Malawi’s old recordings coming home


Some of the country’s sounds recorded by ethno-musicologist Hugh Tracey in the 1950s are set to be repatriated back home by Professor Diana Thram, who jets into the country Saturday.

Thram is based at Rhodes University in South Africa and is a director at the International Library of African Music.

Moya Malamusi said yesterday that Thram will travel to different districts where the recordings were done.


“It’s true Professor Diana Thram arrives in the country on Saturday [tomorrow] and she is bringing all the recordings that were done in the country way back,” he said.

Malamusi said alongside Thram and ethno-musician Waliko Makhala will travel to the various districts as part of the repatriation process.

Makhala was excited Thursday with the repatriation of the old recordings saying this is Malawi’s cultural treasure.


“Malawi has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. There are more than two hundred traditional dances and thousands of folk songs that our creative ancestors left for this generation and posterity,” he said.

He said some of this heritage was recorded as early as the 1930’s by Tracey.

“It is on record that Tracey travelled across the continent recording the rich traditions of the people and is one of the pioneers who brought African cultural music to the world stage,” said Makhala.

He said using a mobile recording studio with only one microphone; Tracey recorded most amazing traditions in the country.

He said this sound which was never heard around the world is now accessible through the International Library of African Music.

“It’s good that this treasure has been brought home and this treasure has to go back to where it was originally recorded,” said Makhala.

Tracey is said to have recording sound in almost all the districts in the country and that he documented all the places and cultural material.

Recently the media also reported that youthful musician Sonyezo Kandoje was selected to be part of a global musician’s project of remixing old songs whose album is expected to be released this month.

Sonye famed for the hit ‘Tsika Msungwana,’ said he got involved in the project after being recommended by the Malawian/Swedish group The Very Best.

“Actually I was given one of the old songs to remix. I finalised the song which was recorded in 1965. The song was titled ‘Tisankhe Lero,’ but after my remix I titled it ‘Sankha Dona,” said Sonye.

Sonye was part of other international acts, who teamed up with a Malawian farm and food processor – Malawi Mangoes (MM), and local education NGO – Love Support Unite (LSU) to roll out an initiative that would enable communities to feed and finance themselves.

The artists including UK group Rudimental through an organisation known as Beating Heart came together for a cause.

They sampled previously unheard Malawian sounds recorded by Tracey to work on an album titled Beating Heart Malawi.

The profits realised from the album would be put to work in the communities where the music was originally created – using sounds of the past to address problems of the present.

Beating Heart is active repatriation, honouring the beauty and knowledge that the world can gain from African music.

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