Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Disgruntlement rocks treasury over new IFMIS provider

--- Economy bad for the choices
By Gregory Gondwe
Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Development has been rocked with disgruntlements after it settled for three out of 12 bidders expected to provide software solutions called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) which is set to operate Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) having set aside US$10m to replace the current one.
A source at the Treasury said Government has however failed to consider its financial limitations and has settled for Transnational Computer Technologies whose bid price is US$12,200.000.00; Twenty Third Century US$13,807,561.46 and Free Balance US$13,995,935.00.
“These three companies were shortlisted and qualified for opening of financial evaluation taking place in Salima as we speak now,” said the source in an interview on Thursday last week.
Government said it is surprised that this journalist has information that it kept under wraps.
Spokesperson for the Ministry Finance and Economic Planning and Development Nations Msowoya responded to a Malawi News questionnaire that the only latest information that is available for the public is information pertaining to the bid opening that was conducted on Friday, 11 September 2015 where 12 bids were opened and their respective prices were announced.
“The ministry is therefore surprised that you have information relating to this process when the same has not been released either officially or unofficially by the Ministry of Finance,” he said.
Msowoya then explained that the procurement process for supply and installation of IFMIS software is being guided by the World Bank’s procurement guidelines and the Malawi Public Procurement Act of 2003.
“Under the above legislative framework and guidelines, procurement information is treated as private and confidential up until the entire process is completed,” he insisted.
He therefore said that the Ministry in accordance with the World Bank’s procurement guidelines and the Malawi Procurement Act will provide to the public the necessary information regarding the procurement process of the new IFMIS platform at an appropriate time when the evaluation is finalized.
Information the journalist has sourced indicate that the other bidders include KPMG whose total bid price was US$47, 858, 154.00; TBL whose bidding price US$6,573,326.04; Neurotech whose bidding price was US$8,883,110.53; State Informatics Sparc Systems Novabase whose bidding price was US$28,241,975.00.
Others were Tech Mahindra Limited whose bidding price was US13,859,996.00; Timestamp whose bidding price was US$30, 141,770.00; Soft Tech Consultants Ltd, Epcor whose bidding price was US$10, 316, 934; Intrasoft Int. TechNet Verve K.O. whose bidding price was US$23,096,914.29; and Cleoliv Int. Smart Link Ltd whose bidding price was US$14,500,000.
The source said they believe the process has been compromised looking at how Government is struggling for money and yet they want to buy the expensive solutions.
“Transnational Computer Technology of course is not established in Malawi and their quote is over US$13 million but was given highest scoring by the evaluators,” the source said.
The second best scorer was Twenty Third Century while Free Balance came third.
“An independent impartial Public Financial Management Specialist or Consultant from outside Malawi should be brought to authenticate and investigate how the evaluation was done , whether they followed the proper procedures and all other related issues,” said the source.
The source said Malawi does not need such an expensive solution and this might end up becoming an all money making racket.
“Seriously this is not the time that our Government should be buying Rolls Royce kind of solution because it’s waste of public resources. They can do with the cheapest, best and reliable robust solution like Uganda or Kenya where a study team was sent,” said the source.

“There is need to do due diligence of these three shortlisted companies, their credibility as Government risks paying huge amounts, when in actual fact they can do with a good reliable and cheaper solution,” insisted the source.
As part of the Public Financial Management reforms, Government, in 2005, appointed Soft-Tech Consulting Limited (Soft-Tech), an Epicor Ltd software solutions technology partner, to implement an Epicor based Ifmis.
IFMIS is a common information and communication technology (ICT) platform which integrates core public financial management (PFM) functions to ensure efficient management of public resources.
However, due to massive theft of public resources as Ifmis was manipulated, Government engaged a Business Process Review study carried out by the task force which is now proposing a complete replacement of the system by identifying another vendor.
Treasury constituted a team to study the option of upgrading and replacing ifmis.
Government targeted top five ranked IFMIS ERP solutions in order of rank are SAP; Oracle Financials; Microsoft Dynamics; Infor; and Epicor.
Government started calling for bids through the local press of 22nd January 2015 before withdrawing it on January 30, 2015 amid pressure for a number of anomalies in the whole process.
Government started calling for bids to have a new service provider that would replace SofTech providers of Epcor software that has been in use for the country’s Ifmis that led to Cashgate.
A report that has been produced based on public financial activities that took place between January 2009 and December 2014 has once again faulted the weakness in the Integrated Financial Management System (Ifmis).
The report which is a result of analysis of financial data by PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services (Pty) Limited (PwC) which was contracted by the Auditor General of Malawi shows that an anomaly on 1,911 cheques that were posted and could not be reflected in the Cashbook indicate a control weakness in IFMIS.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Living as a musician in Malawi

