When you first hear of Q Malewezi – you will hear of a great artist who has done so much for the creative community in Malawi.
He decided to start using his initial ‘Q’ when he found that most people were struggling to pronounce his first name, Qabaniso, while in high school in 1997. A friend started calling him Q and this eventually became his stage name.
Q worked as a music producer and songwriter. He did this from 1999 to 2005, while studying at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in the UK. Most notably, he was the producer for a hip hop group called Real Elements. He had been writing songs for other people, when he began wondering what it would feel like to bring his own voice to forefront.
“I couldn’t sing, and I couldn’t rap – so poetry and spoken-word were the next best thing. I always knew there was something else. I just had to find that something else; for the sake of my self-expression.”
Q went to an event in London in 2003 with a friend where there was a group of spoken word artists. One artist called Amen Noir blew his mind and Q knew he had found his “something else.” After graduating Q did an honours degree in contemporary music production at the Academy of Contemporary Music.
Artistically, he has been on a journey of losing himself and finding himself – and spoken word was just another form of creative expression for him.
‘I do not believe you find yourself in one thing. I think it is possible to find yourself in multiple things. I had already found myself as a music producer and a songwriter. Spoken word was just that extra thing I felt at home doing.”
It was after moving back to Malawi in 2005 that Q took the time to discover his voice and started performing poetry.
Among Q’s poetry highlights is a performance at the City of Stars Festival (a 2013 offshoot of the Lake of Stars Festival) – where he performed after an amazing band from Scotland called ‘Bwani Junction’.
“The people were so hyped up, and following that up with a poetry performance, from a programming point of view…” he pauses and laughs, “It was suicidal.”
He still took the challenge. It was a 20 minute set – and he could not see the audience, who were thousands in numbers, because of the lighting. The whole place had been quiet, and he was stunned after getting off the stage to realise the people had been engaged and listening.
“The second highlight has to be 2016 at the Bingu International Conference Centre for the people album launch. I don’t think any poet on the continent has pulled a crowd of 1,400 people to a strictly poetry event.”
Internationally, Q says every poet in Africa is always awaiting an invitation to the biggest poetry gathering, Poetry Africa. He was invited in 2015, and again got a standing ovation after my set. That was an amazing experience, because I had not had a very good experience at a previous festival in Johannesburg, so I wasn’t too sure of myself and my content. I was generally scared of performing in South Africa. When Poetry Africa went as it did, it was amazing.”
He says his biggest creative award has been his Honorary Doctorate of Creative Arts from Mzuzu University. He is however not satisfied and acknowledges that there is a lot more that he can, and should achieve.
Q has worked with many accomplished creatives and hopes to one day collaborate with Bitter Sweet Poetry in Zambia.
Currently, Q is working on the Kweza Arts Centre, which will be his primary focus for the next 2 years. Kweza is a non-profit property development company in the creative space.
“There isn’t much creative infrastructure in Malawi, and when there are no such spaces – it is very difficult for young artists to thrive, get nurture their arts – get training and access services. Kweza was created to fill that gap.”
To Q gives his recommendations for visitors to Malawi. He recommends checking out the forest in the north and the tea estates in the southern region. Q believes “the lake” (you know which one) has been overdone and is overrated *gasp*. For the foodies, he recommends the oxtail in Mangochi and for a taste of Malawi once you leave, take some Kilombero rice with you.
“Check out some of the forests in the north, and the tea estates in the southern region. I think the lake is overrated. It has been overdone.”