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Tamar Shvelidze

Politically conscious Music from Malawi

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Not much is known to the world about the music scene in Malawi. Ranking as one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi faces ongoing issues of poverty, government corruption, electoral fraud, environmental degradation, and tribal divides. However, Malawians are using creativity as a tool for everyday resistance. At the Tumaini Festival in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp, refugees normally seen as victims have come together to create and manage a major cultural happening. While government officials fail to take action, artists perform at the Music Against Malaria Festival in Blantyre to raise funds for the children’s wing at Chikwawa District Hospital. Meanwhile, Stewart the Cyclist–a Malawian athlete who biked from Kilimanjaro to Malawi to raise money for health centers–continues pedaling across Africa to raise support for the underprivileged.

Malawi’s year-long election

In February 2020, amid widespread protests, the country’s Constitutional Court annulled the results of Malawi’s 2019 presidential election, citing widespread irregularities. The election extended the presidency of Peter Mutharika, who received just 38.5% of the vote. A new election date is now set for June 23, 2020.

Chris Msosa, a Malawian poet, says: “I believe that distrust of the government is higher now than ever. Corrupt practices have been going on behind closed doors, but now there is an open window. People are vigilant about knowing what their government representatives are doing while serving the nation.” However, Msosa, like many others in Malawi, also thinks that both the ruling party and the opposition are complicit in corrupt practices and contain objectionable individuals within their parties.

“Better Must Come”

Musician Ishan Cyapital’s new single, “Better Must Come,” featuring Teebz, is the first song to offer social commentary on the current political moment in Malawi. The song gives voice to popular dissatisfaction with corruption and condemns government apathy about the urgent problems facing countries in the region. About his new video, Ishan Cyapital says: “We wanted to reach out to Malawians and others in countries that are going through challenging times to tell them to stay strong and keep fighting for change–especially youth, who are the majority of Malawi’s population. I wanted to tell every ghetto kid to stay level-headed and focused despite these hardships. I also wanted to send a message to the world and to our leaders that we are tired and we are concerned about this unique situation of a year-long election facing Malawi.”

The music video is directed by Iara Lee, an activist filmmaker of Brazilian/Korean descent. It is being released by Cultures of Resistance Films as a part of a series of online short films called “Dispatches from Malawi.” The series features Malawians who are using art and creativity to engage with vital social and political questions.

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