Our Malawi; short recap

As 2020 came to an end, I finally took time to recap and bring a closure to a project I started with Noam, titled Our Malawi; No words needed.

This interactive photography exhibition started as a passion project, from an infatuation we’ve developed with the country.

Malawi, a small country in eastern Africa, has a special place in our hearts. While we traveled there in 2019, we had no ambition to make a large project from it. The scenery and the people have imprinted a new look on life in us. We saw beauty everywhere we looked. They don’t call it ‘The warm heart of Africa’ for no reason!

The people, mainly, have made a lasting impression on us.

When we got back to London and started collecting our materials, we realized we have an entire exhibition’s worth of photographs and field recordings, all of which of unique nature. They were from all around; portraits of incredible people we’ve met, landscapes and occasions – from rural areas, villages and city life. Malawi has it all. Also, the third largest lake in the continent!

As we returned to Israel, the idea to put up the exhibition in our home country sprung up, and with it an opportunity to actualize it. The exhibition was up for three days in the Teder at Beit Romano and received great responses from friends, peers, and complete strangers. At the same time, I have released an album with my band Awa Du E, in which some environmental recordings I made during our time in Malawi were used. For the grand finale of the exhibition, we had an album release party with a live show, what a night! I also released a trypticon of albums, on sound ecology while participating in the most notable projects we met there:

Unu House; A charity based in Chikale, N’khata Bay region, which serves as a open-house model for the local kids, giving them after-school activities, cultivating excellence in sports, theater, arts and music.

Malawian musicians; A documentation of musician jam session around the country. Every musician I met, I had asked to play me folk songs, or original music, based on the area where they grew up in Malawi. This album is an effort in documenting these songs, making up an album to spread the music out to the world.

Malawi Wawi; This album came out of the Kapeska community, located near Chinteche, in the Northern region. The project is an NGO, working together with the local cummunity to help them build new schools and accomodate training facilities and English studies for older members of the community. The music is from the rehearsal of the local church choir, as well as environmental recordings from the Malawi-Wawi headquarter’s grounds.

The nice reception made us feel like we HAVE TO show it to our newly made family in Malawi, and so we started the preparation for showing in and around Malawi, contacting everyone we could think of. Lucky for us, we have made a bond with Zilanie Gondwe; a human rights activist, working with women empowerment projects in the capitol, Lilongwe. Zilanie treated us like family from the get-go, and she has truly taken a deep place in our hearts. without her, all of this could have never come to life, and for this we are indebted to her forever.

I have made a page on my website on the topic, with all the documentation of the project, from London to Malawi and back here.

Bringing the art back to show it in Malawi was a tremendous feat for us, and allowed us to expand our ideas of the art itself. The reception, the comments and people’s reactions were mainly incredibly good, a bit of an eye-opener on the local art scene and artist led spaces in the country. We’ve met some incredible artists and spaces, and were able to collaborate with them, as well as give talks, lectures and workshops on our own practice.

Each one Teach one, but in the real world. Put our practice where we see instant gratification, on the behalf of others. Exposing people to new art mediums, and get back a smile, a laugh, some nice words.

This project has left a dent in my heart, with a deep yearning to return as much as possible to re-meet with old friends and acquaintances, which have now turned into an extended family.

I hope we can continue this in the future, but first we need to recap on the latest developments in our art practice.

Onto the next challenge; Portugal!

My Malawi Pt. 1

Unu House | Physical Education

Chikale, N’khata Bay, Malawi

Teaching drums at Unu House

Physical education as means to musical practice;

Referring to the idea of sports in school, relating to maintaining the human body through physical exercises.

Travelling through Malawi has taught me a valuable lesson, which is to experience life, or to live the experiences.

Our travels led us to Nkhata Bay, Malawi: one of the biggest tourism spots in northern Malawi. The serene atmosphere on the lakeside created a great bed for tourism in the area. When we reached our hosts in Chikale, we soon realized we were stepping into something bigger than what we had imagined.

https://guyfleisher.bandcamp.com/album/unu-house-band

Unu House Gallery is an open-house model which started a few years ago for visitors and travellers to live close to the local community and learn about Malawian village life, providing a peaceful environment to children and youth from the villages around. It invites people to come together to share knowledge, skills, experiences, stories and support. The children come to the house to play, draw, sing, dance, drum or to do whatever comes into their mind, in a free and open environment. Since many of the children are exposed to confusing and conflicting occurrences in their daily environments, it’s very important for them to have a child-friendly space where they can gather and just be kids. 

The Project was founded by Antje and Phillip, a Swiss-German couple which came to Malawi in 2015 and started renting the house. In 2018  Anton, Annetta and Nicole, three young travellers from Germany, took over the house from Phillip and Antje.

There are many toys, musical instruments, books and painting materials in the house you can share  with the kids. The main fields of interest revolves around education, games and group activities. 

Many educational  misconceptions I came with were confronted immediately upon our arrival; The physicality of the education seemed inescapable. The kids’ participation was mainly manifest in group dance and making fun of my moves. Whilst dancing was the first thing everyone played, it proved to be the key to their musical participation as well – if they could dance it, they would play and sing it, reminiscent of the African churches which they have yet to attend. 

After our 2nd day, Noam and I started participating in activities, Noam making art activities with the children, and I tried to help with musical activities. Through playtime, the importance of language was long gone, and we were left to our own devices, improvising dance and song.

