Saturday, May 28, 2016
Have the Four theories of the Press outlived their usefulness in explaining government-media relationship in Malawi?
Long before the Malawi media took shape in earnest, three professors of communication, Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm came up with the book Four Theories of the Press in 1956 which still made sense even during the colonial authority, when Malawi published her first newspaper.
The colonial period of 1891 to 1963, single party - 1964 to 1992 and the democratic pluralism, which started in 1993 best categorised Malawi’s three phases of political history which cannot be divorced from its media archetype.
The broadcasting history for Malawi starts from the Federal Broadcasting Corporation to Radio Malawi in 1963 and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on the attainment of Independence. MBC remained a sole broadcaster in the country until 1998 when a first ‘private’ commercial radio was launched.
The same tale would also be told of the television services when the Malawi Television (TVM) was the only one broadcasting to Malawians from Malawi from 1998 until ‘religious’ television stations were given licences in the early 2000.
Going by what each theory stands for when we consider the Four Theories of the Press, there is a sneaking temptation to try to identify Malawi with each, considering the five regimes that have come and went, starting with the British Colonial Authority, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) single party rule of President Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the three multiparty regimes of Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF), Bingu wa Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the current Joyce Banda’s Peoples’ Party(PP).
In this write-up, I will tackle the question “Have the Four Theories of the Press outlived their usefulness in explaining government-media relationship in Malawi?”
By picking out each theory (Authoritarian, Libertarian, Soviet/Communist, and Social Responsibility) and try to fit it in the Malawi frame, and establish its relevance or lack of it, I will be able to tell the history of Malawi media and the intricacies that have made it grow skins in the face of political pressure over the years.
The authoritarian theory
Praveen Karthik says under the authoritarian theory, the state, as the highest expression of institutionalized structure, supersedes the individual runs the state on behalf of the not so competent and interested citizenry that is considered unable to make critical political decisions.
In Malawi, under the authoritarian theory the President or a ruling political party are the ones in a leadership role.
Before the Colonial government realised that the publications of missionaries – earliest published in 1881 (Chitsulo & Mang’anda 2011) – were not the right channel to communicate through, it was these religious groupings which were taking the role of the elite group under the authoritarian theory to exercise social control through the religious teachings.
The colonial government, however, took over this role in 1894 with their official mouth piece The British Central African Gazette (Chitsulo & Mang’anda 2011) to articulate government policies and highlight its activities, especially in the critical areas of agriculture, legislation, health, weather and human resources.
This was befitting the chief purpose of the authoritarian theory which is to support and advance the policies of the government in power and to service the state (Severin & Tankard 2010).
However when in 1895 two Zomba based white settlers, R.S. Hynde and R.R. Stark started producing The Central African Planter it still did not take away the fact that the authoritarian theory was in play as ownership is in the hands of the public through their government and the private sector.
As an instrument of effecting government policy, not necessarily government owned though, The Central African Planter announced in its first publication that it was an organ devoted to the planting interests of the community, which it claimed the British Central Africa depended on.
As power exchanged hands, with the exiting of the colonial government and the entering into mantle of leadership by MCP, it was an indication that the party wanted to advance its position.
In 1959 MCP established Malawi News which came into the scene as a political and Independence fighting tool.
This was proven to be true, when after attaining self-rule in 1963, Independence in 1964 and a republican status in 1966 the publication continued with propaganda for MCP and development initiatives for the new government. (Chitsulo & Mang’anda 2011).
Chitsulo and Mang’anda rightly strengthen this position when they put it this way:
“It was joined by in the MCP stable by a sister publication, The Times, later renamed today’s The Daily Times which Dr. [Hastings Kamuzu] Banda the self styled President for life had acquired from Blantyre Printing and Publishing Company.”
As a description of the post-colonial media system Professor Fackson Banda writing about Malawi and Zambia once said upon the liberation of both countries from British colonialism, the structure of media ownership changed. Hitherto privately owned media became “nationalised”, which meant that they became the property of the state.
Banda says to extend this point: it meant that the ruling parties became key players in the ownership of the media. This is particularly evident in the Malawian case.
Indeed, this integration of the media into the structure of the then-ruling MCP degenerated into a media legacy that Prof. Banda says has come to be described as follows:
• Complete control of the media by the political elite (recruitment, editorial content, etc.).
• Stifled independent media.
• Monopolisation and control of the Blantyre Print & Publishing Company and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation by the Government.
• Insufficient funding to stimulate establishment of more printing and publishing houses and electronic media.
It is within this period that MBC was also launched to have one voice as Dr. Banda argued that pluralistic media ...would impede progress and invite rancour and disunity. (Manjawira & Mitunda 2011)
These media outlets were then turned into instruments that took the positions of educators and propagandists that propagated the one party policies of the MCP government.