Making a fortune in Malawi as a musician is not easy because the industry is disorganized with no regulation, leading to loss of revenue for the sector. However there are activities allow for the music sales going on unabated in the industry. Unlike in the past, though this time round musicians are no longer depending on the sales of their musical albums on the market but rather conducting local tours for live performances.
Recording Deals
True to observations made by a Malawian registered company Rhythm of Life, Malawi has no established record labels, no professional recording studios. There are no meaningful record deals except on a few occasions where a group of performing artists have teamed up to offer contracts to performers which include recording deals. Malawi has plenty of uncoordinated and unprofessionally run recording spaces mistakenly called studios. Most musicians end up establishing such spaces.
Record Sales
Before musicians would visit these places and some other professionally operated studios like Andiamo Studios owned by the Catholic Church and MC Studios which would record musicians. Soon after getting the master copy they would then take it to Afri Music Company for duplication and distribution of their albums.
Until last year this company has been doing this for the last 30 years and had seven wholesale outlets that it was supplying where street vendors would visit to purchase music albums that they would sell at retail.
At that time the vendors would travel from all across the country to purchase album cassettes for re-sale but soon after the company was closed musicians have been struggling to sell. At that time one artist would sell 600,000 pieces but now they can afford even 500 copies.
Lately there has been introduction of online sales which has left out Malawi’s biggest music buying populace.
Live Performance & Touring
As a result of this most musicians are resorting to conducting live performances in different spots of the country from January to December without enough resting space and time for new productions in studios.
The challenge in this aspect is lack of musical equipment. Other entrepreneurs have taken advantage by investing in this aspect and hiring out their equipment to the musicians.
There are at least three investors in Malawi that are known to lent out their musical equipment and these include lawyer Jai Banda who trades as Entertainers Promotion, sound engineer Lemekezani Phiri as well as Mibawa One Stop Multimedia and Events Management Centre owned by entertainment entrepreneur John Nthakomwa.
Radio/TV Airplay
This is another challenge as people or DJs at the helm of these media platforms are abusing the system by demanding bribes from musicians if they want their music to gain airtime. Musicians fall for this demand as the more the local TVs and radio stations play their music the more they will gate famous even when it does not translate into anything on the financial gains.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Not every musician should own a studio

One other reason why Malawi music industry will remain stagnant is the lack of vision of those in the system.

Every musician in Malawi hopes one day s/he will own a studio. Every music producer, every studio sound technician hopes to become a musician one day. 

Every ‘bouncer’ at a drinking joint where music is played with‘chest-cavity fracturing’ intensity hopes to be a musician one day. Everyone who has an elder brother, a cousin, a father, a sister or a mother who is a musician desire to follow the same footpath; and while others have managed to stand out by making the same footfalls as they trod along, others have terribly tumbled.

Every musician in Malawi, once s/he releases an album wants to become a band owner, forget the fact that they are yet to own a mere guitar string.

But look here, the reason musical calling is called an industry is because one cannot be a musician, a producer, a studio engineer/sound technician, a videographer, choreographer, a promoter, a music sales and marketing executive and a musical event manager.

Unless the industry learns how to divide labour, forget ever hogging the international music limelight.

There are just too much ‘jungle’ approaches in as far as the undertakings of the players in the country’s music industry are concerned. Of course I know of some few who have earned fame as musicians in the country like Lulu, having started as studio sound technicians and producers, but it does not mean all can be the same or endowed with the same gift.

Do you know what is compromised at the end? It is talent and quality.  

