MALAWI DIGITIZATION PROJECT

2013 – 18

IF YOU CLAIM YOUR HISTORY, YOU WILL OWN YOUR FUTURE

A major part of Malawi’s musical heritage from the 1940s up until the late 80s rests in the archives of MBC, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. The music has for years been inaccessible, and is in danger of extinction. Nedland Kultur and MBC are now, with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Malawi, collaborating in a project to rescue this national treasure of music.

For decades the MBC studios were the only option for recording music in Malawi, as the country did not have a recording industry, and there were hardly any commercial studios. Everybody came to MBC to record, and the music produced there became widely known and popular through radio play. During the last 10 – 20 years this source of Malawian music history has dried out, the reason being that all the recordings were made on reel to reel tapes, which MBC did not any more have the equipment to play. New generations of Malawians were growing up never having heard the music of past decades. It is as if British 20 year olds would never have heard The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the punk classics of the 70, or indeed any music, from popular to classical to traditional, recorded from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The tapes in the MBC archives are slowly being destroyed by time, moisture, heat and dust, which will eventually make the tapes so frail that they cannot be played. Therefore it is of utmost importance that they are rescued as quickly as possible. Nedland Kultur has provided two quality digitization stations that are now up and running in a dedicated digitization room at MBC. Together with MBC we are bringing a lost cultural treasure back to the Malawians. The job is immense, and we have only just begun, but every track digitized means that one piece of the giant jigsaw puzzle of Malawian cultural history has been salvaged. Already music that has not been heard in decades are again  heard on the airwawes in Malawi.

Norwegian sound engineer Sigtor Kjetsaa and engineers from MBC getting the digitization equipment ready and working.

Thousands of reel tapes containing the musical and cultural history of Malawi from the 1940s onwards, eagerly awaiting digitzation…

The digitization equipment provided by Nedland Kultur and collaborators, has been donated to MBC, who have now developed local expertise in digitization. They can now continue their digitization work, and hopefully they will also be able to benefit from their knowledge and experience to become a hub for digitization work. In this way they could also help neighboring countries get started with similar digitization projects.

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