Kachamba Brothers: Musical Sunshine from Malawi

Donald Kachamba, Kwela musician from MalawiThe Voice of America web site is running a very interesting African Music blog – well worth checking out.

Matthew LaVoie has written a fascinating post entitled Musical Sunshine from Malawi which outlines how the Kachamba brothers, Daniel and Donald, discovered kwela to the city that is now Harare, but was then called Salisbury, and bought it back to Malawi (the Nyasaland) in 1961.

The post goes on to explain the role that Austrian ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik played in promoting the brother’s music abroad under the moniker of Donald Kachamba’s Kwela Heritage Jazz Band, in which he played clarinet.

Best of all, this blog is full of example recordings by the featured artists, and the Kachamba Brothers are no exception. There are two kwelas to listen to: ‘Malawi Moto’ and ‘Malawi Cha-cha-cha’. I like the frantic tempo and vocals (which seem rare in kwela – the musicians usually preferring to play whistle) – I hope you enjoy these recordings too!


  1. Great to hear a young Donald Kachamba! Some of the coolest kwela I’ve heard is the solo playing in the film “Magic Garden”. The player’s name was Willard Cele and he was ahead of the pack who recorded kwela. The film was made in 1952, whereas Tom Hark was recorded in 1956. I don’t know of any recordings released by Cele, but many sources acknowledge him as the inventor of the special kwela embouchure (holding the whistle differently in the mouth to achieve pitch-bending and tone change). I have been playing and teaching kwela in Australia for ten years now, but have not met an African here who plays. Every South African remembers the music, though.
    Thanks again, Andy Rigby.

  2. I met him when i was just a little boy, he played for us and went to our school to play his grooves. i love even more his music today.
    My best for you here

  3. Next up is Joseph Tembo, a great guitar player, from southern Malawi. He was born in 1997, in southern Malawi, and is a member of the Sena ethnic group, who are related to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. This relationship helps explain the similarities between Tembo s music and the Shona melodies and rhythms of Zimbabwean Chimurenga music.

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