From the warm heart of Malawi, Africa rises Keturah, a 27-year-old virtuoso arriving to the world stage with her self-titled debut—a 10-track odyssey chronicling Keturah’s journey from the tiny remote home village of Monza to the shores of Venice, California. Having never stepped foot on an airplane, let alone leave Malawi, Keturah's 30-hour trip proved to be a significant leap forward in an artist’s journey that began on foot.
As a child, Keturah first realized her musical potential on walks through her village in Malawi, Africa with her uncle. He’d strum his guitar and sing ballads while she watched and listened until gaining the confidence to join in with her own melodies. She began to form a connection with her community that had long been elusive, since as a child, she mostly kept her talents to herself, often feeling more like an elder than a friend to her peers. She found solace in her thoughts or the memories of her mother, who often sat her down to share her wisdom through telling her stories. The two were best friends until she passed away when Keturah was just 13. Having already lost her uncle, Keturah turned to music as a way of carrying forward her family's message of storytelling and music.
Determined to reach a larger audience, Keturah set out on foot this time for Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city, where she hoped to find a recording studio. She met a local producer who was so impressed by her voice that he offered to record her for free. Keturah put down one song that eventually made its way onto the radio, launching her music career with releases that empower listeners to connect their Malawian identity as a way to realize their own power. The attitude resonated and Keturah earned the nickname of ““Naliyela, Local Girl” as she rose to the status of Malawian celebrity.
Her talent soon caught the eye of French honorary consul Luc Deschamps, who runs the Jacaranda Foundation, a Malawian school for orphans and its cultural center. Deschamps soon recognized her potential and connected her with Harlan Steinberger, producer and director of Hen House Studios, an independent music label and recording studio, churning out roots world music in Venice, California.
Jacaranda Cultural Center and Maison de la France arranged for Keturah to travel to Los Angeles and record at Hen House in July of 2022. She arrived with voice notes featuring roughly sketched melodies over a lo-fi guitar, letting Harlan mold things from there. Harlan hoped to elevate the demos into anthems by calling in Playing For Change co-founder Mark Johnson, surrounding Keturah with an all-star cast of Playing For Change musicians, including PFC Band members Jason Tamba and Mermans Mosengo, bass player Kaveh Rastegar (who worked with musicians such as John Legend and Bruno Mars), Magatte Sow (A Senegalese drummer featured on the Black Panther movie soundtrack), seasoned Kora player Prince Diabaté, Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson's long-time harmonica player), John Densmore on drums (The Doors), soul singer Chris Pierce, along with the Zimbabwean guitar legend, Louis Mhlanga, and the young Stones Throw pianist Jamael Dean.
The album journeys through a dynamic blend of genres in the Malawian language of Chichewa, from the lively, upbeat Afro-folk-funk rhythms of "Kwanumkwanu," to the emotive ballads of "Sukulu" and "Chimbalame," the Americana inspired “Nchiwewe” and more lighthearted tracks such as "All The Way from Africa" and "Ku Nyumba." Keturah's exceptional songwriting and powerful vocals are elevated by intricate percussion, melodic guitar lines, subtle backing vocals and horns, creating an eclectic album that showcases her talent as an African songstress ready to make a global impact.
“It is the honor of my life for me and Playing For Change to be involved in Keturah’s new album. She has so much talent and brings so much light to the world”. — Mark Johnson