Using music, drama to communicate

Zathu Series is a youth-based cultural brand that combines music and drama to communicate important messages of education, art and life in general to the youth of Malawi. Now in its fifth season, Zathu has made quite an impression on the arts front in Malawi. Our arts and entertainment editor EDITH GONDWE caught up with Zathu Series senior communications manager Zilanie Gondwe to find out what this brand has in store for Malawians in its new season. Excerpts;

Q: Give us a brief background of the Zathu concept.

Gondwe: Zathu aims to unite boys and girls in friendship

A: Zathu is Malawi’s biggest youth culture brand. The design of Zathu is a critical response to both the social issues that affect our youths and the gap in youth-specific entertainment and programming. By aiming to bridge the social divide that separates boys and girls at puberty, Zathu encourages platonic friendship so teenagers can find understanding and value in positive socialisation with each other beyond gendered stereotypes.

Q: Now Zathu series has just opened a new season. What is unique about this season?

A: Season 5 kicked off on July 22 with a new character – Jijo is mischievous but likeable. He will bring trouble to the band but we hope he will eventually learn the value of honesty and friendship. T-reel’s music career is facing challenges. TK and her sister learn more about cervical cancer, the disease that killed their mum. Chikondi has caught the heart of Avocado but will she return his feelings or not?

Zathu Pa Wailesi is running an exciting competition about the drama throughout the whole season—Zathu band will perform live at the winners school or community space.

Q: Music and drama are usually taken as a pastime for most people, how are you using the two to communicate to the youth?

A: Using the power of music and storytelling, Zathu aims to unite boys and girls in friendship and challenge gender stereotypes. Zathu Pa Wailesi (ZPW) is an award-winning radio show hosted by C-Zee and Goxy which promotes Malawian music, an exciting drama about the band; a talk show showcasing inspiring true stories from youth around the country; and the advice section with wise Gogo who answers teenagers questions with practical and encouraging answers.

Earlier this year, Zathu Magazine was launched and distributed in schools around Malawi. All Zathu content is available online, for free downloads on the website www.zathu.mw, Facebook and Youtube. Zathu crew work in 18 districts around Malawi, with youth clubs and schools, interacting and distributing content. In these ways, Zathu aims to empower young people to change their lives by building knowledge and changing attitudes around the issues that affect young people’s lives like health, education and GBV.

Zathu Band is the exemplar—three boys and three girls whose friendship brings them together and through which they face and rise above various challenges in the radio drama. From script writers, actors and radio producers to musicians and video producers – Zathu is an example of the fact that amazing creative careers are possible in Malawi.

Q: Zathu musicians and presenters are all youthful, how do you

 ensure that they handle the pressures of fame well and that they remain role models to other youths that look up to them?

A: The cast is made of extraordinary young people who have a supportive team and families encouraging them and they also have each other. The power of strong and supportive friendship cannot be underestimated. The ZPW cast takes their responsibilities and opportunities seriously. They choose to use challenges as opportunities to grow, to become stronger and better at whatever they choose to do.

Q: Anything new about Zathu Band? Should we expect any new music, or projects?

A: Zathu is happy to be collaborating with and promoting Skills and Technical Education Programme (Step) through ZPW and awareness events currently happening around the country. Vocational trainings a great way for girls and boys to develop a brilliant career and get financial independence, launch their own business and develop a life-long skill. This is an initiative funded by the European Union and partially implemented by Unesco.

Zathu Band has new music coming soon – keep listening to the show for more details!

Q: Any final or concluding remarks?

A: Zathu launched in April 2017. Over this short period, several community radio stations have found that their communities prefer to listen to the show on their stations and comment and share views in their context. Therefore, we welcome radio stations interested in air ZPW content – it’s all free. Any interested party for broadcast or other partnerships can get in touch with us.

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