You look at a music maestro like Wambali Mkandawire; because he understands how the industry operates, he has never established his own studio because as a believer of good music quality he knows what is at stake. He knows where he is best. It’s like in a football match; you cannot be coach, technical director, defender, midfielder, winger and attacker at the same time.  

You look at artists, too numerous to mention, who upon recording a single album or track fetched a run-down computer and started recording their music as well as of others of like mind in a shack that has no sound proof or anything closer to elements required to create a music recording studio environment.

One has to think deep to come up with lyrics and its accompanying melodies and if this is your calling don’t be greedy to force your way into other areas.

The sketchy journey is that one has to go into the studio after the first stage explained above where they need to arrange how, for example, the drum beat will be thumping out, besides the backing vocals not to mention the guitars, synthesizers etc. Afterwards they have to design the sleeve covers of the album or single, that’s if they are ambitious, and later take it to radio stations and newspapers for publicity.

If that is not already overwhelming, they have to borrow their in-law’s car, friend’s speakers and go on the street to start selling their music by playing it using the improvised PA system.

Meanwhile, they will also be positioning a non-professional video camera somewhere in their living room and ask their sisters and cousins to start mimicking their compositions with an aim of recording  a music video and once with this low quality video in their hands the process re-starts.

How does that explain the aspect of managing of the artists’ creative skills, to begin with? What about nurturing talent through the passage of time. It’s not every day that one chalks envious accolades as someone that produces a musician who has managed to hit platinum. It’s not every Jim and Jill that can be Robert Kelly.

If you look at all this messy way of conducting business, how do you expect the Malawi music industry to progress?

Then there is the question of the guiding law on how the Malawi music industry can ‘live’ and ‘survive’. What guiding principles can it follow? How do we divide labour? What is the industry’s road map and who draws it? Unless we answer these and many more relevant questions, we are doomed to exist as a shameful music industry.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Police conduct at Luciano Show

The Malawi Police Service in the country has officers that are hardwired to behave with some airs of renitent boorishness. I know so because I have two brothers – like cousins – who are police officers.  

When we were staying together in the same household they were just like any other siblings; respectful to us the elder brothers and all that, but as soon as they completed their training at the Police Training School, their attitude completely and suddenly revolved into something unrecognisable. They surrounded themselves with airs of undeserved authority and everything they wanted to do, they did with unapologetic impunity.

I don’t know what they are taught at that institution in Kanjedza because all over sudden they talk to you in an imposing way and they think you can no longer reason better with them. Just check what happens whenever you meet them and are accusing you of committing an offence be it in the street, markets or on the road, it is a mistake to refer to any piece of legislation to endorse your argument because they will throw you in police cell just to show that you are nothing with your learnt attitude when it comes to dealing with the police. What is strange is that the higher they rise through the ranks, the more sober they get; at least this is what they demonstrate in public.

Lately, apart from this attitude they have now added so many bad apples among them who are the leading instigators in most of the country’s violent armed robberies.

Enough of the opening; the reason I am talking about them today has to do with what I witnessed at Silver Stadium last Saturday when Jamaican international reggae superstar Luciano performed. Being what this artist is, the organisers hired numerous security service providers including our own police officers.

The gate fee for the ‘open stands’ was K8, 000 per head. Considering the country’s economic situation, this was extremely on the higher side and therefore the police officers took advantage. 

The police were supposed to provide security and order by ensuring that the show had no gatecrashers as well as people who would breach peace.
But instead they were busy aiding gate crashing. This is how they were doing it in order to hoodwink the organisers manning the gates.

They would handcuff a few people, accusing them of breaking the law with someone who was already inside the show. Under the pretext that they want the apprehended guys to show them their accomplices inside, they would convince these organisers to let them pass into the show and those that were arrested would be left free once inside after paying K4000.

I know that the police officers are paid an allowance at the end of a show like this one and therefore while we cannot control greed sometimes, it is a shame when you find the police officers using the official apparatus for self enrichment.

Do you wonder why we will always question why our musicians are always toiling in vain? 

This is a good example of how not to engage police officers in events like these ones. But at what expense can this be achieved? I know how unruly patrons to these shows can be sometimes but do we really need to put more police officers to police them further to ensure that everything is orderly?