Those that practiced journalism at the time were also considered privileged and therefore owed an obligation to the leadership.
This was also the entry point when multiparty system of government led by UDF and President Bakili Muluzi took over power.
Muluzi and UDF made journalists their puppets where the media that published and broadcast anti-government news would not be supported financially or otherwise, thereby forcing the media to tow a party line and fell into the tentacles of the authoritarian theory.
The same was perpetuated by the DPP government of Bingu wa Mutharika and lately President Joyce Banda through the arrests of media practitioners and her refusal to append her signature to the Table Mountain Declaration.
PP’s action is in a way a means to force the mass media to operate in a certain set up that befits a similar role as it posits an authority that is appropriately taking after authoritarian portrayal, where the media can only operate under a kind of freedom as the national leadership, at any particular time, is willing to permit.
The libertarian theory
Considering that England adopted the libertarian theory in the 1688 (Severin & Tankard 2010) and that it can be traced back to England and the American colonies of the seventeenth century, one would suggest that Malawi being under the British Colonial powers would enjoy the benefits of this theory more than it did with the authoritarian theory.
It only had to wait until the multiparty system of government in Malawi in 1994, that the country enjoyed more benefits of the libertarian theory whose chief purpose (Severin & Tankard 2010) is to inform, entertain, and sell, although chiefly is to help discover truth and to check on government although this could not be earned with 100 percent rake as the political leadership indirectly still gave room to the authoritarian theory.
During Bakili Muluzi regime, Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) was not being patronised by government for its critical stand against his rule.
Muluzi also warned he would resort to using sedition laws against the media that insulted him (Ifex 17 June 1996) saying under the 1930 Penal Code for Sedition a person could be charged with sedition for inciting dissent against the president.
Previously, as was reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 21 May, President Muluzi had also warned journalists that he would not tolerate what he called "inaccurate reporting" which harmed the country's image. Muluzi was apparently angered by a newspaper report which alleged that a local company had given him a free vehicle in order to give that company favourable treatment.
According to an IFEX alert of May 21, 1996 although Muluzi said that press freedom was guaranteed in Malawi, he reportedly stressed that "If I seek legal advice, journalists should not squeal and try to hoodwink the international community that the president of Malawi and members of his government are depriving journalists of their freedom".
The successor to Muluzi, late President Bingu wa Mutharika, had his own share of the tendency to make authoritarian and libertarian theories co-exists, especially when he was serving his second and last term (Gondwe 2011).
He became notorious in the world media sphere when he championed the amendment of Section 46 of the Penal Code, which empowers information minister to ban any publication s/he would be injurious for public consumption.
In March 2009, Mutharika’s government released a circular to ministries and government departments ordering them to stop subscribing to and advertising in all three publications of the privately owned Nation Publications Limited.
What followed was that on 26 August 2010, Mutharika warned, “I will close down newspapers that lie and tarnish my government's image”. Mutharika was angered by the weekly Malawi News which had quoted a food security forecast by the Southern African Development Community that said more than a million Malawians faced starvation because of poor rains in several districts.
This was one of Mutharika's first public attacks on privately owned newspapers. “If I close you down, you'll rush to donors to say Bingu is suppressing the press,” he said. “I will close down any newspaper that publishes lies. You can go to the donors and I'll ask them whether in their countries they tolerate lies,” he continued.
True to his words, on 29 October 2010, the government banned The Weekend Times, with immediate effect. The weekly evening tabloid is published by the 100-year-old newspaper group BNL, and famous for exposing fraud and sex scandals involving public figures.
The banning order came from the National Archives, and quoted the 1958 Printed Publications Act, which demands that all newspapers be registered and deposit a copy of each of their publications with the National Archives.
BNL, however, applied for and received a stay order from the courts that restrained the government from implementing its decision and indication that, here the private sector was following the libertarian press theory which considers man as a rational animal with inherent natural rights; one of which is the right to pursue truth, and in the process restraining potential interferes from the authority like Mutharika, in this instance.
Barely five months after Joyce Banda took over presidency Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) put out an alert concerning proposed law that would impose stricter regulations on internet communications and force editors of online publications to register their personal details with the state.
The attitude of President Banda’s government was manifested in October last year, (Somerville, 2012) when Justice Mponda, a journalist for the news website Malawi Voice, was arrested on charges of insulting the president, criminal libel and publishing false information.
Although the chief purpose of libertarian theory remain that that a free press working in a laissez faire and unfettered situation will naturally result in a pluralism of information and viewpoints necessary in a democratic society, it remains to be seen if the Malawi media can work without being systematically clamped down.
