|Written by Jack McBrams|
|Thursday, 05 August 2010|
|American born Malawian musician Masauko Chipembere is back in the country to celebrate his father’s 80th birthday at Chancellor College Thursday evening from 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm at Little Theatre, Chancellor College. In the interview below, he talks to Jack McBrams about his music and the significance of the event and how these two merge together.
What brings you here on this particular journey?
Two powerful women, my wife and my mother. My wife is teaching a course in literature at Chancellor College. I’ve also come to
Why is this birthday important?
Without his life I would not have mine. But, my father dedicated his life to Malawi. So in celebrating his life, we celebrate the history of Malawi.
You are a musician, how does that relate to the legacy?
I am a child of my mother and my father. My mother is a singer and a political person. My father was a political person who loved the lyrics to songs. I am the synthesis of these two people.
Born outside, how do these journeys help you discover yourself and your people?
Marcus Garvey famously said a tree without roots cannot grow. So, these family roots give me my wings. I am learning my place in the story. I am finding my purpose in life. I am learning about umunthu and sadaka.
What have you learned from Malawian music and musicians?
One of my first encounters here was with Wambali. We met on my first journey and he encouraged me to learn about all the music here. In Malawi, we are masters of the drum and the guitar. I am a fan of the Kachambas and Namoko. We have world class music here. I could spend a lifetime just studying all the musical styles of Malawi. Music is also a great way for me to learn the languages.
What current music are you into?
I love Peter Mawanga because I enjoy it, my mother enjoys it and my children enjoy it and the whole Black Missionaries posse too. But, I can also dig Third Eye and Tay Grin. I see no boundaries in music. MaNyasa are some of the best musicians in the world whether Malawians buy them or not.
What is going wrong with Malawian music?
Technically, we are using out-dated keyboards. We are also forgetting that producing and engineering records require learned skills. Spiritually, the fact that those who play traditional music are separated from those who do hip-hop and reggae is foolish. We all need each other in order to create a larger market and survive as artists.
At what stage are you with your music?
This has been a good year for me. My group Blk Sonshine was nominated for a South African Music Award for our new release called Good Life. I recorded a song with Tekitha and RZA from the Wu Tang Clan called ‘Ghetto Serenade’ and it was released in 2010. I recorded some South African jazz with Mongezi Chris Kandoje, the Malawian who played guitar for Lucky Dube. We supported Lorraine Klaasen on that CD. It is called Africa Calling and was nominated for a Canadian folk music award. In 2010, I’ve found my direction. I have learned that I can make whatever music that I want. I can bring Allan Namoko, Daniel
What are the Malawian musicians saying to you and what are your thoughts?
There are saying the people are moving away from their own Malawian music and running to the Western sound. I think this is a shame because the Western music has no respect for women and children. Malawians are dignified people. We must respect ourselves and our history.
How does it feel to be Chipembere’s son in this place at this time?
It feels great. I believe that my father’s vision is slowly coming to fruition. My father believed in fighting for the dignity of all
Where do we go from here?
I think we need to start educating ourselves. I am not just talking about school. I am speaking about this in the William Kamkwamba sense. This means that all learning doesn’t happen in school. If you don’t know about Chipembere and Chilembwe go find a book. If you can’t find a book go ask as many elders as you can and be able to speak intelligently about your own history. Because I know there are plenty who can tell me every character on Generations but how many can name
Your last words to Malawi?
“Lead us not into Materialism but deliver us from imperialism.” Bambo Chipembere!
My father’s vision is coming to fruition