Listen: The MBC Band and the Chichiri Queens – Echipini

MBC Band

Here’s ‘Echipini’ by the MBC Band, the house band for the Malawi Broadcasting Corportation.

After Malawi’s independence in 1964 the music played on radio was dominated by western pop, country and rumba. The MBC Band, formed in 1973, were at the forefront of creating a modern popular Malawi sound that mixed traditional sounds with foreign influences, and the band acted as a training ground for many Malawian musicians.

Despite the band’s involvement in creating something of a musical identity in Malawi, President Banda’s growing power had a huge influence on the lyrics of the popular music of the time. Following Malawi’s 1968 Censorship Act, musicians had to write lyrics acceptable to censors to ensure their songs would be played on the radio . The MBC had a monopoly on the airwaves, much of the band’s lyrics therefore carried political messages in praise of the country’s leadership.

Around the same time jazz band music sprung up as a counter voice to the MBC’s “safe” music choices. It combined traditional Malawian, African and Western elements, often played on homemade instruments. Emphasis on live performance and the resonance of the lyrics (often containing double-meaning expressions that criticised Banda’s government) provided a voice for both rural and urban youths. All of this was crucial to further energising indigenous popular music in Malawi, and challenging the monopoly role of the MBC.

To read more on the subject have a look at Music and Social Protest by John Lwanda.

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One response to “Listen: The MBC Band and the Chichiri Queens – Echipini

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