The Soviet/communist theory
Malawi was siding the West during the cold war and at no time did it ever come under the spotlight of the communist theory of the press, whose chief purpose was to contribute to the success and continuance of the soviet socialist system.
The Mass media, under this theory, is state-owned and closely controlled media existing solely as arm of the state.
Of Malawi’s five regimes none has ever attempted to make the media part of the state apparatus. Although others would try to argue otherwise, this theory has never existed in Malawi and still holds no future potential to appear again especially considering that even in countries where it is still being practiced like in China there have been remarkable changes.
But even thought the majority of the media in China today are still owned by the state, there are some joint ventures already with foreign investment, including a joint-venture Internet service in technology information between the People’s Daily and the News Corp owned by Australian media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch (Reuters, 1998).
The social responsibility theory
According to this theory, its main purpose is to inform, entertain, and sell. Chiefly it is to raise conflict to the plane of discussion (Severin & Tankard).
This is a theory that can also be identified with the current Malawi media sphere.
With what is now referred to as ‘Citizen Journalism’ where newspapers like The Weekend Nation now carries special pages, as well as the new social forums on the internet like Facebook, Twitter as well as interactive websites for online media publications, it is clear that this theory has found enough room to flourish.
In trying to answer the questions who has the right to use the media under this theory and how are media controlled, (Severin & Tankard) answered that everyone has something to say, community opinion, consumer action, and professional ethics.
Although this social responsibility theory is a product of mid-twentieth century America, its proponents say it has its roots in libertarian theory. As rightly captured by Karthik, this theory goes beyond the libertarian theory, in that it places more emphasis on the press's responsibility to society than on the press's freedom.
As rightly captured by (African Media Barometer 2012), there is a considerable amount of legislation, which can be used to restrict freedom of expression in Malawi which can work against the social responsibility theory and these include sections of:
• The Penal Code of 1930, which criminalises libel, sedition and defamation; and
• The Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act of 1967, which prohibits the cartooning of the president;
• The Police Act of 1946;
• The Official Secrets Act of 1913 and
• The Censorship and Control of Entertainments Act of 1968 (P-16)
The Four theories of the Press, have therefore not outlived their usefulness in explaining government-media relationship in Malawi, especially considering that even with the social responsibility as being the main stay for the country’s modus operandi of the media, there are still laws regulating the media which are still under the leash of government.
The theories are still useful considering the changing dynamics of the media with the advent of the internet which necessitate what Severin and Tankard said:
“Media must assume obligation of social responsibility; and if they do not, someone must see that they do.”
1. Barratt, E & Berger, G (2007). 50 Years of Journalism; African Media since Ghana’s independence. Johannesburg, South Africa. The African Editors’ Forum, Highway Africa and Media Foundation for West Africa
2. Gondwe, G (2011). Malawi repressive media laws making a comeback. Retrieved from:
3. Karthik, P (2012).What is the Four Theories of the Press? Retrieved from
4. Kondowe, E.B.Z., Kishindo, P.J., & Mkandawire F.R. (2011). Journalism Practice in Malawi: History, Progress and Prospects. Blantyre Malawi. UNESCO
5. Misa (1996). President Bakili Muluzi threatens to use sedition laws against politicians who insult him. Retrieved from:
6. Mochaba, K., Raffinetti, C., Vallabh S., & White J. (2003). SADC Media Law: A Handbook for Media Practitioners: A comparative overview of the laws and practice in Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Johannesburg, RSA. Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
7. Severin, W.J &Tankard, J.W. (2010). Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, and Uses in the Mass Media. New York, US: Addison Wesley Longman
8. Somerville, K (2013). Malawi’s muffled media: Same as it ever was. Retrieved from:
9. UK Essays (2010). Press Media Journalism. Retrieved from:
10. VonDoepp, P. (2012). Countries at the Crossroads 2012 – Malawi. Washington, USA. Freedom House. available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/505c172d2d.html
 Communication Theories, Origins, Methods, And Uses in the Mass Media, Fifth Edition by Werner J. Severin & James W. Tankard, Jr
 50 Years of Journalism; African Media Since Ghana’s independence Edited by Elizabeth Barratt and Guy Berger
 Journalism Practice in Malawi, History, Progress and Prospects by Kondowe et al
Sunday, April 17, 2016
I am impressed with Wailing Brothers’ maiden album rightly named – ‘Unfinished Project’.
They don’t even waste time to get down to business. The opening track ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ is a loaded dice. It leaves you scampering all over the place for cover; running away from own shadow apparently. It’s so allegorical reminiscent of compositions of their first known leader Evison Matafale – not that I am disregarding the fact that the band was started by Elias Chokani.
