LILONGWE, 1 February 2021 – Large crowds of Malawians gathered over the weekend to celebrate the life of music icon Wambali Mkandawire who succumbed to COVID-19.
In the capital, Lilongwe, senior government officials participated in the funeral broadcast live on local television stations.
Mkandawire was 68.
Many who know the artist well say his youth was that of a juvenile delinquent.
He went through an amazing transformation later in life, becoming an activist for social justice, a politician, and one of Malawi’s finest preachers of the Word of God.
His music career started in the late 1970s in Malawi’s economic capital, Blantyre, with the Sounds Pentagon band which he and some of his closest friends founded.
The band did not succeed and Wambali left it in 1978 and turned to gospel music soon after converting to a born-again Christian and dropping Greenwood as his first name in favor of Wambali.
He staged performances everywhere across the country, including in secondary schools.
The story is told of him returning text books to one of the secondary schools at which he performed confessing that he had stolen them from that school while he was a student there.
He became an activist and politician in the early 1990s, calling for an end to dictatorship and advocating the release of political detainees and prisoners.
It took until early the 2000s for his music to gain continent-wide and international fame.
His 2002 release, Zanimuone was nominated for the Kora Awards, one of Africa’s biggest music recognitions.
The summit of his career was his win of Best African Legend Award from the Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts Award.
His last live audience performance was in 2011.