It is a pity when you consider how much Born African Production spent to bring into the country a music star of a stature of Luciano. He also brought alongside Luciano seven members of the All Nations Band and at least the charges would have alleviated the financial burden the firm suffered to achieve all this.

But well, our police being such champions of this kind of notoriety had a trick up their sleeves and decided to fleece Born African. What happened to an honest Malawi Police Service? Can the Malawi music really depend on the police if it has to achieve any progress at all?

Of course as I earlier indicated that these are just some bad apples, but ... the Police should sober up their hardwired behaviour when it comes to public relations. They always think they can do anything and get away with it. If one tries to reprimand them whenever they are in the act of wrong doing, they always trump up charges in a very vindictive manner and where money is involved, the one who offers them more is always right.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Luciano calls for Visa exemption



The Jamaican music maestro Luciano who performed in the country over the weekend has called for the abolition of a visa requirement for Jamaican nationals that are visisting African countries.

He said this in an exclusive interview with The Daily Times before the show in Lilongwe. 
Talking to Blogger and Malawian Journalist Gregory Gondwe at the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe where he was the guest
When asked what his impression with Malawi was he said:

“One little concern I have is with the visa. I never expected that Jamaicans would have to pay for a visa to come into an African country. Jamaica is one of the commonwealth countries of the Caribbean so it should really be exempted from this kind of legislative bombardment.”

Malawian Journalist Gregory Gondwe with The Luciano

Otherwise he said the reception from the Nyabinghi was great as it uplifted his spirits. He said this proves that the Rastafarian spirit is strong in Malawi.

“This was my first impression. And as they say first impression lasts forever,” he said.

Greeting fans upon arrival at the Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe
Over the years, Luciano says he takes his musical career as a mission that has become a ministry which has grown.

He says he knows a lot of people listening to his works over the years are being able to appreciate consistent with inspiration and message in his music.

“I believe that music is a gift from God and the more you use it to the Honour and Glory of him then he will multiply your blessings,” he said.

Luciano Conquers Malawi - as he performs over 2hrs non-stop

JAH Messenger conquered Malawi

Jamaican International Reggae Superstar Luciano whose distinguished performance from the late hours of March 28 to the wee hours of March 29, at times, left all the patrons transfixed agape at the finery at which he executed and showed all that came why he has made his name an international household.

Born 20 October 1964, as Jepther McClymont, despite his age Luciano also executed two of his signature summersaults amidst performance that went with his unbelievable thrilling voice.

Born African: The Malawian SA based reggae maestro performing before Luciano

With such a scintillating performance mesmerised fans were spell bound that they didn’t realise where the tracks were coming from but it was clear it was within his albums that include Moving Up, One Way Ticket, After All, Where There Is Life, (1995) Messenger, (1997) Sweep Over My Soul, (1999), A New Day, (2001), Great Controversy, (2001), Serve Jah, (2003), Visions, Serious Times, Jah Words, Child of a King, God Is Greater than Man, Jah Is My Navigator, United States of Africa, Write My Name, Rub-A-Dub Market, The Qabalah Man  and the latest Deliverance.
The line up included more local acts including Sally Nyundo, Soul Raiders, Skeffa Chimoto, Lucius Banda and many more but the Malawian South African based reggae star Born African, real name Nelson Shaba showed why he has come of age.

Luciano came on stage while Born African was performing to assure the fans that he was around and ready

This was perhaps the only reggae musical show after the 1987 Reggae Unite for Africa where various Jamaican artists converged and performed at Kamuzu Stadium, where the musical instruments were emitting crystal Clear sound.

Jah Messenger at his best
During performance Luciano acknowledge the same and doffed his hat to sound Engineer, fellow compatriot Jonny B who also came during the Fanton Mojah show at Lilongwe Golf Club a few months ago.

Luciano: Drenched in sweat after a coaster rolling performance that cascaded from late Saturday to early Sunday 
Bucandy Playing first keyboards set, Ricky second keyboards set, Trust playing lead guitar, bassist Angelo, Lumanyo on drums as well as the two ladies, Nomawethu and Mpumi, the backing vocalists, completed the ‘All Nations Band’ which Luciano also praised highly.