This track leaves you with so many questions whose answers are in the chorus – ‘It is as you say’.
This particular track, like the rest that have been led on vocals by Chikumbutso Simbi, is a revelation of more than one thing; the sibling band leadership of Paul and Takudziwani Chokani has realised their deficiencies in delivering vocal output. I might speculate that this is perhaps the reason they had Matafale in the initial stages.
My observation is not without proof as it has been rightly represented in the tracks that Taku is on vocals which clearly show that this voice gift God did not provide him with when He bequeathed him with the skilful manner he puts on display when given a lead guitar.
In the track ‘Afritune’ the band has been very naughty with experiment where they play African drums that have been well intertwined with reggae elements coming up with a piece of work oozing refined creativity. There could never have been any better way to pay their tribute to their fallen brothers and cousins in Elias and Luis, Gift and Musamude Fumulani and of course Matafale, than in the ‘Afritune’.
The track does not demand stringent vocal levels that separate the novice from the elite. It has therefore suited the voices of its lead vocalists Taku and Paul.
‘Levi’ is a track which like ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ is serious minded reggae track. This is the album’s other best, done by Chiku on the vocals and like ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ it is inclined towards religious, or is it spiritual foundation.
The flair with which the works of ‘Unfinished Project’ has been appropriated is easily noticed in these tracks. This is the more reason why, unlike those who faulted the revival of Wailing Brothers, I still maintain that we really needed a different voice of reggae in the industry.
This is a superlative variety; I would hate to call it an alternative to productions by Black Missionaries because to do so will be playing into the hands of those who are chanting that music is a mission and not competition in reference to the departure from the Blacks by Paul and Taku to reawaken Wailing Brothers.
‘Sindidzakusiya’ is a love track full of praise of a beloved woman which is another delivery from Chiku offered in a typical reggae beat, riddled with the usual rub-a-dub thump that goes with a serious bass line.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, the highly promoted track in the album is a mixture of the complicated and the simple and not so complicated vocal pitch arrangement. Of course the mistake has come about with the inclusion of this complicated vocal counter which clearly shows that it does not suit Taku’s natural vocal strength.
Even the best instrumentation that goes with this track is failing to conceal this vocal inadequacy; when you have the opportunity to listen to the track especially when being performed live, and then you will get the perfect opportunity to appreciate my observation.
I am not sure who is behind the compositions in the album as the information on the sleeve does not say anything. Of course this is one information aspect that lack in Malawi music. However, going by quasi-religious themed tracks that have been vocalised by Chiku, I would be tempted to believe that those putting up the voices to these tracks in the album are also the ones that composed them.
Take for example a track called ‘Tikudikira Munthuyo’ which has been built on a Biblical story of slavery that the Israelites suffered at the hands of Pharaoh. Apparently this is a prayer to God to save them from servitude.
Toza Matafale who is known to do covers for his late brother Evison with a kind of clinical imitation that can be mistaken for the original voice of Evison, going by his live stage performances with The Blacks and lately with Wailing Brothers, did not live up to the billing in ‘Nkhawa Biii’ also in the album.
I have said before that covers or what others mistakenly call ‘copyright songs’ that are based on compositions of the greats ought to have a unique element that should add value to the original and not devalue it. I am afraid this performance has achieved the latter.
‘Hungry Tiger’ one of the three English tracks in the album is also another reggae piece which forces you to listen to all its intended delivery. It has been done with mature weightiness. It has a ring to some vocal productions of Jamaican Alvin ‘Keith’ Porter of the Itals, but again as earlier observed it has a religious connotation. Why, because there is Chiku on the vocals.
The chorus tells you that once polished just a little bit, then Wailing Brothers Band has a lead vocalist in Chiku, who can take head on any international reggae stage and perform without bringing any shame to compatriots.
‘Dzuka’ has a Robert Fumulani identity. This is a track whose vocalist is drummer Paul Chokani. According to my appraisal he is a notch up than Taku in vocal abilities but this is not to say he has what it takes for him to depart from the drum set and take over the vocal leading mantle. He is still best suited as the gifted drummer whose skills and talent few can match and this is where he belongs.
‘Sing a Song’ whose vocals have been done by Taku is where he is challenging that as long as he lives he shall sing a song. No dispute about that of course, but just like another track ‘Hallelujah’ where he is on vocals, this is where he has proved my conviction right that lead guitar is his place and calling but not vocals.
‘I Love My Guitar’ done by Taku and Paul has the same vocal shortfalls underlining the fact why this album’s title is indeed ‘Unfinished Project’.
This album reminds us once again that for over a couple of decades now, Donald Custom and MacDonald Chimkango remain the best recording backing vocalists Malawi has ever produced and their work in this album is unblemished.
