There’s a stunning lack of early popular music from Malawi available on CD, which is a shame, as it’s wonderfully engaging and strewn with lively gems. It seems as if all the record labels active in southern Africa after World War II – from conglomerates like HMV to local, shop-based labels owned by Indian immigrants – were making records of the pop music from what was then the British protectorate known as Nyasaland. (Previous to World War II, I believe recording activity in Malawi was extremely limited.) Hugh Tracey, ethnographer extraordinaire, was right there as usual. In 1948, he recorded tracks by Bari, Airini (sometimes credited as “Irene”) and “Black” Paseli – the Paseli Brothers. These songs were recorded in Harare, Zimbabwe, where apparently the brothers had located themselves, and they were popular enough to have them remembered today. Tracey felt that although the Paseli Brothers played in the “common Southern Guitar style,” they were particularly talented. According to several sources, the guitar and banjo were brought back to Malawi by Malawian soldiers who were serving alongside the British during World War II. Tracey translated the title of this piece as “I Shall Never Drink Again” – which you can hear the Paselis repeat during the song. However, on a cassette of Malawian music produced by ethnomusicologist Mitchel Strumpf from the late 1980s, it was translated as “I Once Was A Good Man.” There are also a couple of errors on the label. It states Nyanja as the language, but after I sent it to a speaker of that language (known more commonly as Chewa or Chichewa), he stated it was not, in fact, in that language. The Paselis also recorded in the Yao language – which is probably what’s heard here…although some is in English. Also, despite the label, the piece is a guitar duet, and there is no banjo present. One of the unfortunate, ubiquitous phrases one hears in the record collecting world is “No one’s ever heard of this stuff!” Well, that’s just simply not true in most, if not all cases. While “Black” Paseli is unknown in the West, there’s many people in an entire country that remember him, and the performances he made with his brothers.