Rudo chakwera, others show their jazzy side

It was a celebration of jazz music. The music associated with maturity, opulence and attention to detail. This was the Lilongwe Jazz Festival. On the line-up were a number of female artists though male performers dominated.

Familiar female names included one Rudo Chakwera who is a household name on the gospel front.

Jazz lovers were not sure what to expect from Chakwera who is otherwise known for her gospel music.

Chakwera: I grew up singing

However on Saturday, the Lilongwe-based artist gave an outstanding performance at the jazz festival that took place at Lilongwe Golf Club.

The two-day festival started with a performance by the Lilongwe-based Jazz Band The Smooth Grooves on Friday night.

In an interview after her performance, Chakwera said the festival was a good opportunity for her and other artists to showcase their talents.

She, along with the Gentiles Band sang a number of songs including Love, Fly Me to the Moon and Anawa Akuvutika.

“I grew up singing some of the songs with my father and they just come naturally because they are not new songs to me,” Chakwera said.

She further said she has not been active for some time because she was preoccupied with other things.

“Now that I am back, I have plans to work on an album. In fact, I will not do one album because I have so many projects that I prepared while I was not active in the industry,” Chakwera said.

Chakwera’s fans refer to her as the Aretha Franklin of Malawi because of her vocal abilities.

“I actually get challenged every time I think of the late Aretha Franklin because we don’t really have that kind of sound in Malawi; and people say that that type of music is not for local Malawian.

“That is the challenge because I have to sing something that is true to our culture. At the same time, I feel I do not have to be limited. And that’s how the Aretha Franklin comes in and there is need to balance the two,” Chakwera said.

In random interviews, jazz music lovers hailed Chakwera’s performance saying she exhibited natural talent and composure.

“Jazz is all about class and that is what she displayed throughout her set. We need more female jazz players in Malawi,” said Emmanuel Laisoni.

Another jazz enthusiast Benard Phiri said in Malawi jazz has mainly been dominated by men but it is refreshing to appreciate that women are equally playing the genre to perfection.

“When I saw Chakwera on stage, I was reminded of great artists such as Nina Simone. She is a great jazz player I hope to see more of her and other female jazz players,” he said.  

One of the organisers of the event Frank Mvalo said the festival is going to get better every year because they would like to showcase Malawi talent in form of Jazz music every year.

Owen Mbilizi is one of the artists who performed at the event and hailed it as one of the best.

“It was well organised. Everything went as planned. The icing on the cake was when The Temptations stopped by and sang a song,” he said.

Other artists who performed at the festival included Mbilizi and the Jazz Cafe, Smooth Grooves, South African Rick Deja, Erick Paliani and the Lilongwe Jazz Festival Ensemble.

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