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No Ethno-Music camp this year

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NSANSI AND KALIGO PLAYERS—Chimbewa (right) and Mkanthama
perform during the camp last year

Music Crossroads Malawi which has been driving a number of arts projects has indicated that the Ethno-music camp will not take place this year.

The Ethno-Music Camp has proved to be one of the key gatherings created by Music Crossroads Malawi to host the playing of traditional instruments in the country.

Hosting the annual event shifts from one district to another and last year it took place at musician Ben Mankhamba’s place – Chingalire in Lilongwe.

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Some years back the Ethno-Music Camp has taken place at Kayesa Inn in Mchinji and in Ntchisi.

The Ethno-Music Camp was expected to be held in April this year but due to Covid-19 pandemic it was postponed.

But yesterday, Music Crossroads Malawi Director Mathews Mfune, said this year the camp has been cancelled indefinitelly due to the pandemic.

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“The Ethno-Music Camp attracts players from places including outside the country and so, we are still battling Covid-19 pandemic. It is because of this that we are not holding it this year. Now we are planning for April 2021,” Mfune said.

He also said that it was doubtful for them to hold the Malawi Music Project camp which also brings together artists to train and share ideas as regards music.

Through Ethno-Music Camp, artists have learned some of the traditional instruments such as Kaligo, Bangwe and Nsansi among others.

Apar t f rom that , participants have also learned how to play traditional instruments from other countries.

Some of the countries that have been part of the Ethno-Music Camp over the years include Norway, Mozambique, Brazil and United States of America (USA).

“Apart from traditional dances, dressing and other elements, countries are known through traditional instruments. Having observed that there was little in terms of the younger generation playing traditional dances, we thought of having this platform to put these instruments to light,” Mfune said.

It is rare to see young people playing traditional instruments in the country and most of the instruments at the moment are played by the older generation.

“The young generation needs to value traditional instruments and make sure they learn them. It is unfortunate that there is no interest but this is what we are known for. Having the Ethno-Music Camp is a huge step that Music Crossroads Malawi made and we have seen a number of people coming out,” Ethno-musician Charles Chavalamangwere Mkanthama, said.

Mfune said he was thankful to veterans such as Mkanthama for coming out to play a part in imparting knowledge to the society about traditional instruments.

Today, Mkanthama apart from training participants during the Ethno-Music Camp, he has also managed to train youthful artist Patrick Chimbewa, who is also from Ntchisi District.

Chimbewa using his own creativity has gone on to develop his own traditional instruments extending for instance, Nsansi which is known as the thumb piano to what he now calls the Nsansiba simply because it also has the baza. Baza is a traditional instrument that can be likened to blowing instruments such as saxophone or trumpet because it is blown to produce sound.

And recently, Chimbewa also extended Kaligo to what he calls Kaligoba. It is known as Kaligo because he also extended it with the baza.

The beauty of traditional instruments is that they have an identity and its sound is rich and this is why outside the country there are festivals that strictly bring artists, who play traditional instruments.

In Norway for example, there is the annual Forde Traditional and World Music Festival which brings musicians from across the world, who play traditional instruments.

This is why the festival has continued to survive and attracted interest from people because festival goers look forward to see traditional instruments from different countries.

It is unfortunate that Malawi has not had top artists performing at the festival but has managed to host young artists through a Talent Project that saw Chimbewa, Thokozani Mdoko and Asante Maulidi bringing to the international stage – Nsansi which is also known as mbira in other countries and traditional drums (ng’oma).

The fes t ival has however, seen a number of artists from West Africa who have gone on to show the best of African music with traditional instruments such as the Kora.

“What we normally do during the camp is that once participants learn different instruments, they then come together and put up shows in markets just to show what they had learnt. This is one way of connecting with the locals but also show that we have amazing instruments which we must keep on playing,” Mfune said.

Last year, the Ethno- Music Camp also brought a veteran Pango player – Labson Mpotandebvu, who stunned participants with his playing skills on the instruments.

Born on August 21 1956, Mpotandebvu is among the few Pango players in the country.

Mpotandebvu started playing the seven stringed pango in 1972 having been taught by his grandfather.

But he would love to pass his skills to the younger generation just as he also learnt from his grandfather.

“We must safeguard these instruments. They are special and you won’t find them anywhere but in Malawi. If we don’t learn them, others will do and we will end up losing,” he said.

Music Crossroads Malawi has led the way in creating such as platform and although the event will not take place this year, there is hope that it will be there next year.

However, there is need for support to uplift such initiatives that are there to help preserve the country’s culture.

Ethno-musician Waliko Makhala said these instruments must also be taught in the country’s universities where music is taught.

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