Luciano captured with the Backing vocalists from South Africa
The performance that Luciano staged, he said was to prove to all and sundry that he has deep love for Malawi and Africa, stating that he had health complications that failed his planned visit last year and it was not because of Ebola.

Luciano: getting started before taking off the cone hat

Earlier in an interview at his Capital Hotel Luciano said he feared nothing. He said his coming to Africa as well as Malawi is an indication that his is back home amongst ‘relatives’.

“If you must know, I have a house in Gambia and I visit Africa without thinking twice because this is my home,” he said.

The fans that thronged Silver Stadium to see Luciano perfom

Nomawethu and Mpumi: The backing vocalists during the Luciano show

The artiste popularly known as the Jah Messenger who was awarded the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer on 15 October 2007, in recognition of his contribution to reggae music, said he spreads positive messages.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Alleluya Band – the Modern Music Pioneer

Music was there when the country got independence in 1964 but due to political atmosphere, there was self censorship that by extension killed creativity.

The scenario remained the same until 1993 when first the country voted through referendum to have multiparty political governance and a year later when Malawi had the first multiparty system of government in place.

This also saw the birth of Malawi’s modern music history; this is digital music history.

The beginning of such history will, therefore, be a different story if it does not start from Alleluya Band; it will be mere falsehood if any such history removes the band from the origins of the country’s music history.

It is not as if there were no bands that used to play before the multiparty dispensation; there were bands like the Likhubula Dance Band, which was backing Robert Fumulani, there were also Police Orchestra, the MBC Band and the Chichiri Queens and uncountable local artist.

There was also talent within the country; but there was no knowledge of how one could put his talent into musical product through a recording studio.

Bands used to go to one and only place where the Malawian music was played and therefore this is where they used to listen to their music and for that reason, they knew that bands used to record there because there was nowhere else and this was at the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation MBC studios.

The music was also being recorded merely for MBC airplay because it was being stored on reels, which was something that could not be taken on the market for sale?
At least it was only the emergence on the scene of Alleluya Banda from Balaka, led by the agile guitarist hands of Paul Banda, that led people to realise several things about what can happen with music.

They appreciated that independent studios can record elsewhere other than the MBC studios alone. 

They discerned that local music performed by local artists could also be put in a cassette and be made available for the take of those with money to, to enjoy it in the comfort of their homes.
Whether one likes it or not Paul Banda ‘revolutionarised’ Malawi music.

Banda achieved all his deserving accolades through the Alleluya Band from whence he launched his decorated musical career.

Lucius Banda, Paul’s younger brother needs no introduction to the world of music from these parts; he has marked his name; no, he has engraved his name in the hall of fame.

Like Paul, he can also trace his history to Alleluya Band.

Then there is the list of the country’s most accomplished artists, you mention artists like Charles Sinetre, Coss Chiwalo, Isaac Liwotcha, Rod Valamanja, Paul Subiri, che Kachingwe, and the list is just too long to fill the whole page with names.

Throughout its history, artists have prospered while others have fumbled along the musical journeys.

While we have striking stories to tell, there are stories of Alleluya Graduates that leaves the mind wondering whether the band has a strategic plan or not.

Foster Chimangafisi, fast comes to mind. Together with Sinetre at one time they were two famous Alleluya products and one of the valuable musical artefacts that bought them fame is the ‘Chimangafisi Dollar’ album and track.

‘Tipange yathu Dollar, Chimangafisi Dollar, Tisamavutike ndikumadzitsaka’.

This is the chorus line of the track and remembering it now makes me start thinking; did we miss something in the song? Did it have a hidden meaning that we are so daft and failed to notice?

Were the two talent endowed musicians clearly telling us that Alleluya Band was just attractive from the outside and therefore the best way to get money was to have their own currency?

The story that Foster Chimangafisi was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and he is now bedridden in a hospital bed where he was also suffering financial crisis because Alleluya Band could not provide for him spoke volumes of how troubled our music industry is.

Many questions arose from this and effort to find answers gave us a number of issues to ponder on deeply.

The first one is why is it that it is Foster Chimangafisi, out of the accomplished list that seems to be suffering in this manner?

