You seldom encounter the words â€˜musicâ€™ and â€˜Malawiâ€™ in the same sentence overseas. The Warm Heart of Africa is often mentioned in the same breath with poverty, hunger and diseases.
Even where â€˜tourismâ€™ is mentioned, â€˜musicâ€™ and â€˜cultureâ€™ are likely to be omitted because focus is on only Lake Malawi, Mulanje Mountain and similar attractions.
But Kenny Gilmore has embarked on a warpath to change the misconception. The British scientist, who hit the local airwaves with the hit single Ngati Mafunde, has released a documentary film which implores the rest of the world to start appreciating the country as well as its music and culture.
â€œMalawi is rich in culture and has phenomenal music and dance traditions and the people are warm and friendly. Malawi is a melting pot of African music,â€ says Gilmore, who learnt at Saint Andrews in Blantyre.
His documentary, Deep Roots Malawi, was launched recently in Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
He says: â€œTrue African music comes from traditional dances. Malawi has got unique dances with unique rhythms. I made this film to showcase to the world the authenticity of the countryâ€™s rich culture in music and dance.â€
Gilmore cites Chewaâ€™s gule wamkulu, Ngoniâ€™s ingoma, Yaoâ€™s beni, Tumbukaâ€™s vimbuza, Tongaâ€™s dustless malipenga as some of Malawiâ€™s cultural focal point.
Inspired by fallen music archivist Alan Lomaxâ€™s famous, who collected early blues recordings in South America, Gilmore and his team spent six weeks in various villages across the country to document and record the musical heritage both past and present.
He hopes to record more of these dances because only a handful of them were recorded in the 1940s and 1950s.
Directed and produced by Gilmore in partnership with Promote Africa, the film features the countryâ€™s music greats from Wambali Mkandawire to Soldier Lucius Banda, Ben Mankhamba, ethnomusicologist Waliko Makhala and Black Missionaries.
â€œIt is high time Malawi started putting the history of its musicians in the museum for the generations to come. Very little is documented. Imagine, I found the story of Dr. Daniel Kachamba in a museum in Portugal and yet it is hard to find such information in Malawi,â€ said Gilmore, who founded Sangalala Band.
Last week, he met Minister of Youth and Sports Enock Chihana and Malawiâ€™s UK envoy John Tembo Jnr in London.
Chihana assured Gilmore that the Malawi Government will support his efforts.
â€œI am very impressed. I can assure you of governmentâ€™s help in your quest to put Malawian music on the map. Iâ€™ll liaise with the Minister of Tourism to take up the matter,â€ Chihana told Gilmore.
And Tembo pledged Malawi Embassyâ€™s support to promote the film in the UK.