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Remembering Jazz maestro Don Mlenga

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Scores of people that came to the burial of jazz master, Don Mlenga, at Michiru in Blantyre on Sunday will attest that he was no ordinary artist.

Mlenga’s death at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre on Friday shocked many people.

In his eulogy, musician Wycliffe Chimwendo, who spoke on behalf of musicians, said the country had lost a mature artist.

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And celebrating his life, musicians performed during the funeral service at his house in Chilomoni.

Mlenga’s daughter, Tesse, who used to play vocals during some of the performances at Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre, led in one of the hymn songs that her father loved.

Until his death, the jazz maestro used to perform at Ryalls Hotel.

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Mlenga was a member of Michiru CCAP, where he was training some of the members in music.

Fondly known as Amdyomba in the music circles, Mlenga was a veteran artist who trained many musicians, including Patrick Simakweli, in the country.

Although he trained as a mechanic, Mlenga loved music.

Another old-timer in the music circles, Wendyham Chechamba, said he knew Mlenga in the 1970s when he was performing at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre.

“He was self employed as a mechanic but he loved music and, because of his passion, we ended up linking,” Chechamba said.

Chechamba said Mlenga’s first outing in music was a stint with Dave Mkoka, who used to perform at Kudya Entertainment Centre.

“Mlenga had his first performance with Dave Mkoka at Mount Soche but he [Mkoka] later left for the United Kingdom where he passed on. Later Mlenga teamed up with Isaac Mkukupa and there were times they were inviting me and I used to play the saxophone,” he said.

“This is why I am saying the gap left will be difficult to fill because he was doing original jazz and, through his performances, he showed his skills in playing the guitar,” said the proprietor of Chechamba Music School.

Simakweli, who, had been performing with Mlenga at Ryalls Hotel, said he is a professional musician today because of Mlenga.

“He was a good person, very humble and was always willing to teach others. He taught me the guitar in the 1970s and I have also taught many. Those who play instruments know him better,” Simakweli said.

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