15 Malawian Musicians To Check Out
We list 15 contemporary Malawian musicians to take note of, including Sonye, Peter Mawanga, Gwamba, Viceroy, The Very Best, and many more.
Poetic musician Lily Banda has dazzled audiences with her sultry voice, uniquely-infused music style and high-energy performances. Ever since giving a TED Talk on abuse against women in Malawi, Lily now spends more time working on documentaries and media programming aimed at putting a stop to social injustice. She's currently working on a poetry compilation where she speaks about the beauty and struggle of being black, African and female.
Riise (real name Nicolas Tselingas) would best be described as a poet before being called a musician. Currently working on his fourth album, Close To The Finish Line, the singer — who came to stardom with his reggae gospel single “Zion Is For Real" — considers music a “never ending journey” and says he doesn't see himself stopping soon, so keep expecting more.
Fusing traditional African rhythms, compositions and vocal arrangements with modern instrumentation, Peter Mawanga is well known for his strong and spiritual message. Singing in his native tongue, Peter’s music is globally recognized, yet fundamentally Malawian. He's shared stages with international artists such as Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Earl Klugh, Oliver Mtukudzi and Wambali Mkandawire, and remained a strong activist for the poor — as Peter currently runs a charity organization focused on teaching music to vulnerable children through SOS Children's Villages International and UNICEF.
Hazel Mak began her music career at the age of 11 when she performed at a Miss Malawi national beauty pageant, which got her tagged as an “entertainer in the making” by a Malawian newspaper. In 2000, Hazel moved to the UK, and has since then performed with big names such as Tinie Tempah. Late last year, Hazel released the music video for “Liyaya,” a modern afrobeats song with a summer feel shot on the shores of the beautiful Lake Malawi.
Kimba Mutanda is a musician, composer and MC. He was once part of the pioneer hip-hop group Real Elements, and has worked with artists like South Africa's Khethi, Malawi's Peter Mawanga and the UK punk rock band Subsource. Having been silent on the music scene for about 5 years, Kimba recently released a remix of The Very Best’s "Hear Me," on his personal Facebook account. The song has since gone viral on social media.
“A nerdy law student delivering lethal bars,” that’s how one hip-hop blogger describes Viceroy. Born Omega Sambakunsi, the law student/rapper/cartoonist is either going to make you love him or hate him. There is no in-between. Constantly referring to himself as the mad one, Viceroy gave himself his stage name after he almost choked on a 'viceroy' drink. A year later, that name has become one of the most mentioned throughout Malawi's urban radio stations. His newest single, “Demeti” (taken from the English phrase 'Damn It'), has become a latest add-on to the local slang. I guess that's what happens when you put “some vice in it.”
Delivering witty punch lines in his mother tongue of Chichewa, Gwamba has risen over the years to become the face of Malawian hip-hop. The 24-year-old first started rapping in 2005 after being inspired by 50 Cent. A UNFPA youth ambassador, Gwamba is now a regional force, having collaborated with artists like Zambia’s Jay Rox and Botswana’s Zeus. Gwamba also recently performed at Zimbabwe’s Harare International Arts Festival and Swaziland’s Bushfire.
Kimberley Kaunda, aka Kim of Diamonds, is a creative artist whose love for singing and songwriting started an early age when her father taught her to play guitar. Kim recently released her debut album Freedom, which has made her one of the few national artists using their voice to fight violence against women in Malawi. With the technical production and direction of legendary fusionist Lawi and rapper Manyanda, Kim is definitely one to look out for.
Bucci’s search for stardom started in 2007 when he was part of a gospel music boy band called BBM. After a heavily-opposed decision to go mainstream in 2014, Bucci negated the doubts of his critics when he featured on Gwamba’s “Ndiyima Pachulu,” doing an amazing job on the hook. Blending afro-pop with elements of R&B, Bucci’s music is sure to be stuck on the iPhones and laptops of those that choose to sample it.
Ndaba Lungu is a writer, youth activist, mentor and rapper. Ndaba loves to use whatever medium to share Afrocentric values, culture, art and language. Follow his random tweets @ndabalungu.