But the vocals on the ‘I Love My Guitar’ piece have progression that tells us all but one thing; that there is still need of a great deal of improvement. The title of the track is in a way a telling testament that Taku better show his love for the guitar by somehow sticking to it more that his attempt on lead vocals.
Those that are true lovers of music in general, and ardent reggae listeners in particular, will doff their hats off for this particular album.
This is one of the few best reggae albums in Malawi but nevertheless it tells us that Wailing Brothers music mission is an incomplete project that needs to be perpetuated not finished.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
On the account of the contagious awe that his six previous albums have drawn out of many people, Anthony ‘Mr. Cool’ Makondetsa decided to carve another piece of facet that has become the most shining of his multi-faceted career when he released of ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ - his seventh album.
Since his first album in 2000, ‘Tisatengeke’ the journey has been that of hope. And 2016 we are told an Eighth album is in the making. But let’s talk about ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’.
Toils without Dividends
Makondetsa himself reminiscences that he always cherished the dream that, “with music I will get wealthier than doing anything else.”
Buoyed by this belief and the fact that he comes from a musical family, the following year in 2001, he released ‘Kambelembele’ in the hope that to have two albums in the bag would translate into a six-figured financial statement.
Perhaps he was doing things in a hurry and had a break of two years before unleashing a third and fourth album within two years. In 2003 he christened ‘Maonekedwe’ as the third album followed two years later by another one; ‘Mfakafaka’.
It is now apparent that every two years, Makondetsa releases an album if the release in 2007 of ‘Ndilibe Mlandu’ tagged along by ‘Mbumba ya Abraham’ in 2009 is rendering enough clues to reinforce this observation.
But well, it is flatly challenged by the release of ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ which came after four years.
The answer is in what Makondetsa says is his new posture of protest.
“At the rate we are going, I realised that in my country Malawi you can entertain the people through music for the rest of your life but still die a pauper,” observes Makondetsa.
He says for years, and after invading the hall of fame with seven albums which means an average of 84 tracks, there is nothing to show and yet through music in other countries, just one track has catapulted musicians to stardom.
“While the marketing system is a big letdown, then there is piracy to contend with. Piracy is lethal poison that is eventually going to kill the music industry,” says Makondetsa who rubs it in the face of most Malawians who help piracy by buying pirated music.
Makondetsa says from the preceding Mbumba ya Abraham album before the latest Fuko Lokondedwa; he made a decision that he will sing religious songs which will take him closer to his God in protest against lack of progress despite fame and more musical products.
“I realised that the schedule of this career takes me on the road half of the time and in a way was pushing me away from my God,” he explicates, “I discovered that I needed to create a situation where, if I don’t get anything from music then I should always talk with my God through music for my own spiritual benefit and satisfaction.”
“Now even when they will pirate my music and leave me a destitute, with God you don’t lose anything,” he philosophises.
Now, besides the protest for lack of assets accumulation out of music and that Makondetsa, a father of 13-year-old Yankho who though in Standard 5 is already a keyboard expert, says he is spending more time reading the Bible where he is getting inspiration to come up with latest compositions.
And indeed this reggae album has given people another reason why they should keep on mistaken ‘Mr. Cool’ as the de facto leader of the Chileka outfit – The Black Missionaries.
But perhaps without trying to be judgemental, it is only fair to state that his latest ‘drudgery’ only manages to confuse his followers more as it still adds to the myth that are in the themes of his message.
It reminds all, of living and fallen stars that once shone and still shines, and provide unfading light to the Singano Village in Chileka.
One that quickly comes to mind is the star in fallen Gift Fumulani. He is Makondetsa’s cousin, whose last ten-track album ‘Mphamvu yake Mulungu’ still controls its place in the hall of fame as one such musical artefact that is more revealing. Long he had also decided to get his inspiration from the Bible.
Nonetheless like Makondetsa’s ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ it is a very personal statement of one man whose mind was still searching for a right spiritual sanctuary.
While Fumulani’s last ‘toils’ was an interface of intercession, mingled in a psycho-religious dilemma, spiritual declaration, interlocked with an expression of love devotion, in Makondetsa’s latest ‘efforts’ there is one religious man whose every track is incomplete without mentioning the name of God the father and the Son – Jesus.
Look at the opening track of the 11 tracks in the album, ‘Ali Pompano’ which impresses on the message that Jesus gave to his disciples that the one that will betray the Son of Man was amongst them. You are left wondering to whom the message is being directed to.
“Eeeh! Ali pompano – Yemwe azakupachike”(Yes he is here – the one who will crucify you)
Indee! Ali pompano – Omwe azakupele.”(Yes they are here - those who will betray you)
It shows that Mr. Cool loves to be allegorical in the lyrical aspect of his tracks.
