Very few local musicians have stayed true to the traditional beat, but that cannot be said of Afro-jazz artist Peter Mawanga.
Over the years, Mawanga has rode on the back of his self-created beat which is a cocktail of traditional instruments such as Nsansi, Valimba, Mangolongondo, Mbalule and Aperekete fused with contemporary jazz elements which has come to be called the Nyanja Vibes.
He said: “Over the years I have been working towards finding what our own music is. I have created what is called Nyanja Vibes whose backbone is our way of life, traditional dances and traditional music which use traditional instruments.
“I am committed to this genre and I am not going to change because that’s what makes me the artist that I am. I am hoping to teach others as well and I hope they will get inspired.”
And true to his words, the Nyanja Vibes is what the artist has brought out in his latest Extended Play (EP) done with America Trevor Bystrom titled Mawanga And Bystrom. The EP was released yesterday.
The artist said the EP has been borne out of the inactivity as the two artists tried to run away from boredom due to the cancellation of the concerts which they had lined up before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
“The project started with a single which Trevor sent me. When I listened to it I decided to put a Nyanja Vibes spin on it. When he listened to the final version he was excited and he wanted us to do more songs,” Mawanga said.
The project was done while Mawanga was in Malawi and Bystrom in his native America. The artist describes it as a back-and-forth process, with a continuous exchange of files through the Internet.
The Lilongwe-based artist, however, said the distance between them was no barrier and it did not have any negative effect on the final product.
He said: “This music is supposed to be the way you are hearing it. If you get to listen to Trevor’s music you will not find Caribbean elements on it and on this project I added my Nyanja Vibes. It’s a combination of two genres which have formed something new.”
The collaborative six-track package is a combination of Mawanga’s predominantly jazz-filled Nyanja Vibes which he is known for and Bystrom fused it with American contemporary jazz. The two have brought to the fore the meticulous use of traditional instruments in a modern way.
The synergy of the two artists was perfectly projected in the song I Care For You which was done in both Chichewa and English. Bystrom led the vocals and Mawanga provided the hook. The use of the Nsansi (Thumb Piano), trumpet and the lead guitar were well underlined.
“Chikulirenji kunsenzetsa mwana/ Chitchora msana nkhalamba zakana kuno. Zikuti nono/ tiuzeni zoona/ tiuzeni tidziwe ife. Msatibisile Corona mchani inu?”…goes the song in part.
Other songs are Katiswe, Some Day, Listen, Umoyo and Asleep At Night. The EP was recorded at Bystrom’s Studio in Holmes, Florida in US and Amaravi Studios in Lilongwe and was co-produced and co-written by Mawanga and Bystrom.