Malawi — The art of poetry in
Malawi has tremendously improved in recent years — this is in part thanks to
the country’s radio stations.
Radio Logo. Photo by Lameck Masina
Many poets in Malawi can now walk with their shoulders held
high, as the society recognizes them as celebrities, alongside famous musicians,
dramatists and film actors.
Until 2006, only one radio station, the state broadcaster,
Malawi Broadcasting Corp., had a weekly program airing poems, and only for 10
minutes per day during weekdays. The broadcaster would occasionally incorporate
poems into its one-hour magazine program “The Morning Basket,” which aired Monday
But now, almost all radio stations air poetry programs, many
of them with airtime ranging from 30 minutes to one hour twice a week. These include
Joy FM, Star FM, Matindi FM, MIJ FM, Ufulu FM, Radio Maria and Radio Islam. The
privately owned Joy FM radio pioneered the introduction of all-poetry radio
programs into its schedule in 2006.
Today, Joy FM airs its poetry program, “Patsinde” (“Under the
Tree”) for two hours on Saturdays from 8 a.m to 10 a.m and on Wednesdays in the
evening for an hour.
Producer and presenter of the show, Blessing Cheleuka told RWI that the idea came about when the
station employed the renowned poet, the late O’Brien Nazombe, as a presenter
for its other programs.
“It was after he
convinced the management on the need to introduce the poetry program that this
program started,” said Cheleuka. “The management realized that apart from many
artists that the station had been promoting, there was indeed another form of
creative art which was unknowingly been ignored.”
Blessings Cheleuka is producer and presenter the
at Joy FM in Blantyre, Malawi. Photo by Lameck Masina
He explained that the program instantly attracted a whole
new audience, in addition to its regular listeners. Most of them bombarded the station
with phone calls, while some physically approached them for copies of the
“It also helped the poets to start earning a living from
their work because we would refer the listeners to the poets themselves so they
could sell their work,” he said.
One of Malawi’s celebrated female poets, Evelyn Pangani, a
journalist by profession, says she decided to release an album, which contained
her work “following frequent calls from radio listeners to share her poems.”
Another poet, Robert Chiwamba a graduate of the Chancellor
College of the University of Malawi, says he has produced two albums, which are
faring well on the market.
Chiwamba released his first album “Chanco Mu Nthawi Yanga”
(“Chancellor College in My Time”), which contains 31 poems and was produced in
His latest album, “Kwa Mayi Chiwamba” (“To Mrs Chiwamba”) will
be released at the Blantyre Cultural Centre, in November.
Chiwamba doesn’t entirely agree that radio stations should
take all the credit for the current popularity poetry is enjoying in the
“What I can say is that poetry has marketed itself to the
public and to the radio stations,” he said. “This is because there has been
significant change from poetry of the past, which was rich in parables and idioms,
and sometimes hard to understand. Today, poetry is more accessible and can
reach a wider range of social levels.”
He also believes that radio stations can do better to
promote poetry than they are doing now.
Radio Islam Station Manager Yusuf Chinyada initiated
the “Chola Changa” poetry program at the station. Photo by Lameck Masina
“They could start incorporating poems in even nonpoetry programs
as they do with music interludes in between other programs or even add poems to
advertisement slots, like what they do with background music during advertisements,”
Radio Islam, which airs “Chola Changa” (“My Luggage”) has
become quite innovative in promoting poetry. Its station Manager Yusuf Chinyada,
who is the founding producer and presenter of the biweekly one-hour program,
says the station organizes live performances of the program outside the studio.
“What we do is we book a venue outside the broadcasting
house from where we present the program live but off air,” explains Chinyada. “We
strive to give our audiences a chance to watch their favorite poets perform
He says the proceeds from the entry-fee charges are shared
among the poets. “We don’t aim to profit from the live performances. It only
helps us collect material so we can record in our studios,” he says.
Due to poetry’s gaining popularity, the Copyright Society
of Malawi has announced plans to include poets among beneficiaries of royalties
for the works aired for commercial purposes — a move the National Poetry
Association of Malawi has welcomed.
Lameck Masina reports for Radio World from