Remember ‘Ndilibe Mlandu’? It does not specifically state its theme on one attempt of trying to understand its lyrical content.
“It’s just a gift from God that I can present my musical message in such a parable like way,” acknowledges Mr. Cool.
Gospel, Spiritual or religious
The second track, ‘Podzatitenga’ is something artists like Lloyd Phiri will turn green with envy with as it is a typical of what they call gospel tracks, still bringing confusion to the question, Who is a gospel artist?
‘Muyuda’ which is one of the album’s biggest hits has the same ring to it but I don’t agree to describe it as a gospel track, it’s rather a religious track.
“You can’t identify what I sing as what has become accepted in Malawi as Gospel music. It’s not spiritual music,” says Makondetsa before agreeing, “But yes it is religious music.”
Uyu ndi muyuda; Ochokela/wobadwira ku Yudea
Abale ake nga Chiyuda; Ndiye Mfumu ya ayuda
The rhyming chorus above has become explosive, and like is the case with the past works; these tracks tend to become street anthems.
‘Fire Time’ one of two English tracks is also talking about the son of man who is about to finish the revelation with fire, while the other English track ‘Black Woman’ is where he is expressing love of his black beautiful woman whom he cannot stay without.
This track and ‘Sadziwa’ as well as ‘Sudzampeza’ are the only three tracks that have no where mentioning Jesus and God, perhaps because they are love tracks.
Mr. Cool of the tribe of Benjamin
The title track ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ is Makondetsa’s favourite: “In this track I am talking to my God and I feel good about the sensation it emits when I am singing it.”
There is a track dedicated to his grandfather Enoch Robert Fumulani called ‘Wagwa Mtengo’. He passed on to our ancestors four years ago.
He says as someone whose mother was last born as was the case with Biblical Benjamin – by the way, Robert Fumulani Jnr. father to his Black Missionaries cousins was 5th born while Arnold, father to late Gift and Moda was 8th while his mother was 9th – he made the track his personal docket.
“In this track I talk about myself and family in earnest. I talk about me and my upbringing in the household of my grandparents,” says the diminutive father of three, whose other two children are Anthony Junior and little daughter Salome.
In the book of Genesis 49 Jacob blessed all his 12 children and when it was the turn of Benjamin whom Makondetsa identifies with, he said “Benjamin is the ravenous wolf, devouring his enemies in the morning and dividing his plunder in the evening.”
Does this signpost that it is time for pirates to take cover?
The 11 track reggae album, [of course ten tracks, if one considers the dub version inclusion of Fire Time], is a typical of Makondetsa album, except that the Biblical influence seems to be doing wonders; besides its protest approach, it is quite engaging and one can only respond to Mr. Cool’s pleas and buy a copy.
“Piracy, especially in Lilongwe where it is being done on a large scale, is compromising our status and considering the poor music industry, I don’t know what Malawians are expecting us to become,” bemoans Makondetsa.
Charles Nsaku is a musician that the young ‘urban’ age can not relate to; at least this is according to my submission.
Nsaku emerged on the scene from a very different Balaka route, but it was Balaka nonetheless.
A wealthy business person had started a band which he called Mwizalero Band in Balaka and that’s where he cut his professional teeth.
If you ask me, I will put Nsaku with a special generation of musicians who brought a special wind of music direction in the country. The Generation marshalled by Sir Paul Banda.
Paul’s younger brother Lucius prides himself as one who at one point or the other hosted many popular musicians when he established his Zembani Band and in the process helping to begin careers of Mlaka Maliro, Paul Chaphuka(Late), Billy Kaunda, Coss Chiwalo, Wendy Harawa, Emma Masauko, Enort Mbandambanda, Charles Nsaku etcetera.
But I put them in one music generation and of all those that emerged from this generation, only Lucius Banda can confidently declare that he is indeed moving with time. He has survived the tides and has responded to the present day demand. In my own words, I can say he has managed to migrate from analogue to digital.
It has been a process that has taken longer than one would anticipate. But one just needs to the listen to Lucius albums that he has hauled from past to the present including the present one rightly called ‘Thank You’.
Pardon my digression; I want to talk about Charles Nsaku. His choice of migration from analogue to digital was a little bit uncharacteristic and proven not to be in compatible with the system.
Being someone who has been around, especially when he established his band called ‘Ali ku Town Sounds’ many artists claim to have gone through his hands via the band including the current big names like Skeffa Chimoto.
Now, in an effort to return the favour, sometime last year Skeffa decided to hold a joint show with his mentor Nsaku at Wakawaka. The mistake that was made was to still use the obsolete ‘windows’ into the present advanced sophisticated operating system. You know issues of incompatibility.
