As soon as the music starts on this self-titled album it’s bound to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. The joyous mood of ‘Ku Nyumba’ with its rippling guitar rhythm continues unabated throughout many of the songs on this first full-length album by Malawian singer Keturah.

Keturah began singing as a child in her home village of Monza. When 14 years of age and having lost her parents, she set out on foot for Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city, where she hoped to find a recording studio and reach a larger audience.

Her press release takes up the story: “She met a local producer who was so impressed by her voice that he offered to record her for free. Keturah put down one song that eventually made its way onto radio, launching her music career with releases empowering listeners to connect their Malawian identity as a way of realizing their own power.” As a result, she earned the nickname “local girl” and became a Malawian celebrity.  

While music from the African continent has attracted much attention and many followers, the South-eastern nation of Malawi has never been at the forefront and is not one of the first countries that automatically comes to mind. However, this album is likely to raise awareness as it updates traditional Malawian folk with contemporary rhythms from the African diaspora.

Keturah (Photo: Jeremy Steinberger)

It was recorded in America, far from Keturah’s home, thanks to the Jacaranda Foundation, a Malawian school for AIDS orphans and its cultural centre. They arranged for her to travel there to record and made the connection with Hen House Studios in Los Angeles.

The album covers various genres. There are plenty of those guitars but also some jazzy horns on a few of the later tracks. ‘All the Way from Africa’ is sung partly in English while ‘Nchiwewe’ is an ode to Willie Nelson and the mix ends up sounding uncannily Hawaiian to these ears. On the bonus track ‘Wewe’ she delves into a funkier sound with piano by Jamael Dean.

The single ‘Kwanumkwanu’ recorded live with the Playing for Change Band (see video) is one of the highlights but best of all is the sumptuous ballad ‘Sukulu’ with its hypnotic rhythm and melody. Elsewhere, Keturah’s songwriting and powerful vocals are complemented by intricate percussion, melodic guitar lines from Jason Tamba, subtle backing vocals, and horns, to create a fine debut for the international stage.

Keturah is released by Hen House Studios on 19th May.

Malawi was devastated earlier this month by a massive tropical cyclone causing hundreds of deaths and much flooding. All proceeds from downloads and streams of Keturah’s first single will be donated to the Jacaranda Foundation that is helping with aid during this difficult time in Malawi. Here’s the donation link:

Explore posts in the same categories: Roots Music from Out There

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: