Proud and unafraid, Chmba draws from her roots acknowledging a pan-African sense of sonic motherhood centering her home, Malawi. Her signature sound is Afro-electronic, indie, house and alternative sounds amid time-traveling synths, fiery strings, and African percussive rhythms. Named Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine, Chmba has rocked impressive stages including the World Economic Forum in Davos, BBC Radio 6, Tumbler Select Playlist, and opening sets for Grammy-winning artists Angelique Kidjo, Nile Rodgers and Metro Boomin. DMCWORLD grabs a world exclusive as she releases her new EP ‘Okongola Caucus’…

Chmba, a huge welcome to DMCWORLD! Where in the world are you today?
Thank you so much for the sweet welcome ❤️ I am currently in Johannesburg, South Africa… enjoying sweet echoes of Afro house, Afro tech and amapiano on almost every corner of the city.
A really exciting time for you right now thanks to the release of your new ‘Okongola Caucus’ EP. Please talk us through your music on the EP…
This is my sophomore EP, that I hope reflects my growth from my initial release Mtima Rising in 2020. My new EP is Okongola Caucus, which could translate to, “a gathering of beauty” or “a meeting of beauty.” Okongola Caucus is an exploration of love in all its forms from romance to parental, then the pleasure in desire in a love untangling, free form in feeling and finding vulnerability.  Track 1, Okongola takes you into a pit of desire at peak, then Patali is a sweet cry to get past the boundaries we build. Nitemwe is a parent’s outreach reminding a child of their forever home awaiting with love! Dzuwa is the confessions of a heart so deep in love, that the lover is their sun, and Gusta is the joy and mystery of flirting. This all sits in a fusion of afro-centric sounds and genres meeting electronic and house feels to create a new form of sonic beauty.
Okay, let’s rewind for a moment. Born in Malawi, you have been ‘making’ music since the tender age of 7 when you started making funky fusions of Afro-vibes via family cassettes. It sounds like you come from a musical family, tell us about your early days discovering music…
I grew up with the digital boom, all the way from cassettes to CDs to online streaming… it was an age of endless discovering and also grounding of pan African listenership… childhood had the Wambalis, Mafunyetas, Lucky Dubes, Brenda Fassies, Awilo Longoma and P-Squares… my parents adored music and I grew up in a home with cassettes of all kinds of mixtapes with the most random combinations saying moving from Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise to Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata. To make it more economical a lot of cassettes and CD’s circulating around where one song of each hit artists… so your we’re undeniably exposed to all kinds of genres and styles… that influenced my sound and style today, where I don’t feel restricted to explore multiple genres.

Malawi is a small, Black majority country . How easy was it for you to explore the various sounds of African countries and expand your mind? Who were the artists that sparked fireballs in your ears?

Africa is a pot of musical wealth on top of everything and exploration feels endless. Music from every corner always found it’s way to us from precolonial times to colonial and the independent nation… my childhood was attending wedding parties or family gatherings where music played was  Malawian legends like Sir Lucius Banda, Grace Chinga or Wambali then over to South Africa with a DJ Cleo classic then Nigeria with a P-Square hit then finally Congo’s Awilo Longomba would carry the night. From TV, I grew in awe of Brenda Fassie’s sound and spirit, her politic and movement and electric elements… I was inspired by Wizkid’s continued growth and excellence, life has been growing up with him. Black Coffee though sealed the deal for me. Afro House, Afro Tech and Afro Electronic music is where I am most home, watching him finding home in the genre and become a master and Grammy winner established that no dream is too high. I watched those 10-min Against The Clock production challenges shows of the likes of Yaeji and Amaarae, who were breaking ceiling as female producers and producers of color, that was all the fire I needed to launch mine.

