shows in France.
The group was supposed to leave for France earlier but due to delay in receiving their passports from South Africa where their visas were being processed, they are set to leave today with the first show slated for June 26 2021.
Madalitso will miss out on some earlier shows because upon their arrival in France, they will be quarantined.
“We would have loved to have all the shows but we will miss two big gigs and two smaller shows. But we are not worried because more shows are being added,” Nayar, who is also a musician, said.
Maligwa, who plays the babatoni, said they are happy to once again go to Europe.
“We are fully charged to be at our best as we have done in all our other tours but we are looking at different shows this time with Covid. We are not sure how people will turn up but we are ready to represent Malawi,” he said.
Maligwa who also leads in vocals said they failed to go for Europe tours last year but now everything is in place.
“It has been a process especially putting the documents together with Covid. Things are tough when it comes to travelling outside the country but praise God that all is well. For us, we just want to play our music and show that Malawi has the best in terms of music,” he said.
Kalekeni, a man of few words who plays the acoustic guitar said their aim in all the tours they make in Europe is to sell Malawi to the world.
“This is to show that music knows know boundary, where we are going they speak French but they saw the value of our music. It is purely traditional, purely African and that is why we have all these gigs on our plate. We have also always used the platform to sell Malawi and invite people to Malawi,” he said.
But while the group has made a number of tours in Europe, some quarters feel they have not changed with some feeling they get duped when it comes to payment.
“There is nothing like duping them; they make money in some gigs and in other gigs the payment is not that much. I am working with them not to earn something from them but to grow their music,” Nayar said.
He said in some of the gigs, they are offered everything from accommodation to food but with little money and that at times they have had to top up on their own.
“It is not always that you get booked on gigs that have huge payment; sometimes it is all about exposure and creating more platforms through networks made,” Nayar said.
Maligwa hailed Nayar for connecting them to the world describing him as a Samaritan who saw talent in them and decided to help.
“Some get to see our uniforms which we wear and they think we do not benefit from music or the tours we make but this is our style and tradition. We just want to appear like this. There are shows we have really made good monies in Europe and we have used it well in building houses. I would tell you that we did not have houses in the past, we used to rent but now we have our own,” he said.
Kalekeni concurred with Maligwa saying it is because of Nayar and Kamwenje that they have made headlines outside the country.
“They say half a loaf is better than none, in the tours we make, there are shows we receive smaller amounts but there are also shows where we get some huge amounts. There are shows where we have not been paid enough but they have ended up earning other gigs so there is progress and there is change in our lives and to that we say praise God,” he said.
It takes hard work to earn some of the European gigs and for Madalitso Band, the sky is the limit, they are determined to conquer the world with music and more importantly to keep building themselves and remain faithful to their traditional sound.
Madalitso Band makes the France tour, which will take them to places like Lille, with a new single on their plate titled ‘Katangale’. The song speaks volumes of rampant corruption happening in the country.
“Apart from promoting and preserving culture, our music is also there to tackle issues affecting society and corruption is one of the enemies of growth. We thought we should create a song on this subject,” Maligwa said.