Wambali Mkandawire no more

Legendary musician Wambali Mkandawire has died this morning at Kamuzu Central Hospital. His death comes just a week after losing Kenny Klips in the music industry.

According to Musician Reverend Bishop Chimwemwe Mhango, who has confirmed of the sad news,  the music heavyweight and icon has died of Covid-19 and burial is today as per Ministry of Health guidelines.

Meanwhile, social media is awash with tributes to the departed legendary, with most prominent personalities describing the death as a shocker and a big loss to the music industry in the country and beyond the borders.

Writing on his facebook page, spokesperson of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, Ephraim Nyondo, expressed his deep sorrow with a recall of Wambali’s rendition at the Comesa Hall in 2011.

“His last main performance was at Comesa Hall in Blantyre on July 11 2011. I remember  Mzati Nkolokosa writing touching paragraphs reviewing that farewell performance. During the performance, as a junior reporter then, I sat behind  Khumbo Bonzoe Soko and his reactions throughout the performance was all I needed to craft a story for my editor. I couldn’t help but capture Khumbo’s mood in the picture below without his permission.

“And Wambali is dead.Khumbo is sad he won’t have Wambali sing again for him. Malawians are at pain as their brook of music has run dry. The world is in pain as it has sent to the ages another greatness. Yendani makora baliska. Sumu zinu zitichizgenge kuvitima ivyo mwatilekera,” wrote Nyondo.

Wambali Mkandawire performing at Comesa Hall in 2011

“The King is gone. I have nothing to write. I just have tears to run down my cheeks. His impact on music was like deep waters flowing in majestic silence. Couldn’t be seen but felt if u stepped in his musical world. The legendary well crafted and executed pieces of mouthwatering song lines.

“The unique instruments and music genre has retired to rest. The Wambali music is gone. Rest well amudala. Mugone mu uchizi cha mwenecho kamanyimanyi wa vyose mu mphepo zose zinazi. #Tabana binu tikulira, Tikulira a Wambali Mkandawire,”  wrote Chimwemwe Shaba, the national spokesperson of Malawi Prison Services.

Prominent lawyer Khumbo Soko said today 31st January, 2021, a day Wambali has gone to rest, is “the day the music died.”

“Wambali was probably one of the most refined musicians that this country ever produced. By some ridiculous distance actually. He called himself ‘Mtebeti’, tumbuka for servant. And boy did he serve.

Death may have robbed him of life. But its sting won’t touch his voice. He will continue to ‘teach, rebuke and correct’ us even from yonder, from the indescribable wealth of his ‘utebeti’, for ages to come. Thanks for such priceless gifts Mtebeti. Thank you very much. Now go home and rest,” mourned Soko.

Fans enjoying the music performance by Wambali Mkandawire in 2011 at Comesa Hall

Wambali was born in the Congo to Malawian parents from the Mlowe village in the north and then later lived in Mzuzu.

He wanted to become a musician but his grandparents were against the idea since he was still a student.

 When he dropped out of school in the 1970s he put his efforts into music.

He was introduced to Congolese music whilst living in Malawi by his Malawian grandparent that had been living in the Congo.

 He was also introduced to South African music from the South African minors that worked in the mine in the north.

Through the radio, Wambali came across Western pop music.

He joined a band in Blantyre “Pentagon,” a local band that played western pop music.

 He was the lead singer of the band whose genre was rock music fused with traditional Malawian music. The band soon disbanded due to lack of funding.

Wambali experienced a dramatic religious awakening that led him to pursue religious training in the Christian missions by 1984.

He joined “New Song” a Youth for Christ (YFC) band as a singer. The group began to tour churches and schools in various African countries like South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

 By 1986, he moved to South Africa where he worked in Alexandra and Soweto townships with YEC youth clubs.

By 1988, he recorded his first solo album. Wambali left Malawi for the UK in 1989 to study Biblical Cross-Cultural Musicology.

His release of “Zani Muwone” in 2002 (produced by JB Arthur, co-founder of the Instinct Africaine label, (together with Sibusiso Victor Masondo), and owner of Joe’s Garage Recording studio in Johannesburg) brought him popularity in South Africa and in Malawi.

Wambali was soon invited to perform at the NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL 2002 in Cape Town.

This album also won him many international awards including being the first African to win the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) AWARD FOR CREATIVITY.

In 2007 Wambali launched his album ‘Moto’ and retired from public performances.

He returned in 2011 with the launch of a worship album ‘Liberty’.

 In 2015 he launched a purely Jazz album titled Calabrash Breath.

May the Soul of Wambali Mkandawire Rest in Peace.

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