Chanunkha recognized for composing UNIMA Anthem
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.