Nsaku was still using the language he used to tell the fans he was performing before 15 years ago; still tried ‘Ankolo Pansi pa Bedi’, ‘Makaniki’, ‘Economy’, ‘Ndiphike Nyemba’, etcetera, oh God, it just could not click.
He really tried hard but it was apparent that most of the youthful patrons that had come for the show only waited for Skeffa as they could not identify themselves with the tracks of the old. No wonder those of old age responded with gusto and worse still the turnout was not one that is associated with Skeffa Chimoto, meaning even the old ones could be counted with the fingers of just one hand.
One thing is now clear; either Nsaku has to retain his niche market that has fallen for his music over the time or he has to adjust and adapt to the market demand.
At his time, musicians used to make a lot of money by selling cassette albums through OG Issah music distribution system. Now this is system is no longer relevant.
Not even CDs are an attraction as with the advent of digital production and piracy of course; people carry all the lifetime albums of an artist in just one singe CD or a memory stick in the name of MP3.
MP3 or MPEG Media layer III was designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as a means of compressing a sound sequence into a very small file, to enable digital storage and transmission.
What has to happen now is even a change to the approach of Nsaku music. The studio work has to be different from what he used to do. Now people popularise music that has been well done and this advertises for one’s upcoming live shows. This is where the musicians are currently mining their gold.
Unless Nsaku takes a drastic shift in his approach, he will be best suited to perform in our museums.
Lucius Banda has managed to avoid this by appealing to the present as well. When he plays his music people of different generations still know he is their own. One clever way that Lucius has managed to do to achieve this is to circumvent the issue of analogue and meet half way down with digital all the time. He has always adroitly moved with the pace. He has his place in all the generations. He has even co-opted into his album productions all youthfull musicians of the moment through collaborations among others.
If for example Joseph Nangalembe was to come back to perform today, it will be folly for him to expect to have a pull that he was commanding in his time with the performance of the old which was also meant for the audience of then.
Nsaku has been in the wilderness for so long, his comeback cannot be on the basis of riding on his ghost. On the said day, he even tried to bring along his younger brother Dave. Apart from the dreadlocks Dave is sporting now, he was just the same old one; energetic on stage yes, but with the same style that appealed to the old folks.
Sorry guys, times have changed, move with it if you still want to matter in the current Malawi music scenario.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
When Chris Kele says ‘it is a disdainful attempt’ to even compare the aspect of art and trade in Malawi music to that of South Africa, you might think he is only trying to cheapen the local industry because he has hit gold in the rainbow nation.
But when you hear him tell you how the South African government is unlike their Malawi counterpart when it comes to supporting music then you would understand why after 3 years of sojourning South Africa he can claim victorious.
Unlike Malawi where only sports can be the only engagement government can support, in South Africa, government’s tune is cheery to the ear of musical artists.
“If the [Malawi] government would fully support music the way it does with soccer, Malawian music industry would turn down side up for sure,” says Kele.
Kele the Producer
And why can’t you believe him.
As a guitarist with authority, studio artist with clout, a composer with finesse and professional producer with proficiency of the trade, Kele has made it big in a music industry where talent beckons you to more prosperity but only when you stand out to be counted.
“One good thing about South Africa is that music is highly appreciated and well understood,” he intones. “And if you are good and strong minded musically, it gets easy.”
Kele believes that the South African music industry is in high-speed in every sense including technological and organisational characteristic because musicians are treated very seriously while government support is without stint or limit.
Composing for Ringo
When Kele travelled to the rainbow nation, he worked with different artists in studios besides performing with several musicians and other artists.
At the moment he says he has composed a song for Ringo which they are to record soon.
If you must know, Ringo is a South African celebrated jazz guitarist, full name Ringo Madlingozi, who has released a string of highly successful albums that have garnered several awards, including Best Male Vocalist at the South African Music Awards as well as Best Male Artist (Southern Africa) and Best Male Vocalist (African Continent) at the Kora awards.
His journey started in 1986 when his band Peto won the Shell Road to Fame contest and ever since he has built a prosperous career, collaborating with celebrated artists and groups including UB40, Dillon O’Bryan and HHP.
Many local artists know that Kele is no stranger to the local industry either, having cut his first tooth as a producer with the all great MC Studios, at the Lilongwe base.
And having learnt the ropes, Kele who has ever played alongside Erick Paliani, who is also riding high in South Africa, as well as multi-award winning Ben Michael Mankhamba in the Acacias Band, established his recording studio which he called 'Metro Jive Studio'.
His Malawi studio exploits was like undergoing rite of passage because once he hit South Africa he established himself by working with different artists as well as musicians in studios.
