Chanunkha recognized for composing UNIMA Anthem

November 3, 2015   Chanco Bulletin

Graduation ceremonies, inaugural lectures, music festivals, memorial services—they have one thing in common, as afar as the University of Malawi is concerned: the touch of one Robert Chanunkha.

For a long time, the current Head of the Fine and Performing Arts Department has lent his expertise to the University of Malawi, in the form of compositions that are performed during a variety of events. 

His most recent contribution was the composition of the University of Malawi anthem, for which he was accorded special recognition at the UNIMA@50 Celebrations.

In composing the anthem, Chanunkha followed three principles. Firstly, he ensured that the anthem had an African flavor, in the form of a rhythmic pattern that people can identify with. In doing this, he inserted a syncopation pattern into the composition.

“When we use syncopation in music,” Chanunkha explains, “we ensure that the stress comes on a weak metric point. In other words, it is the second beat which is accentuated or emphasized. This results in an unusual but exciting rhythm.”

Secondly, the anthem also features a simple form of harmonization of four beats, which is rare in European anthems. This gives the anthem a natural feeling of marching, and ensures that the tune can be easily remembered and performed.

Finally, he put the anthem in a simple key, so that it can be placed on various instruments (the Police Band played the anthem at the celebrations from a score produced by Chanunkha).

The anthem has since been distributed to all colleges of the University. 

Chanunkha has been a composer for various University of Malawi functions from as far back as his undergraduate years. He composed his first public piece as a 2nd year student for the memorial service for the late Kay Chiromo. He remembers it as the moment that gave him confidence to compose more songs.

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