A local musician and educator, Lumbani “Jah Youth” M’kandawire, was the kids’ instructor to musical activities. We became fast friends, jamming into the night and having lengthy conversations on the past, the present and the possible future.

The kids were shy at first, but after we had jammed a little and danced a lot they became willing and took active participation in everything we did.

After a week of participating and helping with musical activities, the kids presented a theatre play they had written, with the help of the people of the house. I recorded the entire show, edited and mixed it quickly to play it back to them. 

It was the first time some of the kids heard their own voice played back, and it was beautiful.

After Noam and I left Unu House I felt agitated and uneasy. I could not concentrate on relaxing and enjoying the lake, as I felt I had more to do in the house. 

I took the Ilala boat ride from Usisya (northern region) back to N’khata Bay by myself, this time with the intention to record the children’s songs they had written for the show, with higher quality.

Once again, the physicality of the experience led me to make some decisions on recording techniques, informing my misled conception of music recording, allowing me to go back to the “old way of recording”. We did placements for each member of the band, we tried different microphone positions and we orchestrated the whole session to fit the children’s short attention span. Everything felt like going back to the 1950’s, concentrating on performance and room tone, not post production; everything had to happen then and there. The physicality of the process had become the product itself.

This collection of recorded songs presented here represents some of the best moments we had in this 3 day recording session. 

Some of the songs are written and performed solely by the kids, some present Jah Youth on guitar and some extra vocals, while some are just captures of moments during the process.

Check out the full album on my bandcamp acount, it’s free to download, but please consider giving a donation, all proceedings will go to Unu House for musical equipment❤️

Stay updated, more posts coming soon!

My Malawi Pt. 2

My Malawi Pt. 3

Our Malawi; No Words Needed || interactive audio-visual Photography exhibition

CHECK OUT UNU HOUSE ON THEIR WORKAWAY PAGE

The traveling nice Guy

Photo Courtesy of Noamika

In this blog I will update my travels from London, UK to Malawi, Africa, and to Cape-Town, South Africa, Israel and hopefully back.

As I handed in my final creative project for my Master’s at Goldsmith’s, University of London, I realized that this was just the beginning of the journey. Like many things in life, once you start something and dive deep, only then you realize that you’ve gone down Alice’s rabbit hole, the road seems to open up just enough to show you the tiniest of clues as to the fabric of the research, an exploration into life, and in my case, into perceptual habits, musical conceptualization and composition, and the process of communicating with sound.  In order to dive deeper and peel away the coating of everyday life, I opened this blog, in an attempt to use the Tao (the way, in many respects) and record in the process. To keep evolving off the beaten path of localized sound and compositional practice.

Malawi is nicknamed “Nyasaland”, which translates literally to “Land of Lake”. We spent most of our time meeting local friends who could direct us to the landmarks we must see, with an emphasis on landmarks off the beaten track of overland travels through Africa. We landed in Lilongwe and spent two nights at a couchsurfing house hosted by Sisi, a young Zambian living in Malawi. We moved with an old friend, Jam Kawnda for two more nights during which he showed us around the city and took us to see a support rally for the upcoming elections. Then we journeyed from Lilongwe, the capital city, to Zomba, the old capital. Zomba is located in the southern region, and the main language is Chichewa, the most commonly used in Malawi today.

We were hosted by an old friend, and now sister, Olivia. She shared her house with us and we spent roughly 3 days with her and her newborn baby Sophie. Since my wife was volunteering in Malawi around 2011 we had to see all the places she’s been to, and so we found ourselves walking in the rural area around Zomba quite a lot. We hiked the Zomba Plateau, in search of some significant wildlife and crystals around the mountain. We found only crystals.

After that, we left for what would soon be our second home, Monkey Bay.

Monkey Bay, Lake Malawi

We stayed at the famous Mufasa Eco Lodge and enjoyed our first few days of peace and quiet, recording a lot of Cicadas at night, along with the various night crawlers around the lake. Monkey Bay is just one of those places where the rhythm of life takes you over, slowing down every small demeanor and accumulated FOMO. I could literally feel the layers of old habits, learned practice and ADD-infused concentration, peel away, slowly but surely. After meeting exceptionally grat humans at the lake, we have decided to start heading north, and to our next stop; Nkhata Bay.

We stayed at a Couchsurfing that turned out to be one of the highlights of our travels, the Uno House Gallery and open house. located in the upper part of the Nkhata Bay village, the open house is a place for children of the neighborhood to come for afternoon activities, learn sports, music, and dance, alongside theater and other programs.  The house was jam packed with kids, from the early morning till late at night, bustling with activities, dancing, singing and lots of music! I had the pleasure to record the children in a drama play they wrote and played in, instructed by the house leaders, Anton, Aneta and Nicole, with their local instructors; Lumbani “Jah Youth” and Martha “Mama Malawi”. While Jah would teach the children music, singing and playing, alongside rhythm and composition, Martha would teach them various sports activities and theater drama.

I recorded the children presenting their theater play (including songs!) to their proud parents and immediately mixed it on the spot to share the files, for all to hear. The beauty of sitting and playing back the recording to the kids was one to remember, some were surprised by the sound of their own voice, not to mention, playing and singing! The day turned into night, as we sat, drank tea, and talked about the potential these kids could have, if only there would be government funding for such activities in the touristic village of Nkhata Bay.

Recording Environmental Sound
Recording Environmental Sound
Recording Environmental Sound
Capetown Botanical Gardens
Capetown Botanical Gardens
Jah Youth recording at Machewe Falls