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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.


Lily Banda

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.

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Riise

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.

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Peter Mawanga

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.

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Hazel Mak

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.

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Kimba

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.

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Viceroy

“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.”

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Gwamba

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.

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Kim

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.

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Bucci

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.

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Pictures courtesy of Maeva Heim

Maeva Heim is the Founder the Beauty Industry Has Been Waiting on

The 31-year-old founder of Bread Beauty Supply is changing the conversation around haircare for textured hair.

It's nearing 9 p.m. in Australia, and Maeva Heim is dimly lit from behind and smiling warmly at her computer screen, ready to talk shop. We're here to discuss hair care, namely her brand Bread Beauty Supply, and how black beauty has made the globe smaller.

The 31-year-old is the founder of Bread Beauty Supply, a haircare line that encourages all textures and curl patterns to come as they are. "We don't want to tell you what to do with your hair. Enough people do that already," Heim says of Bread's brand philosophy. "We are just here to provide really good products for whatever you want to do with your hair at any point and not dictate to you how things should be. We're just women making the good products. You're making the good hair, and that's it. We're not here to define the rules."

But it's impossible to talk about recent strides in beauty products for textured hair without talking about the summer of 2020. In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd in the United States, a crescendo of cries rallied through global streets asking for not just equality but equity. The world watched with scrutiny as black boxes filled social feeds and brands made pledges to diversity. Those calls pinged from executive boards to the shelves of some of the world's largest beauty retailers. Meanwhile, after years of formulation, fundraising, and perfecting formulas and ingredients during a global pandemic, Maeva Heim introduced Bread beauty to the world in a perfect storm of timing and execution. The July 2020 launch filled a wide gap for Black beauty between homemade beauty products and behemoth beauty brands as Heim focused on an often under-explored direct-to-consumer middle.

Lauded on social media for their innovative packaging and nostalgic scents (the brand's award-winning hair oil smells like Froot Loops), Bread is a brand that makes hair care basics for not-so-basic hair. Typically, women with textured hair have not been included in the conversations around the idea of "'lazy girl hair" with minimal and effortless maintenance and styling - something Heim wanted to change. Part of Bread's mission is deleting category terms from the brand language – e.g. 'anti-frizz — that the brand feels unnecessarily demonizes characteristics that are natural to textured hair.

Photo courtesy of Bread Beauty

Born and raised in Peth, Western Australia, to an Ivorian mother and a French father, Heim grew up as one of the few Black kids in her neighborhood. Her days weaved between school and helping her mother run her braiding salon, one of the only of its kind in 1990's Australia. From sweeping floors, answering phones, and assisting with product orders, Heim's introduction to the world of beauty was rooted in the practice of doing.

Heim would go on to study business and law at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, before working in marketing at L'Oréal, followed by an internship at Procter & Gamble in Singapore. But it wasn't until her relaxer exploded in her luggage during a flight between New York and Chicago that she began to think seriously about not only her personal hair journey but also about the beauty industry's gaps.

After ditching chemical hair-relaxer and returning to her natural texture, she pitched her idea to Sephora and, in 2019, was selected as one of the first-ever Australian participants in the Sephora Accelerate program, securing a launch deal for both in-store and online.

But what's most striking about Heim, aside from her penchant for focusing on the brand and the consumer, is her focus on the innovation gaps for Black beauty products. Uniquely shy on social media but poignantly focused on every nuance of her brand and serving Bread's prior overlooked customer base, Maeva is the founder the beauty world has been waiting for.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity

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