Malawi has blessed with amazing talent, especially in the musical field. However, making it big or even penetrating the industry especially internationally is a huge challenge. Perhaps, the lack of resources and marketing always proves to be a let-down for most of those who dream of realising it.
But for Marlyn Chakwera, she is leaving a dream that is slowly giving Malawi hope that local artists can to shine.
For starters, the 26 year-old-is the lead vocalist and the sole female musicians in Amaravi Movement, a band owned by Afro pop artist Peter Mawanga.
Those that have heard her sing will attest to the fact that she is a total magnet as her voice blows you away.
The last born of four children to MCP president Dr Lazarus Chakwera, Marlyn understands she started singing at a tender age.
“If by starting music you mean singing, then I started singing when I was very young. My father used to get some VHS tapes from his missionary friends in the US and most of them were sing-along programmes, Disney movies, and ‘You can read’ programmes full of music and dance. I grew up on these and I was also encouraged to sing at church.
“The first time I recorded in a studio, though, was when I was 12 or 13 years in a church youth group called Echoes of Praise. At that time, our group was one of the first to fill up Sheaffer Hall for a launch with our hit song Lekani Machimo. That launch was what really helped me conquer my stage fright. So, I guess you can say I have been in the music circles since then although I was not intensely involved until 2009 when I auditioned for Daughters of Africa,” she recalls.
From there, Marlyn found herself at Amaravi Movement, where she has been performing to date. She is the only female in the six piece band, but that does not scare her.
“Being the only girl in Amaravi is special. It is not threatening; it is actually lots of fun. For me it is not about working with males or females, I work with people. I work with brilliant artists who have respect for me, what I do, and have respect for the music.
“We work as a team, each putting in what is needed for all of us to excel. I do not have problems working with males because we all respect one another and we respect what each person brings to the table. We are mature enough to understand boundaries and live as a family; I am their sister and they are my brothers,” she mused.
But what inspired her to join music, a career that not many Malawian females go for?
“Music is in my blood, so it was never a doubt for me. Music is what kept me up till late at night; it is what draws me close to God. For me, it is a calling and not just a career. It is something I was created to do, so there is nothing else I can do but do it.
“Also, my family has played a major role is seeing that I remain who God created me to be other than conform to what people, or country, expect me to be. My parents always helped to promote the gift that is in me, encouraging me to find my own path,” she speaks with enthusiasm.
Marlyn runs a music school, where she teaches both the young and the old.
Maryln, a one-time director of Music Crossroads Choir, established the school alongside her brother, Reverend Nick Chakwera, her sister-in-law Rudo Chakwera, Sam Mkandawire and the late Julia Kaphamtengo.
She explains: “We partnered to operate a music and arts academy whose vision is to perfect our ability to bring excellent praise to an excellent God through music and the arts. This school is a faith-based institution although services are offered to all people, no matter their faith. The name of the school is Goyim, a Hebrew word for nations or peoples. So, it is a school for all peoples of the nations.
“We started operating the school last year in February and currently we offer about 10 classes. These are fundamentals of music theory, music theatre, Goyim Kid’s Choir with classes in piano, guitar, bass and drum. We also have vocals private, vocals group, and a seminar in the worship experience. We conduct lessons at International Christian Assembly marquee and the lessons are for all ages from six years onwards. For other classes, however, like a theory class, adults are grouped together and children together.”
While Marlyn regards her vocals as instruments too, she knows how to play drums, piano and a little bit of cello. Other than music, she is an artistic powerhouse.
“My name means painter, which is what I am. I am an artistic ambassador, an artist of all trades. I sing, dance, act, write, and draw for one purpose and that is to glorify God and to lead others in the discovery and worship of the true God. I am also a developer in that I love to encourage others to reach their full potential, an advocate for the abused, and a counsellor,” she says.
Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Community Psychology at Malawi Assemblies of God University to enable her be more effective in counselling.
“I also have a certificate in music from the Royal School of Music in the UK Apart from this, when I worked with Music Crossroads, I was further trained in vocal training, choir conducting, and music pedagogy by Spanish music professors,” she explains.