Zani Wuwone


Wambali’s first international album, Zani Muwone, is an eclectic mix of Malawian,

Congolese and West African rhythms. Produced by JB Arthur, Zani Muwone draws

on the considerable talents of a broad spectrum of top Southern African musicians.

In 2002 Wambali was nominated for a KORA Award and the album has been

playlisted onSAFM / KAYA FM and numerous other Southern African Radio Stations.

Wambali won the SA Music Award 2003 for the Best African Artiste.

He is at present recording his second international album due for release in the

last quarter of 2003.


Wambali Mkandawire was first introduced to Malawian traditional music and Congolese music by his grand parents who were working in Belgium Congo, where he was born. When he was 8, his grandparents returned to what was then Nyasaland. They settled at their village in Mlowe where Wambali went to school in the Northern part of Malawi. The village had several ex – miners that introduced them to South African music. Later through the radio, Wambali came across Western pop music. As a teenager, he loved to sing all these styles at school and political functions and purely for the love of it.

Due to stiff competition for secondary education, Wambali moved to Mzuzu, a small but major town in Northern Malawi. Like most of his peers, he went to secondary school very late at 20 years of age. By then his interest in joining a band had grown tremendously. Unfortunately, his guardians would not have any of it. It was only after he had dropped out of school in the seventies that he went to Blantyre (Malawi’s major economic city) and joined “Pentagon,” a local band that played western pop music, as the lead singer. They were on and off due to lack of equipment. When they eventually got sponsorship in 1977, they switched to Western rock music. It was in an attempt to fuse rock with Malawi traditional music that made them popular. Unfortunately, they lost their sponsor and disbanded.

In 1978, Wambali experienced a dramatic religious awakening that got him involved in church work. In 1984, he took up training in Christian missions. In 1985, he joined “New Song” a Youth for Christ (YFC) band as one of the singers. They toured South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, singing in schools and churches. In 1986, he worked with YEC youth Clubs in Soweto and Alexandra. In 1988, Wambali recorded his first solo album with Krakatoa Music in Cape Town. Most of the work was programmed. During the same time, he recorded and toured with “Friends First,” a South African music group. The debut album was released in Malawi, but one of the songs was banned due to its political content. Since he could not afford a band, he performed with a vocal group, using backing tracks. Although demand was high, the consignment was too small. Immediately after the release, Wambali left for the UK in 1989 to study for a diploma in Biblical Cross-Cultural Musicology. While in the UK he recorded his third and fourth albums in Glasgow, Scotland. The third one was released at the Greenbelt Festivals in Northampton where he performed with professional bands.

The fourth album was released in Malawi 1992. Although this time none of the songs were banned, most of the local Deejays in the state owned radio avoided identifying themselves with his work. Wambali then tried again to put a band together, but due to lack of equipment, he abandoned the tour. Lack of promotion led not only to poor sales but stopped production altogether.

In 1991, he got involved in campaigning for the release of Mr Chakufwa Chihana, a leader of a political party who stood up to the late Dr Banda. After his release and change of government, a rival party won the general elections. There was a lot of animosity between the ruling party and all the opposition parties. To save their skin the Deejays swung to the new government. Since Wambali was being identified with what had now become one of the major opposition parties, the Deejays again avoided playing his music. From then, Wambali began working behind the scenes, doing small jobs. In 1992, he went on a tour singing in churches around Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and part of Kenya. It was during this tour that he met Wambui Muruiki, a Kenyan whom he married a year later.

Before he moved to Mzuzu in 1997 where he now lives, he discussed with JB Arthur, co-founder of the Instinct Africaine label, (together with Sibusiso Victor Masondo), and owner of Joe’s Garage Recording studio in Johannesburg, about the possibility of recording an album. JB saw the potential of the album and insisted that they bring in a live band. “Zani Muwone” is the result of that decision.

On release of “Zani Muwone” early in 2002, Wambali was invited to perform at the NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL 2002, held in Cape Town. He has since been performing with his band in Malawi, where “Zani Muwone” has been very well received by public, press, & broadcasters alike.

In August of 2002, Wambali was awarded the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) AWARD FOR CREATIVITY for 2002, the FIRST time this award has ever been made to an African artiste. He has also been nominated for a 2002 KORA AWARD, in the category “Best Artiste from Southern Africa”, for his work, “Zani Muwone”.

In April 2003 Wambali won the SAMA Music Award for Best African Artiste and begun work on his new album.

In Mzuzu, Wambali is setting up a mission rural center and pastoring an indigenous church in the same rural area. Together with his wife have just registered “Kajimete Arts Publishing,” their publishing company that Wambui will be heading up. Their daughter, Tawonga, aged 7, is following in her father’s footsteps and showing signs of becoming an artist.