MUSIC & LIGHTS
Salim, who I’ve been rolling with for the last two days tells me about Q Malewezi who is both the Managing Director of a local magazine called Abstrak Beatz, and, apparently, the only “real” producer Malawi has.
I call his office to find out if we can meet, and him and his project manager agree to meet me at the Zion Youth Club in an hour. The Zion Youth Club is the perfect example of how Malawi juxtaposes, or balances, contemporary life and Christian life. The club is a restaurant/lounge/club for young people.
In the centre of the room are pool tables while on the other end there are bibles and Christian books for sale. Tay Grin was set to perform there this Friday night but his performance was cancelled.
Q, Duayne and I have lunch at the Youth Club before heading off to a guest lodge in Area 43 where we record videos on the music scene, youth in Malawi and Abstrak Beatz. Before starting the magazine, Q was part of a hip-hop outfit called Real Elements. Based in the UK at the time, these guys paved the way for other Malawian hip-hop groups to enter the scene. “Before us, it was unheard of to have a hip-hop group in or from Malawi,” Q tells me. After two successful and independently published albums, tours in the UK and around Africa, the group split, as their visions and personal growths sprawled in different directions. With two of the members still based overseas, the other two members, Jerome and Q are in Malawi, both doing amazing work in media, ministry, youth and sport.
Though a short 42 pages, this magazine is an impressive showcase of contemporary Malawian culture – from music to fashion and even social issues. In fact, the core of this magazine is to use these different avenues to push a social message so the end of each article has a British Council-sponsored FYI on how to use the information in the article in your own life. It’s a free mag and we found it at the Zion Youth Club centre. It is in the magazine that I found out about everything from the virgin emcee, Kirby, who’s encouraging abstinence in other young people by living this life (while still being über cool), to the spirited debate between secular emcee Uniq1 and gospel emcee Dominant1, about secular vs. gospel music. Gospel hip-hop is huge here, and that’s apparently the focus that former Real Elementz member, Jerome is taking in his youth ministry.
A BEAUTIFUL LIFE
After our interview, Q and I head to the David Livingstone Memorial Clinic, where Q works with teenagers living with HIV/Aids. The clinic was built by the Abbott Fund and is a stunning building with modern and ethnic touches, like beaded chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Apart from it being beautiful though, the work that is done there is amazing. Doctors on scholarships from the US, UK etc work there on a full-time basis treating kids and families affected by or infected with HIV. There’s a new initiative that’s just been started at the clinic – Grassroots Soccer. The concept was designed by Zimbabwean footballers and behavioural scientists, and it was started in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Malawi is the 17th country in the world where this initiative has been launched.
Grassroots Soccer uses soccer principles to help teach young people life skills and how to make positive and empowering choices with their lives. When we arrive, the groups are doing a “teach back”, which is when the group of young people teach back to the facilitators what they’ve been taught.
In the next three months, Mike, a volunteer doctor from the States tells us that they’re planning a VCT Tournament where there will be a day of playing soccer (“cos there isn’t much soccer playing in Grassroots Soccer,” he jokes) and families will be encouraged to test for HIV, therefore including the entire community in the initiative. In a matter of moments, both him and Q have come up with ideas and potential sponsors for the prizes for the day.
I’m quite impressed that on the ground, young people are taking matters into their own hands and doing something about, well, everything. Q also tells me about a 21 year-old girl, Patricia, who’s started her own organisation and travels to different farmers in various villages, teaching them about fair trade and how to implement it in their businesses. WOW!
We finish the day off at Chameleon, a stunning restaurant I’ve been hearing about since I got here, where we have ‘mocktails’ (Q doesn’t drink and I’m on a drink sabbatical) and hook up with Jerome, who’s teaching an aerobics class in the area. For me, today was an all-round perfect day because I got to live life the way I think it should be – work a little, play a little and help a little. A balance of your own life’s pleasure, while still extending yourself to others.
Writer: Lelethu Lumkwana