Gasper Nali is a roots one-man-band from the small town of Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi. He plays a one-string home-made 3-metre long Babatoni bass guitar with a stick and an empty beer bottle, and together with a cow skin kick drum and catchy melodies, he creates the most amazing and danceable original Afro Beats possible!
Gasper’s unique style of Kwela music has received an extraordinary amount of online attention after a video of him playing by the lake shore went viral with over 20 million views. He has been featured by CNN and in the documentary ‘Deep Roots Malawi’, jammed with Joss Stone, appeared on Wired for Sound – Malawi, remixed by Aroop Roy for Sol Power Sounds and been played by Iggy Pop on BBC 6!
His debut album, Abale Ndikuwuzeni, roughly translates to ‘People, I want to tell you’. It is a fitting title as Gasper’s songs, all sung in the Malawi national language of Chichewa, talk about life and strife in the country, often including social issues such as the rich and the poor, child marriages etc.
After the successful Euro/UK tours in 2018 and 2019 Gasper has been biding his time in Malawi, writing new music and playing locally around Nkhata Bay the way he always has – but now he is very ready to re-conquer the world in 2022!
How did you start making music?
My music, I started with like 3 people, me and two brothers. At that time I started to use a local instrument called Ntondo drum. And cutting a Ntondo is a little bit like making the drum of my Babaton instrument. Another brother was playing a local guitar instrument. The last brother was playing a zitini. We played and travelled together until first one and then the other brother passed away in the village. Now it was only me to keep playing our music.
You made your own guitar! Why did you make it?
This guitar I make myself. The name is babaton. I also bring that mgolo (large bass drum). I cut two pieces out of an old oil barrel, one for the mgolo and the other for the guitar, and then I add the bluegum (eucalyptus fretboard) and wrap them with cow skins. And I make a kick pedal to beat the drum. You cannot buy a babatoni, that’s why I make it all myself.
What is the Malawian music scene like?
The kind of music I make is Manganje. For other peoples, they may call it Kwela. Kwela music.
and you talk about the style of music you make?
This music, the style of music is like Gospel. Secular Gospel, yes, like that.
How did you start playing music on the streets? Do you still do it? How do you like it?
That time when I started to play in the street, I was going to Mzuzu (town in Malawi) and villages. Just around, anyplace, maybe like in the road, or the market where they sell tomatoes and whatever else. I was just around for people to see me and say: ‘Hey you guy! Come here!’ And me, I was there, and they’ll say ‘how much for a song?’. Maybe 50 Kwacha, maybe 100 Kwacha. ‘Oh ok, what music do you play?’ I say it’s my real music, not copyrights (covers) from somewhere, no. So that people they say ‘Yeah yeah, show us’ So then, first pay money for three songs, maybe two songs, like 200 Kwacha (20 pence). After finishing, maybe to go somewhere to preform again. That’s the work for the streets.
What are you looking forward to about International Busking Day?
Me, I’m looking forward to performing, like in the UK, London. And maybe like in Holland. I’m very happy to do performances like that. To play at festivals, I’m very happy. And also, each and everything for me is good now. It’s different from before when I didn’t go travelling outside, but now things are good, not bad. I’m so happy.
International Busking Day
You can see more about International Busking Day here.
● Now in its seventh year, International Busking Day will return this summer with big names, alongside up and coming artists and grassroots acts.
● Curated and produced by Busk in London, who are supported by the Mayor of London, the festival scooped up an award at the prestigious Music Cities Awards 2021, a global competition designed to reward the most outstanding applications of music for social and cultural development in cities all around the world.
● Created by Busk in London in 2015 as a hashtag campaign to help raise the profile of street performance and celebrate talent, it has grown and developed into a musical highlight in London’s cultural calendar. It was designed as a promotional vehicle to highlight the importance and value of busking – which has been under increasing pressure over recent years due to gentrification.
● There will be over 150 performers on 10 stages from across different art forms. Music, street theatre, circus, acrobatics, street art, dance and more will all be on offer to entice and excite visitors.
● One of the 10 stages will be fully dedicated to emerging musicians from North-West London nurturing local talent to become the next headliners at Wembley venues.
● International Busking Day is a great opportunity to support some of the hottest home-grown talent and world-class street performers, in London’s most iconic destination for music and live entertainment.
● One Wembley was known for its big stage – and we want to enable everyone to have that feeling. From emerging artists to household names, everyone can feel a star at London’s home of music. Whether you’re at the beginning or pinnacle of your musical career, Wembley Park is the home of musical talent.
● Through International Busking Day and its annual free cultural programme, Wembley Park is providing opportunities for the community to participate and engage with live experiences across different artforms.
● Wembley Park is London’s most exciting new neighbourhood – only 12 minutes from central London it is home to a broad and varied cultural offering for local residents and visitors from further afield.
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