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Strumming those little good strings

Organisers of Lilongwe Jazz Festival, which was inaugurated last year, have decided to stay in touch with the youth by giving them a voice in this year’s showdown.

Last year, people appreciated performances from young artists such as Joshua Makhala, son to ethnomusicologist Waliko Makhala.

One of the members of the organising team and director, Khondjwa Ngwira, said this year they decided to give attention to the youth by creating the youth voice package as part of transition for jazz.

“Many of the players of jazz are from the older generation but we want the youth to be involved. If we are to keep jazz flying in the country then the youth have to be in the forefront hence having the youth voice this year,” Ngwira said.

He said apart from youth performances, this year they will also hold a jazz workshop aimed at teaching the youth the origins and practice of jazz.

“Through this we would be able to remove the mentality that jazz is for the old. Jazz is the beginning of every genre and it is a genre for everyone,” Ngwira said.

He said musician United States of America (USA) musician, composer, saxophonist and ethnomusicologist, who is based in South Africa and currently lecturing at University of Cape Town, Rick Deja, will be among the trainers.

“Over the last three decades, Rick has worked as a performer in numerous genres including afro jazz, roots rock, Brazilian pop and experimental improvisatory music performing in USA, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania. So, we are happy to have him and we are sure the youth will learn a lot from him,” Ngwira said.

Rick’s connect ion to Malawian music dates back to 1990s when as a student at University of Malawi – Chancellor College played with acts such as Wambali Mkandawire, Black Paseli and Kalimba.

Having young performers such as Joshua, the organisers, said the youth have the platform this year.

“I am happy that Joshua is performing at the festival once again this year. Last year was a great experience for him but this year people will be blown away,” Waliko said.

At such a young age, who plays the trumpet has stunned many with his talent performing with his father in many of the platforms apart from the Lilongwe Jazz Festival last year.

“We want to see many of the young people doing jazz and giving it their all. If we are to succeed with jazz in the country then the younger ones have to come out,” Ngwira said.

Apart from Joshua, some of the youthful groups set to hit the stage during the festival to be held at Lilongwe Golf Club from August 30-31, are Kamuzu Academy from Kasungu, Mzuzu Orchestra, Bambino and Smooth Groovers from Music Crossroads Malawi.

Kamuzu Academy Orchestra Director of Music, Donald Kaluwile, said they were set for this year’s jazz festival.

“Our repertoire this year comprises 17 pieces including some interesting movie themes such as Pink Panther, Game of Thrones and Pirate of the Caribbean. We are sure the audience will love the beautiful melodies, harmonies, complex rhythms, timbres, syncopation, and improvisation performed live on stage by our youth orchestra,” Kaluwile said.

He said the festival would give students an educational experience.

“The students will get an opportunity to showcase their musical skills and get appreciated by a strange audience other than the audience of, mainly, parents they normally perform to in the confinement of the academy,” Kaluwile said.

The Kamuzu Academy Music Director said music making would also help the students to focus on other academic subjects just as they do when comprehending complex musical patterns.

“It’s not surprising that the almost all senior members of the orchestra have been selected into the various colleges of the University of Malawi and abroad,” he said.

Kaluwile said as director of music, he will also be one of the facilitators at the jazz workshop and that he is set to give a lecture titled American Jazz History.

“I am sure these young people will be interested to learn the origin of jazz from New Orleans –through big names like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and how it has evolved to the present day,” Kaluwile said.

Leader of Mzuzu Orchestra, Ennockie Chabinga, hailed the organisers for giving them a chance to perform at the event.

“We have been rehearsing for some time in preparation for this festival. We are ready to give people the best of our jazz sound from Mzuzu,” Chabinga said.

He said the festival means a lot to them in that apart from sharing their music, they will also learn from other artists.

“We have been looking for such opportunities and to get that chance now is something great. There is just so much for us to share and learn,” Chabinga said.

Eric Mwalwanda from Smooth Groovers from Music Crossroads Malawi, said the Lilongwe Jazz Festival is a good platform for them to show what kind of musicians they are shaping.

“As Smooth Groovers from Music Crossroads, this is a good platform to showcase what we are capable of doing as far as jazz music is concerned. We want to have fun in jazz. This is also an opportunity where we can reach out to a bigger audience as Music Crossroads Malawi,” Mwalwanda said.

Mwalwanda, who is a teacher at Music Crossroads Malawi Academy, said the country has not been embracing jazz of late and that the coming in of the Lilongwe Jazz Festival isa great opportunity for jazz musicians to show themselves out.

“There are a lot of jazz musicians in the country but many have not been coming out because of lack of platforms but we are thankful to the organisers of the Lilongwe Jazz Festival for creating this special stage,” he said.

With the youth set to take centre stage this year, some of the acts set to perform at the festival include Erik Paliani Trio, Owen Mbilizi and the Jazz Café Band, Find Codi, Rudo Mkukupa Chakwera, Lusubilo Band, Mutemwa from Zambia, Peter Likhomo and Mapale Band, Gresham Mokwena Trio, Peter Mawanga, Lulu and The Spare Fingers.

Mbilizi described the festival as national.

“Forget the name Lilongwe Jazz Festival but this is a festival for Malawi. We have very good packages for entry starting with K10,000 for one day pass for standard and K35,000 for VIP. The two-day pass is K18,000 for a two-day pass and K60,000 for VIP,” Mbilizi said.

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