Ten years is a long time to stay in the music circles without releasing an album. Anything beyond that has the potential to tempt people to speculate that you are finished and over the hill.
Musician Peter Mawanga has found himself in that situation as he seeks to reclaim his spot on the Malawi music scene. The artist, who last released a solo album Zanga Zozama in 2005, has announced plans to unveil a new album, Nyanja Vibes.
In an interview with Chill, the Tsoka hit-maker said: “The album is ready. It was supposed to be out last month, but I am currently in talks with a distribution company that is why the process has been held up a little bit.”
All songs from the eight-track album, which is all-acoustic, were recorded in the United States of America (USA) except two. The song list from the yet-to-be released album includes Dekhani, Palije, What About You, Taonana,
Kowala, Manganje and Silira.
During his time out of the limelight, the Lilongwe-based musician claims to have been silently active musically, including engaging in a small research that has informed his upcoming production.
Mawanga says: “I visited various villages along the lakeshore. I listened to their music and I talked to the singers, drummers and dancers about their songs. This is what inspired me to create what I am calling Nyanja Vibes.”
His introduction on the local music scene was accompanied by some controversies. Then, trading as Peter Pine, he unruffled quite a few feathers with his debut production Amakhala Ku Blantyre. Some Blantyre residents felt hard done by his composition. But to him it was just art.
And since then, a lot of things have changed for the artist. He dropped the Pine in his name and adopted Mawanga which is more African, probably to reflect his new touch which has more elements of local music.
“I picked up that name during my days as a student when I was much into hip-hop and dancehall music. The name stuck with me until my college days until the time I recorded Amakhala Ku Blantyre.
Though the artist has been silent and hardly performed locally, his other engagements have kept him busy. He has jointly worked with the Amaravi Movement which culminated in the albums Paphiri Ndi Padambo and Mau A Malawi released in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
In 2018, he teamed up with Tukula, a band which comprised himself, Marlyn, Faith Mussa, Sam and George and released an album with the same title. During that period he has performed in the US, Europe, Asia and some parts of Africa.
His last studio album, which was a concept collaboration project titled Mau A Malawi (Stories of Aids), came in 2011.
Music critic and commentator Gregory Gondwe said the search for a modernised Malawian traditional beat seems to be going on forever with no common understanding being reached by a unified larger audience.
He says: “Several attempts to modernise the ‘known traditional beats’ have been made by numerous artists over the years. The likes of San B have invented Honjo and Body Mind and Soul have Voodjaz. But apparently the code to crack what we can call Malawian music has remained elusive.” n