Thursday, October 29, 2015

Peter Mawanga & the Amaravi Movement

When I arrived for the performance, I had no idea what to expect. Peter Mawanga is a musician from Malawi, and most of his lyrics are in his vernacular, Chichewa. He is a self-proclaimed “Voice for the Voiceless.” All of his songs have roots in traditional Malawian music, and he plays with both traditional Malawian and Western instruments. It was difficult to not find yourself tapping along with the music as he played. During the performance, Peter Mawanga would pause between songs occasionally to explain more about himself and his music. On their flight to the US their marimba, the backbone of their music, was lost and the airline still hasn’t found it. They were up all night building a new one for the event at the Touhill. Two of the most moving songs were from an album called “Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS,” which he wrote along with an American artist. The songs themselves told the stories of people living with HIV/AIDS. They put faces and names on something that is an epidemic that is detached from most people unless they know someone who is experiencing it. One of the most haunting lyrics was from his song “Thengo”:

When a father buries his child,

Who will bury him?

What we’ve buried in silence,

Has taken my children.

The performance was sponsored by the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professorship in African/African-American Studies and the Office of International Studies and Programs. The event gave those attending a chance to experience Malawian music, and it also gave us the opportunity to understand more about the culture and issues people are facing. It is important for students to broaden their minds and increase their acceptance of others, and the tools are equally crucial for the community overall. This performance offered the chance to work toward those ideals. With the University Ambassadors, I was able to attend an event that exposed me to a new way of thinking and increased my understanding of people in Malawi.

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