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Travelling the world

Another experience for Patrick Chimbewa

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MALAWI CULTURAL DELEGATION—Chimbewa with his Nsansi before departure on Thursday

The first time Nsansi player Patrick Chimbewa experience a flight outside the country was in 2016 when he flew to Norway to participate in the Talent project run by the Forde Traditional and World Music Festival.

Chimbewa travelled to Norway not because he was going for studies but rather he captured the attention of Music Crossroads Malawi Director, Mathews Mfune, with his talent of playing traditional instruments.

The youthful artist who comes from Ntchisi, took a different direction to embrace the trade of playing traditional instruments and thanks to his hard work.

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Chimbewa plays a traditional instrument known as Nsansi which he also makes on his own using locally available resources and from Nsansi, the artist, who also plays a traditional instrument known as Kaligo, decided to expand his traditional musical set of the Nsansi to add the Nemba.

And so, today Chimbewa plays the Nsansi during his performance and at the same blows the Nemba and he aims at selling the country’s traditional instruments to the world.

If you going around the country today, you will find a few people playing traditional instruments especially the youth with a great number being the elderly.

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Most youths are not eager to learn playing traditional instruments and to them “these instruments are old fashioned” in this present generation where technology has taken its space.

But it is these traditional instruments which have pushed Chimbewa to start earning himself calls outside the country to represent the country.

“I remember when I went to Norway, people were all over me wanting to know how the Nsansi functions and how we play it and how I learned it. They were interested because they have never seen such instruments but if you tell them about the guitar and other modern instruments then there is nothing new for them,” Chimbewa said.

Chimbewa, who went to Norway alongside Thokozani Mdoko, who is a dancer and plays drums and percussions as well as Asante Maulidi, went on to win the hearts of many at the Talent project where there were also other Talent teams from Norway as the host country and Kenya.

Kenya too won the hearts of many people with some of the traditional instruments and that just tells you how traditional instruments are valued.

In West Africa for instance, there are lots of musicians, who still play traditional instruments such as the Kora which produces unique sound. Artists such as Mali’s Salif Keita, still have a set of traditional instruments on their technical rider.

Ethno-musician Waliko Makhala has for a long time bemoaned the absence of traditional instrument players in the country.

In one of his columns in The Daily Times, he wrote that they had at one time travelled across the country looking for Bangwe players but they found none. Such is the challenge that is on the ground at the moment where if we do not tread carefully, we may have a generation that knows no traditional instruments.

But thanks to young artists such as Chimbewa, who have come out to show the best of traditional instruments having learnt from veteran ethno-musician Charles Mkanthama.

“I am happy with the achievements of Patrick Chimbewa on the ground. He showed he wanted to be part of this movement when we were just starting and since then he has not looked back. He has gone on to discover more and I am happy that he is being utilised by players such as Music Crossroads Malawi,” Mkanthama said.

Mkanthama and Chimbewa were also part of the Culture Indaba at University of Malawi – Chancellor College where artists from different places met to speak nothing but one language – culture in different forms.

Chimbewa has gone on to embrace different platforms including facilitating sessions at the Ethno-Malawi Music camps as well as Sounds of Malawi Acoustic Session in Blantyre.

But this is not enough, Chimbewa has also captured the attention of the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture in particular Department of Arts which has seen him being included in the Malawi culture delegation travelling to India.

The delegation including members of the Malawi National Dance Troupe left the country yesterday for India to participate at the 34th Annual Surajkund International Crafts Mela Festival scheduled for February 1-16 2020.

MacDonald Maluwaya from the Department of Arts, said they were expected back from the festival on February 22.

“We are happy to have Patrick Chimbewa on board, an amazing Nsansi player and he truly represents what Malawi is made of in terms of showing traditional instruments. We have the Malawi National Dance Troupe and then we also have a fine artist by the name of Lawrence Daka,” Maluwaya said.

Chimbewa, who has been rehearsing for some time preparing for the trip, said he was happy that he was making an impact with his traditional instruments.

“All I want is for the younger ones to know that traditional instruments are part of our culture and we cannot afford to kill them. Modern instruments will be there but they can be played together with traditional instruments. So, getting a chance to play in India is something special. For your information, this is my second trip going outside the country. The first one was in Norway,” he said.

For Chimbewa and team, the sky is the limit and all what takes them to India is nothing but culture that comes in the form of traditional dances, fine art and traditional instruments.

“We hope to do more and leave a mark of what Malawi is made of otherwise this is also part of showcasing our diverse cultures and uphold the ideals of the 2005 Unesco Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions which encourages dialogue among different cultures,” Maluwaya said.

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