Standing gigantically on the premises of St. Maryâ€™s Parish in the northern Malawi district of Karonga, Lusubilo Music Centre is an eight-roomed complex which promises the district its first music school.
The yardâ€”replete with a recreation hall, offices and a concert squareâ€”is currently home to the winners of the resuscitated Chibuku Road to Fame Music Competition.
Five months after its opening, the brainchild of Professor Chungja Kim has demonstrated rare ability to nurture students with little knowledge in music into formidable vocalists, drummers and pianists.Â
â€œIt would have been easier to build this Music Centre in Lilongwe or Blantyre, but I chose Karonga because I wanted to help the poorest of the poor, the most remote people,â€ says Chungja, who survived the Korean War in the 1950s.
Chungja herself is no stranger to music. She says she learnt playing piano at 11 after being inspired by German missionaries in her native land. After noticing her burning desire for music, the missionaries offered her a scholarship to study the art at Augsburg University, Germany.
It was after she retired as a lecturer in music at the Korean National University of Arts that she embraced the needy.
She narrates:Â â€œAs a tourist, I was touched by the suffering of Africa during my visits to Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Malawi. I met a missionary priest in Lilongwe who introduced me to Lusubilo Orphan Care in Karonga
â€œWhen I went back home, I sold everything I had and, with the help of well-wishers, I was able to fund the construction of the music centre to the tune of over K60 million.â€
To qualify for free training at the institution, she says, wannabes undergo auditions. Its offerings include vocals, instruments, traditional dances and music theory.
She says plans are underway to turn it into a music college and to construct dormitories so that even aspirants outside Karonga can fulfil their dreams.
At present, the centre has four teachers, including Tiwonge Hango who led Tikhu Vibrations to victory in the five-nation Music Crossroads International Competition in 2003. The Liverpool-trained artist has been heading the music department since last year.
â€œMy dream as the teacher, producer and composer at the centre is to lead the band in winning such competitions as Music Crossroads which brought me to the limelight,â€ says Tiwonge, who obtained a diploma in popular music from the same school as Sir Paul McCartney of the legendary Beatles.
Apart from offering a four-year certificate programme, the centre will give two best students a chance to study Music at the Korean National University of Arts.
Music Association of Malawi (MAM) vice-president Lazzie Nkhata says the institution is a beacon of hope not only for the youth in Karonga but the whole country.