Gospel music from an HIV community group in Malawi

Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa,” has a special place in my heart, with its banjo-playing old time musicians and gorgeous rolling tea plantations. On a trip there to see new technologies being used against HIV in 2013, I was fortunate to hear some fantastic traditional music as well - amazing multi-part gospel music.

I saw some of my favorite singing when we met with a local community group of people living with HIV in in a small village near the southern Malawian town of Thyolo.

The group is known as a “CAG,” which stands for Community ARV Group. ARVs, or antiretrovirals (HIV medicines) need to be taken every day and maintaining a healthy supply is a challenge for folks living in rural areas. So Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) piloted a model across the border in Tete, Mozambique, to help people adhere to their treatment by a rotating schedule of drug pickups. Select members make the (often long) journey to pickup meds for the rest of the group. MSF has shown that this model leads to better adherence of HIV drugs, especially in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

They also can do some sick multi-part harmonies…

We visited this CAG with the MSF team in Blantyre. After a long meeting in a community center, the group saw us off with these incredible songs. I couldn’t help recording a few before we made it back to the van. I have very fond memories of lying under my mosquito bed net on a moonlight night in the MSF guest house re-listening to these tunes over and over and over again.

Gotta love Malawi.