A world of cultures coming together
Malawian rising star Chmba on her journey from tapes to Tiwale.
From the tender age of seven, Malawian-born producer and DJ Chmba has been actively involved in making music. From ripping apart family cassettes as a child, she has progressed to become an award-winning musician — blending afro sounds, future beats, electronic and house grooves to produce her inspiring music. At 17 years old she founded Tiwale, where her passion for music is matched by her desire to improve the lives of women and non-binary folks through art, education and economic opportunities. She recently became the lead for the Malawi chapter of Beatz By Girls. Focusrite helped to get the organization started with Scarlett 2i2 Studio bundles, which comprise professional-quality mics, headphones and everything needed to record great-sounding music.
When it comes to creating music, Chmba’s own inspiration comes from everywhere. “When I make music it’s usually how I feel at that moment. I may hear a sound like someone shouting or just rainwater and I’ll use that, build around it. My creation process is additional but can be subtractive, where I find pieces of sound and build on them or remove something to create something else.
“A lot of the sounds that I feature in my songs are sounds that are just around — I love to have just some bass noise, so I might use the movement of people in a market or any space, really. I also have quite a collection of drums from home and neighbouring countries as well as shakers and small little instruments, things that I can easily make a quick noise with and just have fun. There are also times when I just walk around with my voice recorder and see what will come up.”
Chmba’s musical influences range far and wide and her music is a fusion of everything that makes up her world.
“I would say my music is this generation — this moment where we are living in a world of cultures coming together, it’s no longer that you just grow up in your own culture. I grew up around these rich drums from home, but I was really into listening to rock bands from the West, too.
“And so, with my sounds, I try to be totally honest in who I am — a young African person that loves electronic music, loves rock, will rock to heavy metal but every now and again wants to include the Ngoma, a drum we have at home. I think that’s what we are shifting towards, really… being more honest.”
“It’s about realising that as artists we are influenced by so many aspects of existence or culture, and it’s about allowing all of those influences to self-reflect. It’s not a single story, but rather being everything that you are, that you’ve grown up with, and that is within you.”
Her recent release, the EP Mtima Rising, is a perfect example of how aspects of her life have influenced her music.
“Mtima Rising translates as ‘heart racing’. The EP is an emotional expression, it’s a grief EP, but also a journey from grief to love and then eventually finding peace. I created the EP to honour my mum, who died suddenly in a car accident, but in a sense the EP was my healing process. It’s the journey from grief to peace and then love and joy. Creating and making sounds as the emotions were hitting me was really a healing process.”