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Putting old music to light

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There are several songs which were done so many years ago, songs that used to entertain people in those days but have simply been forgotten.

These are songs that had rich lyrical content and some of the messages therein still appeal to the present day generation despite being composed long time ago.

These are songs that took the composers’ time to stitch. These are songs that were not only there to entertain but also to educate.

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This is what is actually missing in composers of today especially urban artists who have thrown caution to the wind composing hate songs that cannot at all stand the test of time.

This is what brings us to a project that has seen global artists teaming up to put together some of the old songs that were on the risk of being lost.

Youthful musician Sonyezo Kandoje better known as Sonye is one of the local artists that were selected to be part of this global music project of remixing old songs whose album is now ready.

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Sonye famed for the hit ‘Tsika Msungwana,’ said recently that he was happy to be part of this project adding that he got involved after being recommended by the Malawian/Swedish group The Very Best.

“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 is part of other international acts, who have 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.

Through an organisation known as Beating Heart, the global artists among them Luke Vibert, Rudimental, Machine drum, Kidnap Kid, Throwing Shade, Clap! Clap! and Sonye are determined to help communities.

The artists sampled previously unheard Malawian sounds. The sounds which were recorded by ethno-musicologist Hugh Tracey in the 1950s from the world’s largest archive of African recordings (Ilam) for the album Beating Heart Malawi – 65 years in the making.

The profits made from the sale of 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.

“This unusual partnership between the music world, a commercial business and a local educational charity is a tactical rethinking of the expected approach to aid to the Developing World,” reads the statement from the partners.

The statement said that the partners have pulled together to roll out a model that provides nutrition and income which, once installed, will continue to develop over time.

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

Beating Heart was conceived to commission contemporary artists to remix samples from the largest archive of African field music in the world.

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) with support from Norway also embarked on a project of digitising old songs which saw artists such as Peter Mawanga and Faith Mussa being involved.

It is in this vein that Beating Heart has shown its seriousness in the project by putting together a party this weekend at Golden Sands, Cape Maclear in Mangochi to celebrate the release of Beating Heart Malawi – 65 years in the making.

The partners describe the album as rich as it features artists from around the world remixing the folk songs of Nyasaland recorded by Tracey.

Ethnomusician Waliko Makhala, who is set to perform at the concert sharing the stage with several other musicians hailed Beating Heart Malawi and other partners for this important project saying it has done well in bringing to light the old songs which are part of “our culture.”

Makhala, who plays what he calls Bush Music – music of our ancestors said he is happy and fortunate to be part of a great team organising four major UK acts in this charity concert.

“This is a great concert with a cause and I am happy to be part of it because we are raising funds for a charity initiative. I am also happy that this project is preserving old songs,” he said.

Other artists set to perform at the party to celebrate the album include Rudimental and Kidnap from United Kingdom and locals Lawi and Malawi Police Orchestra.

The others are Drew Moyo, My NU Leng, Petar Rabbit and Mangochi Beni dancers.

Rudimental released their debut album, Home, in April 2013. Since then, the album has gone platinum in the UK, selling over half a million copies and becoming one of the very few debut records to break through that year.

They also won a MOBO Award (Best Album) and were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

As for Kidnap Kid’s music career started strong rather early: he must have been the only university student to ever have won the iTunes ‘Best Electronic Song’ in 2012 for his release Vehl. Drew Moyo born and raised in Malawi, his music influence is slated from various genres from soul and funk to RnB, House and Hiphop to Afro cultural sounds.

Since moving to Norway in 2013, Drew has been familiarising himself with music scene in Norway.

Malawi Mangoes Co-founder and Joint Managing Director Jonathan Jacobs, said he is thrilled to be involved in this ground-breaking initiative with Beating Heart and Love Support Unite, “which shows just what can be achieved if we act together.”

“We passionately believe that the progress and development of people – socially, economically and environmentally – and the success of a long-term sustainable business are not mutually exclusive, but interdependent, in the 21st century perhaps more than at any other time in our past,” he said.

Co-Founder of Beating Hearts Chris Pedley, said in a press statement that since the 1950’s when Tracey recorded the folk songs of Nyasaland, the way society consumes music has evolved.

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