At the height of the CHIMURENGA war, the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe, a Malawian missionary family arriving at Harare airport was stranded inside the terminal while chaos took over the city streets.
Oblivious to the muted panic in the airport lounge, two year old Peter Mawanga broke the tension as he sang Amazing Grace, perfectly in tune, to an amazed audience. His uncle pronounced there and then that the boy was destined to be a great musician. After Peter’s astounding first concert, his love affair with music saw him do anything he could to learn and experience music; through school clubs, the church choir and friends he learned to play keyboards and guitar.
In Malawi in 2002 while studying mechanical engineering he recorded a playful album that set him on the path to his musical destiny. Recorded under the name Peter Pine ‘CITY LIFE’, was a sensation across Malawi. The afro-pop album’s controversial hit single ‘AMAKHALA KU BLANTYRE’ discussed the realities of urban versus rural living. The song was so controversial it inspired several ‘response’ songs, which opposed Peter’s shattering of the ‘city streets are paved with gold’ myth. Buoyed by the overnight success of his first album and lack of funds for his college tuition, Peter abandoned his studies for a professional music career.
Shedding the persona of Peter Pine he reverted to his own name Peter Mawanga and began creating definitive music; globally recognized yet intrinsically Malawian. In 2005 he recorded Zanga Zo Zama, produced by renown poet and music producer Q Malewezi . The critically acclaimed album presented Mawanga truer sound; Afro vibes – a fusion of traditional African rhythms, composition, vocal arrangements with modern instrumentation; inspirational, introspective, spiritual and socially conscious. Zanga Zo Zama’s songs such as ‘Tsoka’, ‘Londa’, ‘Mwana Wamasiye’ and ‘Bwerera’ are poignant songs with strong messages marking Peter’s journey from pop star to celebrated musician and voice of the underprivileged.
Concerned by the plight of underprivileged children in Malawi, Peter established Talents of the Malawian Child, in 2004.
With the support from Unicef and Plan international, Peter trained and mentored orphaned and venerable children by organizing music workshops. As a result of these projects Peter produced albums for these children; ‘Ana a SASO’ (2005) and ‘Vingoma na Visekese’ (2006) and ‘Sounds of Lilongwe’ (2008). His song Timveni was the official song for Plan Malawi’s Timveni children’s radio project. Inspired to continue creating great music with young people Peter formed his own band. In 2007 Peter’s third incarnation was born; Peter Mawanga and The Amaravi Movement. Incorporating Malawian instrumentation, Nylon jazz guitar, Mangolongondo (marimba), Sansi (thumb piano) rhythms and singing in Chichewa (Malawian national language), Peter is able to communicate both musically and lyrically to the world on behalf of his country. He composes when he is at peace and in synch with the world and therefore the result is unrestrained and intimate.
Performing at live music venues such as Cargo, London, UNC Memorial hall (USA), The Touhill performing arts center St Louis Missouri USA and festivals such as Lake of Stars (Malawi), LEAF Festival in Ashville (USA) and Celtic Connections in Glasgow Scotland, Mawanga has shared the world stage with international artists such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Manu Dibango and American Grammy award winner Earl Klugh.
Peter Mawanga has garnered respect in the music industry at large. The synergy of Peter Mawanga and The Amaravi Movement impressed Rhythm of Life to sign Peter as the first artist on their independent record label in Malawi in 2008, together they recorded and released Peter Mawanga & The Amaravi Movement’ live debut studio album Paphiri ndi Padambo.
Peter Mawanga has now invested most of his time in a research tour across Malawi, recording and rediscovering the NYANJA sounds of Malawi (Music from the lake shores of Malawi).