While we sympathise with Chimangafisi for having fallen to the exploitative means of a church managed secular band, we also have to answer the question above.

Does he fall in the category of artists who live for today. Our musicians are usually a sorry tale; they perform in all places and find little monies and unfortunately, they do not have any sense of saving.

One might argue that they do not make enough to save anything at all. 

However, how is it that some that have come through the rank and file of the band have progressed so gloriously?

It is a shame that a band like Alleluya on whose apparel, uncountable medallion for their unsurpassed musical achievement are pinned, should be paying its musicians K1500 a month.

One might wonder if this is the money they are getting now, how much Lucius or Paul was carting home.

However, while we are at this, we must blame the artists for not taking the skill to fishing that is imparted upon them by Alleluya Band to a step higher.

But one other artist that can give us the answers to how best to utilise the talent that Alleluya Band imparts to its band members can be traced in one Sinetre.

Alleluya is such a band that even when artists left it to turn solo, they would gain so much confidence to call themselves nicknames like ‘Soldier Lucius Banda or like in the case of Sinetre ‘Music ambassador’.

Through the band Sinetre managed to study at University in Italy.

Perhaps the biggest achievement that the band chalked, is its influence of the growth and establishment of the Andiamo Youth Campus especially at its Cecilia Youth Centre.

And this is where Sinetre was Music Teacher and Trainer.

Sinetre also spearheaded the growth of Alleluya Band and made it to still stand tall even after the departure of the Banda brothers.

Exist Sinetre, enters Chiwalo. I have argued before that I have no urge to out rightly look at one Coss Chiwalo as a sign that connote death of the all famous Balaka beat started by Alleluya Band.

Having been started when Paul Banda was leading the band and extending his services to record artist from within and without Balaka, that include Lucius Banda, Sinetre , Isaac Liwotcha, late Paul Chaphuka, Vincent Kachingwe, Paul Subiri and Rod Valamanja, etcetera, the future was so bright.

Balaka opened musical doors that led to different genres for Malawi. It became so common that people started detesting it, Lucious Banda amongst them, as he eventually tried to run away from it.

Check his song “Achimwene mumvetse chuma ndi m’malele kumbukirani makoro – muzawafuna” the last he did with Alleluya Band - a musical outfit that became synonymous with the Balaka beat – to the South African recorded ‘Mabala’.

Well, while most of the old timers of the Balaka beat have excused themselves in one way or the other, Coss Chiwalo has not yet given a convincing reason why he is not there up to date.

He appeared on the scene with a storm, I think that should have been in 1997 when he released his debut album ‘Amandikonda’.

The album was full of promise, like how the Billy Kaunda likes had graduated through the Balaka School of musical Excellency under the tutelage of Sir. Paul Banda; it left no doubt that we have a man to carry forth the aspirations of the youth in the area.

Two years later, Coss re-emerged with ‘Amakonda Aliyense’. Here, as usual, opinion started to split. While others felt the production in this aspect failed to beat the first album, others were of the view that this was an improvement from the previous works.

The debate promised that with such pace setting, life will no longer be the same.

But what has followed has been a complete disappointment.

Between 2001 and 2008 Coss released three more albums which in my view were total flops, that is if we are to compare them with his own set standard with the first two albums.

If you think I am lying, tell me how many of you know that in 2001 Coss Chiwalo released an album he called ‘Mudzithandizana’ or that he followed this one with a 2003 album named ‘Chindalandala’? Do you also know that Coss has an English titled album called ‘Heart of Hope’ released in 2008?

I have several theories that I have been trying to use to explain why Coss never impressed as was the beginning of his career.

In between he left Alleluya Band before returning as a prodigal son which could be one contributing reason. The other one could be that once he returned to Alleluya he re-discovered that the band had an international stage through the Catholic Church where they would go to Europe to perform.

There could be a sneaking feeling in Coss that if he is able to make the white people jump out of their skins with his synthesizer wizardly, then why should he waste time polishing up songs that Malawians have long stopped appreciating.

The other explanation would be that the competition is stiff and that the Balaka beat which used to massage the musical minds of the people has now started twitching the very soul it used to caress.

