Touring in Malawi

The CD-J Challenge

17 October 2015

After moving to Malawi in August, MYA welcomed the first artists from South Africa and The Netherlands mid September. With thanks to funding organisations like Prince Claus Ticket Fund and concertsSA, 5 musicians could fly to Lilongwe and stay for 2-3 weeks to perform, collaborate and follow/give workshops. We set SMART objectives and not only exceeded our goals but all expectations we had. We made friends, learned valuable lessons and worked hard while we had a fantastic time here in sunny Malawi. Seven collaborations, many workshops, great press coverage and five performances. From the renowned festivals Lake of Stars and Blantyre Arts Festival to the lodge where we stayed, an international school and a club in the capital Lilongwe.

Everywhere we played, the audience loved it. It was "new", "different" and "just what this country needs". Pinki & DaBruin left a lasting impression, not only with their fantastic performances but their presence in the country did not go unnoticed. Everybody seen them and remembers them, for their stories, their looks and their energy. EJ von Lyrik blew everybody away with her strong voice, powerfull messages and amazing stage presence. Not only did she play with a band made up of live musicians whom she met in Malawi, she also managed to hook up with 2 great female artists for studio collaborations, Lady Pace and Rina and shared her story about female empowerment with the whole country on Capital FM. DJ Fosta worked with the producer of the song you hear at least 10 times per day here in Malawi, Sonye. He also worked with the talented and famous Malawian singer Sangie. When he played, everybody was on the dancefloor. It was impressive to see how Fosta got everybody moving.

Perhaps I should say 'If he played...' because we found out that being a DJ in Malawi is a challenge. We found out we looked at the music scene from our South African and Dutch perspective. We assumed every club and festival would have a set-up with CD-Js. We never even thought to ask what was available, because to us it seemed obvious that a club and a festival that books DJs have the equipment necessary to play. How wrong we were...

In Lilongwe we found out on the day of the gig that the club did not have any decks. We asked if they could borrow or rent it from somewhere, but they couldn't. So we started asking around and luckily we found someone who was willing to rent out his DJ set to us. He even delivered it to Mabuya Camp, cos we did not have (money for) transport.

Everyting but one cable was available and arranged well at Lake of Stars. At the international school there were no CD-Js either, and Fosta could not play jn Doogles Lodge in Blantyre because there was nothing for him there. The biggest challenge was Blantyre Arts Festival; no decks, no mixer and no CD-Js to be found. We posted messages on Facebook, called everybody we know in Blantyre and asked the staff at the festival, but to no avail. Finally, nearly 5 hours after the scheduled playing time, we got them!! For more money than our budget for the whole week, but we were happy Fosta could play. And as usual, he delivered!! He played a great set at Blantyre Arts Festival.

DaBruin jokingly called it Blantyre Soundcheck Festival on Facebook. We would have been nowhere without Sam Jones, our own sound engineer and guitar player from Utrecht.

There are good opportunities here for people with talent and perseverence. Music from Malawi is fantastic! I love listenjng to Krazie G and Third Eye, George Kalukusha and Adrian, The Moods Malawi and Pisitive Yut, Lady Pace and Rina; from electronic to singer songwriters and reggae. There are not many female artists here, so women like Tigris and Daughters Band do not always have it easy because the country is quite conservative. At the same time rich in culture, full of potential, filled with positivity and ambitions.

If you want to share your knowledge with the talents of Malawi, please contact Annelies. MYA is also looking for 4 sets of CD-Js & mixers to spread around the country. These DJ sets will be managed and maintained by community organisations like Music Crossroads (Lilongwe) and Butterfly Space (Nkhata Bay). These non-profit organisations are amazing in nurturing talent through knowledge sharing. Education and the right equipment is key! The CD-Js will be looked after and available to everyone. So if you have a spare set or an old CD-J in your garage that you are willing to donate, please contact me. Zikomo!