Tannah Sydney Harawa is a full time comedian, studying journalism and mass communication. He first ventured into the world of comedy in 2016, when he used to do broken English voice notes for fun which went viral through WhatsApp to the point of people encouraging him to monetize the art-form.
From then on, he started to produce more comedy skits, marking 2017 as the year he truly began to push his comedic capabilities.
The response he received surpassed his expectations and to date, his fan base keeps on growing, recently clocking 100,000 views on his YouTube channel: Mr Broken English.
“The name Mr Broken English originated from my skits and comedies which are delivered in broken English style. Initially, people didn’t know my name so they used to call me “wa broken English uja” and from then on I decided to add Mr to the name people were already familiar with,” says Tannah. The broken English trademark has narrowed the gap between those who know English and those who don’t know how to speak English.
It has long been part of our culture to laugh and mock people who speak broken English to the point of viewing them as inferior; inadvertently creating divide amongst people of different social class and upbringing. The reality however is that broken english is simply an indicator of being a native speaker of other languages and is not in any way a measure of one’s intelligence nor superiority.
Though comedy is a world wide genre of fiction mixed with real life experiences woven together to amuse and make people laugh, it is still a genre that is gaining momentum in Malawi. With local comedy greats, Eric Mabedi and the late John Nyanga, the famous duo known as Izeki and Jakobo, having paved the way for a new generation of Malawian comedians; it no surprise to be witnessing the journey of Tannah “Mr Broken English” Harawa.
“Comedy is another reliable form of entertainment”, Tannah says, “despite seeing a lot of people patronising comedy shows, our skits are getting more views on different social media platforms such as Youtube, Facebook and Whatsapp which shows the evolution of comedy in Malawi as it now entering mainstream media as another form of reliable and valuable entertainment.
Often times, comedians are able to break through boundaries that normal conversation cannot. South Africa’s Trevor Noah relates to his audience through talking about issues of race, apartheid and politics; Democratic Republic of Congo born & UK raised Eddie Kadi combines his African/British upbringing creating content that transcends multiple platforms; Uganda’s Anne Kansiime, dubbed “Queen of Africa Comedy” creates comedy centered around relatable scenarios such as public transport experiences and relationship issues, and now Malawi’s own “Mr Broken English” Tannah Harawa is connecting with audiences through a relatable issue of mispronounciation of the letters “l” and “r” when speaking English. Africa is home to an estimated 2000 languages and English is just another language in the mix that serves as a means of communicating to most people across the globe.
Some people might fail to take Tannah the comedian seriously, but in real life, he is a man on a mission and comedy is just one of the many ways he uses to express himself, his genius. Looking at the lives of some of the world’s most successful comedians, you see how their own lives played a major role in shaping the tone of their comedy and how some of them have challenged the status quo and made an influential name for themselves.
“Well, every career has its challenges and it is no different in the world of comedy. When I first started, some people would tell me that comedy would not take me anywhere in Malawi and many other negative comments,” Tannah reflects. He attributes those comments to being one of the reasons he pushes himself to work even harder. His advice to people pursuing careers on roads less travelled is to not give up because challenges will always be there whether you like it or not, all you need to do is focus on doing what you love exceptionally well.