I know Coss holds the biggest of stakes at the moment to make the Balaka beat still stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with the sound that is slowly but surely edging out what could be the genesis of Malawi’s modern genre.

The start of the Balaka beat has influenced the reggae and the urban stuff that has become the in thing for our radios and all dance halls in the country.

Now remember how every latest release by Alleluya Band used to turn the nation on its head? Do we still expect anything from Balaka? What have the artists in Balaka done to our hunger for their music?

Is it us who are to blame for poor patronage or it is them who have stopped being creative and in the process they have lost us all?

These are the questions anyone who has a penchant for Malawi music needs to ask. There seem to be no sense of history for the country that one has to preserve and propagate, let alone musical history.

But Balaka genre, the Balaka beat should not die, I leave it in the hands of Coss!

Paul Banda, Lucius Banda and all the graduates, including Chimangafisi, better read this as well.

These people should not the Alleluya influence and its Balaka genre die. If anything, let it outlive the rest of us, posterity has sharp and hungry ears that will still need this music.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Princes rides on the back of 7thDay

Some two weeks ago gospel musician Princes Chitsulo and Dan Lufani were the only artists that scooped two awards each at the Second Annual Music Malawi (MUMA) Awards ceremony in Lilongwe.
Many people felt like Princess Chitsulo who got the Best Gospel Female spot did not deserve the other award of the best Song of the Year for her “Ndidzayimbabe” track because it’s not her composition but that of the Seventh Day church. The song is said to be found in their hymn book which is popularly known as ‘Kristu Mu Nyimbo’.

But I am surprised that this is only pointed out because it is Princes who did that when almost all of our Gospel artists in the country with an exceptional of just a few merely copy songs from international artists and turn them into their own.
It reminds me of the late Paul Chaphuka of the Alleluya Band of the old. He released an album called ‘Ndichiritseni’ helped by veteran Sir Paul Banda and his brother Lucius at the time when he was in his lowest ebb as he was battling with cancer.

The story of his condition and the effort to record the album in his state made the album very popular but years later it was disappointing to note that in fact the title track ‘Ndichiritseni’ was plagiarized. This was the composition of Ivorian reggae maestro Alpha Blondy also by the same title, although in English, called ‘Heal me’.

By the way, the track by Princess was produced by the evergreen Lloyd Phiri whose track, in his latest album, called ‘One Love’ borrows its hook from the late Lucky Dube’s Ding-Ding.

The most shameless of the country’s entire gospel act is Ndirande Anglican Voices which copies everything from South African gospel artists and only remove words that are in South African local language and replace them with Chichewa.

If you think I am lying just listen to the group’s ‘Oyimba Ndiambiri’ which is carbon copy of Debora Fraser’s Bizwile... not sure of the title but I have the track with me. Ndirande Anglican Voices also did ‘Ndibwelera’ which they copied Vuyo Mukoena’s ‘Themba Lwami’.

And now The Great Angels also did ‘Opanda Dipo’ which they copied Lundi’s track that I can’t remember the title in the mean time.

Then there is a case of Evance Meleka who, when he declared himself a ‘Gospel Artist’ I had no reservations with his decision but my problem was where he had decided to become an Oliver Mtukudzi copycat which has instead turned him into an impressionist shame.

If I ask the people reading this who have listened to Evance to tell me whether or not he is one of the few gifted guys with golden voice, none will raise up their hands to disagree with me.

Meaning, Evance’s voice is unexploited gold which only he can take care of and nurture as time goes by but he launched his gospel music career with tracks where he has imitated Oliver Mtukudzi unashamedly.

When you check the behaviour our artists it is clear that they don’t care because they do not know that copying without following copyrights laws has consequences.

Just Wednesday this week a court in the USA has made musicians Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke pay US$7.4m to Marvin Gaye's family over their track ‘Blurred Lines’ which they say infringed Marvin Gaye copyright.

A jury awarded Marvin Gaye’s children nearly $7.4m after determining singers Thicke and Williams copied their father’s music to create Blurred Lines, the biggest hit song of 2013.

The verdict could tarnish the legacy of Williams, a reliable hit-maker who has won Grammy awards and appears on NBC’s music competition show The Voice.

