Being born in a family of musicians can be exciting as you learn the art of singing while young. However, it can, in equal measure, also turn into a difficult experience when you try to establish yourself as you are constantly compared to those around you.
By default, the audience expects you to produce better music than the songs that propelled your family members into stardom.
But, musician Esther Chitheka-Lewis has seemingly taken it all in her stride. She is building a career which she believes will be successful.
Esther is a daughter of music icon Apostle Enesia Chitheka-Lewis, one of the founders of the gospel group Chitheka Family that took the music industry by storm in the 1990s and early 200s.
Esther was raised in Likhubula, Blantyre and attended Chichiri Primary School and Lady Bird Primary School before joining Our Lady of Wisdom Secondary School.
“I have learnt a lot from my mother and my brothers who are into jazz music and have worked with many artists in Malawi,” the songstress says.
Born in Blantyre on December 10 1997, Esther says she developed a passion for music when she was 10 and joined a praise team at her church.
Though she is yet to release an album, the Zathu Band member describes her journey this far, as promising, saying: “More is coming.”
The 23-year-old recalls that she adopted singing as a means to keep to herself growing up. She recalls that she used to stammer a lot.
“I was afraid friends would laugh at me when I am speaking. Most of the times I withdrew from friends due to low esteem. Music was the only way I could express myself,” she recalls.
Take her stammering out of the equation, Esther has faced more setbacks in her quest to break into the saturated music industry.
The actress said she taught herself how to play a guitar.
“I am left-handed and the guitars that were available at that time were all right handed and people where not able to teach me. I took a step and learnt it all by myself. I attended no tutorials. It was just me and my mind. I started playing the right-handed guitar until I now bought the left-handed guitar two years ago,” she explains.
In 2014, she contested in Sunbird Search for a Star, a singing competition for up-and-coming musicians. She finished outside the top three.
A year later, she unsuccessfully bid for the Airtel Trace Singing Competition, but fell short as well as she did not reach the finals.
“I was disappointed, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my music career,” Esther says.
Her perseverance paid off in 2016 when she auditioned for Zathu Band and was among the selected few.
She would also become an actress in Zathu Pa Wailesi Drama where she played the role of Chikondi.
“Zathu Band was just another big opportunity and I always thank God. As a young person, I was delighted to be part of it because the band under Girl Effect aims at behaviour change and encouraging friendships between boys and girls,” she says.
“We have other themes like health, sexual and reproductive health, education and so on. So, I can proudly say that my music has helped me to reach heights I could hardly reach on my own.”
She confesses that she is inspired by her mom and Faith Mussa:
“These two really shaped me to be where l am today and will forever be grateful to them.”
“I worked with Mussa on the reggae version remix of his song Desperate. I also did the Mzika song Dolo Amalembetsa with Piksy and Suffix as UNDP ambassadors. I have also backed my mother in her recent albums,” she discloses.
Brushing shoulders with such renowned artists has inspired her to launch a solo project.
Esther reveals that her music is being produced with the helping hands of Manifest, Frontier and OBK studios.
“I want my fans to remember me as an extraordinary girl with the sweet husky voice who sang songs that spoke to their hearts; songs that put them at ease and changed them,” she promises.
Esther praises her career for taking her to places she never dreamt she would be.
“I will always remember the performance in United Kingdom with Zathu Band as it was my first time performing outside Malawi. I will remember it because it proved to me that I can achieve more with music and that l am destined for greater things,” she says.
Esther confessed that she has been able to get some opportunities because of music: “Music has been of great help to me and currently I am working on my extended playlist (EP) with NVAK Music Foundation from the USA and I am happy to work with an international record label.
“If I get a chance to talk to a young lady I would say, your art alone is enough to get you where you have to be. You don’t have to be forced to do things that you don’t want to do to gain favours. Your craft is enough. The up-and-coming females need to be careful as well. Reputation is everything and finally be brave and stand up for your rights,” she says.
During her free times, she is into adventure and reading books. Her favourite books include Becoming by former United States First Lady Michelle Obama.
In a separate interview with a former Zathu Band member Joe Kelz, said he has come across many talents in Malawi but Esther Chitheka-Lewis is unique and has amazing talent.
“Her voice and her compositions are extraordinary. You can easily tell that she was born to be a musician.
“Malawi hasn’t seen the best from her yet. I have had a chance of listening to some of her unreleased songs and all I can say is that, she is one of the few artists who are going to represent Malawi on an international level soon”.