From the ghettoes of Malawi’s Ntandile to a performance at Zanzibar’s Sauti za Busara Festival

About 17 years ago they met. Not at a plush international festival as they will be sharing stage together next week, but in the confines of one of Malawi’s definition of a ghetto: Ntandile.

Yobu (L) and Yosefe

Together they have shaped each other’s dreams. Together they have struggled to make a living through their acoustic performances in the streets of Lilongwe and beyond. Together they decided, with help of a woman, to name their band Madalitso. [Blessing].

“It was like a prophecy from her. She said people will notice the blessing that we are. And that we will hit it big one day,” Yobu, who speaks on behalf of the duo said.

And they have stood together in the thickest and thinnest of time. They have quarrelled, at a point wanting to disband.

But from the 9th to the 12th of this week the two: Yobu Malikwa, 35, and Yosefe Kalekeni, 25, will reap from their  years of perseverance and diligence. This week, the two perform at the biggest arts festival in the whole of East Africa – the Sauti za Busara International Festival in Zanzibar.

When I met them after I watched a clip developed by musician, Faith Mussa, to fundraise their trip, and located them through the help of a friend-cum-music producer, Emmanuel Kamwenje, their dressing – shabby – told of a tale of two men that might be known for their grass now but will be into grass anytime soon.

They gave me a feel of a piece, available at YouTube, that goes together with a call for their sponsorship which heaps praise and resonates their pride for coming from the Warm Heart of Africa – Malawi.

Deliberately, they titled the song Malawi, Ine Ndibwerera [Malawi, I will come back], as if assuring their fans that they are not going to Zanzibar forever. They will come back.

With the video upload on YouTube, and shared on a number of social media platforms, especially watsapp, Faith Mussa has managed to raise K80 000 out of the K180 000 they need to travel to Dare Salam, Tanzania.

“We are indebted to so many people,” Yobu told me.  “Especially Faith Mussa and Neil Nayar.”

Apparently, it is Nayar a musician of Asian descent who, after noticing their creative potential, who applied on their behalf for consideration at the Festival.

The two plus their tour manager, Chiletso Kamwenje, leave for Dare Salam on Tuesday afternoon.

From Dare Salam, organisers have already provided tickets for their ship to Zanzibar, performance allowances, accommodation and all extra logistics nitty-gritty.

“We will put up a spirited performance,” adds Yobu. “We don’t want to disappoint our country, and the people who have supported us this far.”

Through Mussa’s initiative, again, the duo have ‘I come from Malawi’ branded t-shirts which they say represent their innermost sense of belonging to the country.

Locally they have performed for diverse audiences, from a common people in the streets and villages to important gatherings such as at UNICEF and GIZ where they have been invited.

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