When you listen to the two tracks you will need to be attentive to capture a split second similarity in the progression cord but here they are told to pay such huge sums while our Gospel artists copy everything and only slot it in the Chichewa words.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nominate and Vote or Shut-up

In the early 2000 Malawi hired a Dane by the name Kim Splidsboel to be coach of the soccer national team, the Flames. If my memory serves me right, he is the man who brought up the term ‘Monday Coaches’ in our local parlance.
The thing is, there is a tendency for people to wait for a football team to play over the weekend and come Monday we start talking of how best the coach would have done to come up with either a winning team or a winning formula.
The same would be said of the Second Annual Music Malawi (MUMA) Awards where I have now seen many ‘Monday musical experts’ throwing and tossing about all sorts of accusations to the organisers and the award winners alike.
To start with the organisers did not bring us the names of the nominees if we go by the communications that have been going on as regards the awards.
From the word go, MediaCorp Limited, Tocadero Consulting as well as the Musicians Union of Malawi who were the organizers of the awards invited interested individuals to participate in the nomination of the best artists/groups/songs for the edition of the awards.
The organizers also involved media houses both print and electronic, selected clubs, music outlets and media practitioners to nominate the best act for the 2013/2014 season in each of the 13 categories.
Each participant was invited to select a maximum of ten acts in each category and thereafter a panel of judges was set up to scrutinize the given lists to come up with five in each category.
These five were then put up to a public voting. Just to jog up your memory:
In category 12 of the Best Female Artist - there were Ethel Kamwendo, Stella Mwanza, Aycee James, Princess Chitsulo, Favoured Martha
Category 11 of the Best Male Artist had Skeffa Chimoto, Lawi, Lulu, Dan Lu, and Katelele Ching'oma. Category 10 of the Best Acoustic/Jazz Artist had Lawi, Agorosso, Mawanga and Amalavi Movement and Alinafe Jimu.

Category 09 of the Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist had Gwamba, K2B Block, Dominant 1, Tay Grin, Physics; Category 08 of the Best Reggae Artist had Truemale, Black Missionaries, Anthony Makondetsa, Sally Nyundo and Soul Raiders. Category 07 of the Best R n B Artist had Bucci, Sonye, Theo Thomson, Dan Kalima, Rhythm and Beyond, while Category 06 of the Best Gospel Artist (Female) the names up for the top spot were that of  Princess Chitsulo, Favoured Martha, Gloria Manong'a. Ethel Banda, Mada Ngoleka and on the opposite  Category 05 of the Best Gospel Artist (Male) had King James Phiri, Lloyd Phiri, Thoko Katimba, Evance Meleka, Allan Chirwa.

Lucius Banda, Gwamba, Skeffa Chimoto, Piksy, Dan Lu were put in Category 04 of the best Contemporary Afro Pop artist while in Category 03- Best of the best DanceHall Artist had Blasto, Black Jack, NesNes, King Chambiecco and Nyasa Queens lined up for the top accolade.

Agorosso, Katelele Ching'oma, Edgar  and Davis, Gides Chalamanda, Moses Makawa were in Category 02 of the Best Neo-Traditional Artist while in Category 01 of the Best New Artist had Adrian Kwelepeta, Flo-Dee, Bingo Lingo, Sangie, Mada Ngoleka.

The starting point was the nomination: if you did not want any of those that won why did you not nominate them in the first place? Some of you are of the view that others did not deserve the top spot. I share with you such sentiments.
My pick for example is Category 07 of the Best R n B Artist which had Bucci, Sonye, Theo Thomson, Dan Kalima, Rhythm and Beyond. The award was scooped by Kalima but believe you me, I have never heard of the guy before the award.
This however does not give me any right to scorn the whole process as a charade that mocked the music industry in the country. I would have settled for Theo Thomson in this category but because I did not vote for him, there was no way he would have made it. Let’s say I indeed voted for Theo, and ten voted for another, obviously he would have won.
Others claim that the nominees bought enough airtime and voted for themselves numerous times and to them this was cheating. Surely this is what we call creativity at its best especially when the rules are silent.  
Otherwise take part before you start showing about the accusing finger, in short, nominate and vote but if you don’t , then just shut up!