Malawi is a country in Southern Africa, inhabited by a wide variety of ethnic groups; the Chewa being the single largest group. Malawians have long been travellers, and as a result their music has spread across the African continent. In more modern times, little Malawian music has achieved international renown, though the country does have its musical celebrities that are well-known in some foreign circles.

One of the prime recent causes of the Malawian musical melting pot was World War 2, when soldiers both brought music to distant lands and also brought them back. By the end of the war, guitar and banjo duos were the most popular type of dance bands. Both instruments were imported.

In the late 1960s, South African kwela music was popular in Malawi; the country produced its own kwela stars, like Daniel Kachamba & His Kwela Band. Malawian jazz bands also became popular. In spite of the name, Malawian jazz has little in common with its American namesake. Rural musicians played acoustic instruments, often in very traditional ways. These performers include Jazz Giants, Linengwe River Band, Mulanje Mountain Band and Chimvu Jazz. By the beginning of the 1970s, electric guitars had become common and American rock and roll, soul and funk influences the music scene, resulting in a fusion called afroma. New Scene was the most well-known exponent of afroma.

The 1980s saw soukous from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) become popular, and result in a Malawian variety called kwasa kwasa. Gospel music also became popular during this period, and even more so into the 1990s. The Pope's 1989 visit did a lot to inspire the rise in gospel music, which was also fueled by the country's intense poverty.


  • Lwanda, John. "Sounds Afroma!". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. pp 533-538. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0