Live Review: Maldalitso

Joshua Tree Music Festival Joshua Tree, CA 

Contact: [email protected] 

Web: banjoboys.com 

Players: Yobu Maligwa, bababtone and lead vocals; Yosefe Kalekeni, guitar, drum and backing vocals 

Photo by Alon Goldsmith

Material: Under the desert sun, Malawi-based duo Madalitso Band played a sparkling set on the main stage at the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Yobu Maligwa’s bright tenor vocal and homemade bass instrument, the babatone, combine with Yosefe Kalenkeni’s rich baritone vocal, dancing guitar lines, and thumping kick drum to create a rhythmic force. The band pounded out their catchy Afropop songs from their album Musakayike, meaning "don't doubt us," their second international release under Bongo Joe Records. 

Musicianship: Within the span of a song, the crowd was dancing along to their infectious, sunny grooves. Kalenkeni’s rhythms drove the band’s sound with his steady four-on-the-floor kick drum, simultaneously weaving syncopated guitar lines to provide the chords. Combined with the one-stringed babatone and the duo’s vocals, the sound was greater than the sum of its parts. Maligwa and Kalenkeni share vocal duties and take turns leading the songs, but their combined harmonies really captured the crowd’s attention. They delightfully flip musical conventions on their head by using the bassy babatone as the lead solo instrument while Kalenkeni keeps his guitar lines driving and catchy. “Jingo Janga” highlighted the set, with great energy and flare. 

Performance: The set fell into a predictable pattern of vocal section into instrumental jam. By using a glass bottle slide on the babatone, Maligwa not only played bass lines for the songs, but punctuated the tunes with adventurous slides up and down the neck. This rising action for solos frequently culminated in a single, repeated note. Though minimalistic at times, these musical sections brought the listener’s attention back to the rhythmic core of their style, toeing the line between jam band and pop. 

Summary: Madalitso band are an exciting take on Afrobeat music. By boiling down the genre’s instrumentation to its core, the duo showcases the beauty of simplicity. This duo delighted the crowd with their vocal harmonies, warm stage presence, and dedication to the joyful groove.