The Banjo Boys

Madalitso band blog

Madalitso Team: Neil Nayar, The Accidental Manager

It was 2015 and I’d been running an acoustic music night in Lilongwe after arriving in the city from London two years earlier on a one way ticket, with my guitar, but no money. 

I’d often seen while looking out the windows of mini buses, a kind of street musician who walked around with their instruments, but I’d never managed to actually meet one while I myself was walking.

 I asked a friend of mine if he knew any musicians like that, as I wanted to spice up the acoustic music night. A week later it was arranged for me to meet Madalitso Band in a supermarket car park just behind where my event was.

I remember the concert very well because the instruments were so unusual, and it was not a style of music that the mostly middle-class Malawian as well as expat audience had seen much of. The owner of the venue, which was called The Living Room, was also very impressed and suggested then and there that the music could easily be remixed in a way that could kick on an urban dancefloor. Over the next year they featured several times on the stage and when I was applying to Sauti Za Busara Festival in 2016 I decided to apply for them too - and while my band was rejected, Madalitso Band were accepted.

Going to Zanzibar was a highlight of our lives. Neither of the musicians in the band, nor myself, had ever travelled like that with music, and we really felt we’d achieved something. We were ready to go home proud of what we’d done. It was a total surprise at the festival when a couple of French guys we’d met at the festival said they thought they could get us some gigs in Europe. I really thought it was a joke and probably just a kind of talk that happens at festivals.

After the festival we went back to Malawi and the French guys went home and over the next months there was a lot of email contact, especially now with Bongo Joe Records who liked the music but were talking their time in deciding Madalitso’s music was going to work with the label. Finally we got confirmation that we were going to release a single with the Swiss Label and this was new for everyone. It was a big deal for me too as I’ve been a musician my whole life and always dreamed of working with a label. It wasn’t quite how I’d imagined my first time was going to be, but I was still thrilled.

Now we’ve done five European tours and they keep getting bigger. It seems that becoming the accidental manager may have been more than just serendipity.