I had a great chat with Peter Mawanga a few days ago. It turns out he’s been traversing Malawi up and down the last two weeks in promotion of his new album Paphiri Ndi Padanga, which is getting lots of good press in Malawi. People are calling the radio stations daily requesting to hear it. He did an acoustic show with some of his bandmates for a live album promo recently… from the way he described it, I’m imagining Eric Clapton unplugged. Picture that concert but with a laid back Malawian guy in a perfectly placed stylish ball-cap strumming away to an entranced audience (…sometimes my imagination takes its liberties…) Check out a review of the album HERE.
I’d like to introduce myself beyond just the little blurb on this site. How did I become interested in Malawi? AIDS? Concept albums?
Malawi: There really is no explanation for why I am interested in what I am interested in. I leave it to the behavioral psychologists to sort out what was nature and what was nurture. Being interested in Malawi is really an extension of a life-long fascination (particularly musical) with Africa. At some point as a kid I heard a recording of West African drumming, singing, or both. Anyhow, I became fixated. When I was 20 and could no longer stand the temptation of actually being in West Africa’s diverse musicscape, I studied abroad in Ghana for four months. What started as a musical fascination expanded into a fascination with Africa’s politics, languages, cultural landscapes, and its public health.
AIDS: The last point is meant to lend insight into why I am studying AIDS. I have long been interested in public health from an American vantage point. AIDS is a fascinating public health issue no matter what continent it exists. The Africa most devastated by AIDS fascinates me for how AIDS slices through every facet of life (economic, social, sexual, etc) in a way I haven’t witnessed elsewhere. I have to say I have not done much “witnessing.” My degree was a Cultural Studies one in anthropology and music. I don’t have a background in public health or epidemiology but this is in part why I am eager to go to Malawi. This project will surely be educational if not the most conventional means of learning more about public health, an interest I have never really quite pursued until now. After Ghana, I had been planning another musical pilgrimage to Africa and it made sense to weave AIDS into that experience.
Concept Albums: Hmm…not exactly an interest you’d find on my facebook profile but can we hedge this within concept “projects?” As succinctly as possible, I think that art is the most powerful medium for talking about the human experience. The human experience I want to talk about is AIDS in Africa and my art-of-choice is music. Doing this in a CD was natural enough. I was raised on a healthy diet of traditional Irish music, jazz, appalachian folk, blues, and Led Zeppelin (courtesy of my musician parents). Armed with a fiddle and a several-year history of composing and recording albums I think I can do this. The “concept” is such: Get people talking…deeply. Do it with a kick-ass song.