Already, he has produced artists like Born African, especially his latest album ‘The Past, Present and Future’.
“I'm currently producing a UK based South African Reggae dude by the name of King Pablo,” says Kele who has once again established a recording studio called Mavume Productions which deal with music production.
Kele the Band Man
Like he did with the studio, Kele also formed his own band in 2006 in Lilongwe which he called 'The Jazz Image Band' and had a three year contract agreement with Chameleon Cafe in Lilongwe.
“The Jazz Image Band was formed when I was in Malawi and the remaining guys are still playing Sunday Jazz at Chameleon cafe along State house road C-Centre,” he says.
Right there in South Africa, Kele has also formed a multinational band he is calling ‘Mavume Gurus Live' a similar name of his studio which in Venda language of South Africa he says means big noise from a huge crowd .
The band which has a South African bassist, a Ghanaian drummer, and a Zimbabwean keyboardist has Kele on the guitars, and already it has written itself a curriculum vitae of note considering the places and artists it has played with.
“With Mavume Gurus Live, we have performed in places around RSA, and I personally have performed in different stages in South Africa,” says Kele.
At Ditsong Museum he has played side by side with Jamaican reggae great Ibo Cooper. At State Theatre he has performed alongside Louis Mhlanga. At Shikisha Club he has executed musical shows alongside Sister Phumi. At Orange Farm Music Festival, Kele has shared stage with Zahara, Black coffee, Big Nuzz, Gangalee Adeluler, Bass line, and Pata Pata. He has also performed at The House of Tandoor, Afrocentric cafe, as well as in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland just to mention a few.
For one to be such a conqueror in South Africa, Kele says it is not just a matter of playing chords, but one has to know music communication within your group; one need to understand what the other fellow is playing and how to accompany him/her.
“If your goodness makes you visible, it is easy for other artists to notice you and that’s a starting point because here in South Africa one can be very talented but if he is not connected its difficult sometimes,” he says.
The industry is very advanced and depending on the genre that you play, once you advertise, he says you are likely going to have patronage of a kind of an audience that understands what you play.
“If you advertise for a Jazz show you should expect people who understand Jazz to be there,” he says.
This third born in a family of seven also says record companies in South Africa are real deal, unlike in Malawi where most exist in newspapers.
He says in South Africa, record companies have simplified what would have otherwise been a complex scenario for musicians.
“Record companies really help you. Once you are signed in, then you have made it, it’s up to you to deliver. Once a record company signs in turn show them songs which are making showbiz sense,” says Kele.
He says the day Malawi will have record companies, will be the baptism of fire for the local music industry from where, it will never be the same again.
Who is Chris Kele
Kele who declines to disclose his age is a widower, having lost his beloved wife Bertha.
He discovered his music interest at the age of nine while in Blantyre Mandala.
“Then when my parents moved to Lilongwe area 15, I met some friends like Erik Paliani, my own brother Mada and other guys. We started a musical group although we were primary school kids,” he recalls.
Kele says he did his primary school at Dharap in Blantyre and Chigoneka in Area 47 in Lilongwe before pursuing his secondary school studies at Zomba Catholic Sec School and Bvumbwe Private Sec School.
“I'm currently studying Music Management and theory in RSA while pursuing my music career too,” he says.
The ‘Ulendo’ Album
Kele who is now a single father to Nick and Samantha says he started the album project with his late wife Bertha five years ago.
“I wasn't sure of the type of Jazz I could do until I realised that I had great familiarity with Jazz which I then fused with other African rhythms,” he says.
“Bertha (late wife) helped me a lot on this album and she brought the choruses of several songs like 'Ulendo', “says Kele who says he can’t believe his wife whom he buried in Mulanje is gone.
Because the fusions of Jazz and African melodies / rhythms in his music he has coined a name for this particular genre and he is calling it 'AFRICULTURE JAZZ".
“I did it in seven languages as follows: Sena,Tumbuka, Shona, Nyanja, English, Yao and Zulu just to at least let everyone get something out of my music. I'm Sena though,” he says.
Kele says the album has been recorded at Mavume Productions, Nubian Studios and Zoi Recording Studio (RSA).
He says the album has different African flavours because he has worked with Ric Deja, the American saxophonist, Joy Sevens the South African Keyboard player and King David the Nigerian saxophonist.
Some of the musicians Kele has featured on the album include South Africa's jazz artists Nqobile Douglas and Samsam Manjeya.
Late Mayeso Chirwa also features in one of the tracks in the album called 'Dimingu' a re-edition originally done by Joseph Tembo.
"I had to use Mayeso because he was very familiar with the song,” explained Kele.