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Waliko, Mkanthama share stage with US women band

Ethno-musicians Waliko Makhala and Charles Chavala mangwere Mkanthama, alongside veteran Kaligo player Raswell Phiri, came face to face with a US all women group – Northern Lights Band– at Chichiri Museum in Blantyre last Thursday.

All the way from Dowa District, Mkanthama, who came courtesy of Chichiri Museum, was at his best, showcasing his skills in playing the Sansi while Makhala, who tags his sound ‘Bush music’ (music of our ancestors), offered a short performance with the semi-acoustic guitar— his stand out instrument.

Phiri from Kasungu District also had his share reminding the audience, dominated by students, of his past exploits with the Kaligo.

There are a few Kaligo players in the country and Phiri is one of them.

He started playing the Kaligo in 1964 and has travelled around and outside the country for performances, impressing many with this traditional instrument.

With the Kaligo, which he has taught his two children, he reminded the audience the importance of preserving traditional instruments which have a rich sound.

“I am happy to perform here. It’s good to play such traditional instruments which are part of our culture. The young generation needs to learn because many of these players like myself are getting old,” Phiri said.

For the US women band, which performed soon after Mkanthama, this was the last performance for them in the country.

The women band was in the country as part of an Africa tour, courtesy of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through a partnership with American Voices.

The programme engages with people across the world through American Music Abroad exchanges.

Apart from visiting Malawi, where they visited Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, Music Crossroads Academy in Lilongwe, Jacaranda School for Orphans in Blantyre and Chichiri Museum, the US women band also visited Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.

The US women band is made up of Natalia Zukerman, Chaska Potter and Mona Tavali.

Mona, a percussionist who incorporates the Cajon, an instrument which is more like a drum left the audience for dead with her skills.

Chaska and Natalia showed their skills on the guitar and vocals.

The trio, who interacted with 300 students during the event and shared their musical story, gave their all and showed that women can also excel in music.

“We are happy with the talent we have seen in Malawi. And this has been a true cultural exchange where we have been presented with the best from Malawi,” said Natalia, who some students mistook for Madonna.

Chaska said she was stunned with what she had experienced in the country.

“Malawi is a beautiful country. We talked to 300 girls, who were eager to learn to play instruments,” she said.

Natalia said she enjoyed singing and dancing and that she connected with the people.

Waliko heaped praise on the band, saying they offered good sound.

“I loved them. Very good sound and it’s a band which is not demanding. Women here can also do it,” Waliko said.

The American Music Abroad is a people to people cultural exchange programme designed to communicate America’s rich musical contributions and diverse culture to the global music community.

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