A public event in rural Nkhata Bay is incomplete without the involvement of honara (Hohner) music performance by renowned Madaizi Mwenda, 75, and his crew.
This was revealed recently during the launch of a child rights campaign project in Traditional Authority (T/A) Fukamalaza in the district.
Remarked one community member during the campaign: “Honara is popular in our area and it is one of the performances that pull the crowd for a particular event.”
The sentiments were proved true during the line up of activities marking the launch of the campaign where honara turned out to be popular. Its harmonic melodies of accordion and slow dance moves of band members invited deafening cheers from people.
Basically, Hohner is the name of the maker of the accordion used in the dance. So the dance, honara, is an honour to the maker.
The accordion is played by compressing or expanding the bellows while pressing buttons or keys, causing pallets to open, which allow air to flow across strips of brass or steel, called reeds. These vibrate to produce sound inside the body. The performer normally plays the melody on buttons or keys on the right-hand manual, and the accompaniment, consisting of bass and pre-set chord buttons, on the left-hand manual.
Mwenda is a highly praised honara player in Nkhata Bay.
“Mwenda is our own honara legend who has been entertaining us for many years. And his type of music has become part of us because it is a frequent feature during many events,” said T/A Fukamalaza.
He added that apart from the popular malipenga, honara is another admired form of performance in Nkhata Bay.
Mwenda is one of the country’s legendary accordionists and singers from Nkhata Bay who is still entertaining people at the age of 75.
He joins the bandwagon of the likes of Giddes Chalamanda who is still strong at the age of 86.
“Born in 1942, I started music in 1962 and since then I haven’t stopped,” said Mwenda who comes from Jumbo Village in T/A Fukamalaza.
He said he has played music during the Kamuzu Banda era in Mzuzu where he was nicknamed Cheka.
“I have played honara is Mzuzu, Lilongwe and even Blantyre. In fact, I have travelled across the country with my hohner and received commendation,” he said.
Since the onset of his career, Mwenda has used over six different hohners with the current one dating back to late 1990s.
“I have used different hohners in my career with the current one being the oldest instrument,” he said.
Now 55 years down the line, Mwenda said he has incorporated members (both female and male) into honara performance to spice it up.
“Back in the days, I used to perform alone, but now honara has members particularly females that spice it up with some calm songs and dancing antics,” said Mwenda.
He further said honara is his bread and butter.
“I do it to earn a living and all my children know this is my occupation because I was born an artist,” he said.