Aside from your music, you are a proud activist and founder of the community collective, Tiwale as well as running music programs with 4 different community spaces including working at Dzaleka Refugee camp to train women, girls and gender and sexual minorities on music production and DJ’ing. You are incredible. I understand though it was your friend being forced into a marriage at the age of 15 that spurred you on to get involved?
Yes, that was a hopeless time… child marriage was still legal in Malawi and so there wasn’t much to do, the parents decision to marry her away was legal. But looking at some of the parents’ reasoning and commonly across Malawi you find the reson being financial. School is expensive, and so priority investment goes into the male child. Creating Tiwale was a collective desperation for immediate sustainable solutions… we were 5 teens in our initial program, the oldest team member was 19… we wanted something that could create long term sustainable impact… In Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus has just won a Nobel Peace Prize for transforming the lives of thousands of women through microfinance, we thought, what if we did the same in Malawi? That worked and we expanded our programs centering education which forever proved critical… eventually Malawi did criminalize child marriage in 2018. Our work has continued to evolve now looking at the gap in music technology, we host DJ and Music production spaces for women, who make up less than 2% of the worlds music producers.
You also manage Grammy Award Winner Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Youth To The Front Fund – how did this happen and can you please tell us a little about the Fund…
I was first introduced to We Are Family Foundation through my work with Tiwale as part of their 2013 class of Global Teen Leaders. I met the musical legend then and what kept me connected to the community was the new focus on me, as an individual organizer. A sense of “Family” no pun intended 😀 in their programming. Most spaces only care about the work, which is very important but we need more spaces that also look at the organizer, are you healthy, are you fed to continue this work… that is critical to sustaining music.
I officially joined the WAFF team in 2018, at first focusing on outreach to reach more youth organizers then in 2020, we launched Youth To The Front Fund. This was in response to the murder of George Floyd… seeing youth on the frontlines of a protests for justice, seeing youth in India for Farmers Protest, youth in South Africa for Fees Must Fall, youth in Nigeria… and around the world that young people continue to show up for justice. The fund looking at supporting organizers and collectives fighting for equity in any space with a social justice lens.
Gotta ask – what is your favourite Nile Rodgers song that he has written?
This is a terrible question cause it’s so hard for me to choose lol. I think I’ll break it down, from CHIC then it’s has to be Good Times… epic track and explains all the samples we see today from it!! The with collabs…  Sister Sledge’s He’s the Greatest Dancer is gold. I love the melody here. Then finally this might by my all time favorite song that I once drove a two hour drive with it on repeat… “Lose Yourself To Dance” with Daft Punk and Pharrell has some strong juju in it to say the least lol.
When I mentioned to the office that I was interviewing you, words like ‘trailblazer’ and ‘a force to be reckoned with’ were mentioned. Forbes heralded you in their ‘Africa 20 Under 30’ which sits alongside a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeeper and Global Citizen Youth Advocate – are you content with your progress to date – are you still frustrated or do you honestly feel you are making a difference?
I’ve learned to be grateful, accept what’s in my power and also where I can always push… I am unhappy and disappointed with the state of my country and continent. Almost at 60 years of independence and it feels that everything is getting worse… we used to wait on our leaders but with multiple disappointments it’s really up to us, or like they say, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” so my work is far from done… I believe in the work that we are doing but looking at our problems you can feel microscopic amid gigantic challenges… however, I am hopeful because of the spirit I see in my peers, our Gen Z and all the youth. We are angry and tired, and that is being fueled into action. I am staying positive because I know given all the opportunities, African youth will transform our continent.
What is coming up next for you in 2023, both musically and programme wise? How do you fit everything in?!?!?

2023!! This EP is very much the beginning of many sonic projects I am brewing. I want to collab with so many creatives across Africa and the world… I am also growing as a producer, learning new styles and I want to keep exploring, keep learning. For Tiwale, we’ve been partnering with various community spaces to set up music DJing and Production workshop spaces around the country… we want these places to thrive by aiding them to source equipment, ensuring there is a participant that is trained in the skills to take on the teaching baton… We want to collab with events, provide more platforms for our graduates to showcase skills, maybe a distribution partnership to support projects and all… a lot cooking here too. There’s no right recipe to doing it all… but I am blessed to have great support and appreciate our co-organizers on ground, Takondwa Mchakulu, Sahayi Ngwira (DJ Bubblegum), Tiya Joan, Emmanuella Kaliati, El Shaddai Masauli, Patricia Chisalika, Dali Chiusiwa, Tupo Chere Chasowa and more who pure heart and soul into ensuring success of all our Tiwale programming.

And finally – Madonna – a big DMC favourite! She loves you and has asked you to play at some of her A-list celebrity events including her Oscars’ party and her NYE party. What were these experiences like, who did you have throwing shapes on the dancefloor?
It was an emotional moment for me from playing NYE in Malawi to and Oscars Afterparty in Beverly Hills… I grew up playing Madonna’s Material Girl on my Walkman Cassette player growing up between Blantyre and Lilongwe in Malawi. I would play Holiday pre-exams to hype myself for our vacations after… Vogue made me feel free as a young queer person though then I never had the language or full understanding, but I loved the freedom of the people in the video and the beat of course 🙂
I never imagined sharing space let alone controlling the sonic vibes for Madonna and her family and friends. I am humbled, grateful for the experience but most of all inspired, my dreams which did scare me, have felt so close all in the space of 3 months, so now I no longer allow myself to be bound by doubt. Let a no be an actual no but not something self imposed. I am grateful and have so much love for Madonna and her team taking a chance on me, twice 🙂 (knocking on wood for more chances).