Remember crafting cereal box guitars as a kid? The cardboard instruments are fun to make, but they don't exactly sound too impressive. Malawian musician Gasper Nali is proof that some homemade instruments can produce amazing sounds, though. He plays what he calls the Babatoni—a handmade, three-meter-long, single-stringed bass guitar—with an empty bottle and a stick.
Nali describes his sound as “the most beautiful and catchy original afro-beats possible.” And if his videos are anything to go by, his description is pretty accurate. While watching and listening to him play the Babatoni and a cow skin kick drum, you can’t help but tap your feet right along with him. The chords he plays, along with the driving rhythm of the drum, sound almost punk-like.
Not only does Nali play both instruments, but he sings, too. He sings in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi. In one particular song called Abale Ndikuwuzeni, Nali belts out lyrics that describe cultural issues in his country. Translated, his lyrics are: “People, I want to tell you everything today; People, I want to tell you everything now…What surprised me, in the whole of Malawi; What I’ve seen in Nkhata Bay; Small children dropping out of school now; Small children know men today; Small children are married nowadays; Small children of 9 years have babies—Mayiwe!”
Although Nali's lyrics can be harsh truths that are perhaps not the most uplifting, his music brings much joy to his community. In one particular video for a song called Satana Lero Wapezeka Ndiwe Edzi, a group of local kids are captured dancing in the background as they dry off from a swim in the lake.
Check out Nali’s music below and support his work by buying his albums on Bandcamp.