Tuesday, April 23, 2013
It would really be unfair to think that an old saying, ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ fits well with the monetary scenario of our musicians.
This is where it is said that once our musicians get money it evaporates in a split of second; even more quickly than boiled water in a Sahara desert.
To start with, someone explained to me that the reason some of us that are under a payroll of companies that we work for seem to be doing well, even until we retire, is because the companies control us, especially on how much we can spend within a month.
The salaries we get, which is then divided by way of a medical scheme and pension help us not to waste money unnecessarily.
The scenario is different with musicians. You remember how some musicians became millionaires overnight and how he blew all this money by living a high life, only to be dragged out of the Ivy League when they spent all the resources meant for their future.
The money that I would make in a decade can equal the money that a musician would make after selling a single album within a month.
What this means therefore is that we need the musicians to be taught, or to realise that this money that musicians make after sell of a single album is not to be spent today only and this is where the aspect of savings comes in.
Apart from very few musicians that have managed to invest, most musicians die very poor not because they never had an opportunity to amass a lot of wealth, but because they never managed it well.
Of course we have exceptions like Stonard Lungu who despite very good music that he produced over the years he never had an opportunity to earn money from his toils.
If you go on the market, you will be able to get any album that you would want to get for Joseph Nkasa or Lucius Banda, but you will not find anything at all for Lungu.
There was a time that I was looking for a track that Lungu had done and when I asked him he said he does not have it but I could get it from the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
This is because the industry has no money but a few have managed to get money out of luck.
When I talk of luck, what quickly comes to mind is the situation of Maskal and Piksy; one is the ambassador for Access while the other is for Airtel respectively.
When you think of how much Lulu and Dan Lu have been around in the industry as compared to Maskal and Piksy, you would realise that these would have been considered for the ambassadorial stints.
But luck does not follow a known pattern and this is why the monies that the artists are making today, better be well managed.
Their income today might peak or plunge unlike those that are on a salary.
The reason there is a failing on the part of managing these resources should not be left in the hands of artists themselves.
Bodies like the ministries of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, Copyright Society of Malawi and even the Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) should cultivate the entrepreneurial aspect of what these musicians meet in the course of their careers and how best they can invest their resources for posterity’s sake.
The bodies mentioned above should really be ashamed when musicians ask for alms even when they have a pool of wealth in their veins.
It is because of lack of action from these bodies that the Music industry in Malawi continues to be elusive to the main player who matters in the business.
The musician should stop to still being a beggar even in the face of all the talent, effort, sacrifice and courage to bring something on the music market.
For the musicians to be able to invest something has to also be done to some of the culprits that make musicians fail to achieve anything at all. The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation – MBC loves to play the music from the local artists although they do not love to pay back in form of royalties.
At one point Cosoma complained that MBC had a debt of K50 million in royalty arrears.
Executive Director for Cosoma Dora Makwinja left me with an impression as a woman who is resolute to protecting talent.
She once told me that as a body, she will ensure that not only is talent for the artist protected but that the artist also benefits from his or her endeavour.
As a country, we are yet to be on the road to achieve anything in this aspect because vultures are on the loose to pounce on anything that is on the market which they reproduce and sell while the artist is not even aware of what is happening.
So while we try to teach the musician to invest, let first help them market their music which we terribly failed to do with Lungu and let’s pay what is due to musicians.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
The Catholic Church has gone against the old age maxim that ‘a Prophet is never honoured in his land’ when it organised an event on March 31, 2013 in none other place than Balaka itself where legends of the Alleluya Band were recognised.
If you must know, the Church was the first to introduce education and of course an alternative religious knowledge – Christianity – in Malawi. By way of spreading the Gospel the church realised that it would not introduce religious teaching to the ignorant and sick followers. It thus built schools and hospitals.
During church services it introduced choirs that would give some harmonic touch to the everyday readings as by just reading verses it was killing the spirit of attention in the services.
This in away resulted in even making the church go a mile further by organising bands that would use modern musical instruments.
In Malawi bands came and went, but the coming of Alleluya Band, especially when it perpetuated at the time that Malawi crossed a very vital political bridge – from single party rule to multiparty democratic dispensation – meant that it would carry its duty of becoming a pioneer of some musical renaissance.
The band hogged the lime light when late Pope John Paul (the second), visited the country in May 1989. I was privileged to have watched the band long before it became famous at Nyungwe Parish around this time because at the time I was staying ku Namaka also known as Kwa Kachingwe in Chiradzulu.
Then I was absorbed in the way it played and never imagined that a day like this would come when I would be here and write about them.
Let me not digress, my point here is that we have been bored by eulogies that pour out from pundits and self-acclaimed experts when we lose those we say were the best in the things that they used to do when living.
Such stories have been heard or were heard during the funerals of the legendary Robert and Arnold Fumulani, Michael Mukhito Phiri, Allan Namoko, Stonard Lungu etc.
Now at 50, when the church, not Musicians Association of Malawi, or Copy Right Society of Malawi not even the Ministry of Culture honours Paul Banda then it makes my mouth dry with astonishment for this exactly falls into the very thing that I beg to happen on this page day in, day out.
I have said before that this is the band that helped the country to realise that music can also be recorded and put in cassette albums and sold so that you and me can listen to it in the comfort of our homes at a time of our choice provided we had cassette players.
Two years ago I wrote this entry:
“Cry Our Beloved Alleluya Band
Everyone who is not aware of our modern music history, I mean history of digital music, will better be told from the beginning. The beginning therefore will be telling a different story if it does not start from Alleluya Band.
You know, 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 Sir. 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.
There was a time when the sound that the pen once emitted from the drum was to the effect that whether one likes it or not Sir. Paul Banda ‘revolutionarised’ Malawi music.
This was the case because of this history and for Bwana Banda to achieve all his deserving accolades it was because he used Alleluya Band to launch his decorated musical career.
Lucius Banda 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.
But at Zuc Lodge in Balaka last Sunday, the man who started it all ‘Father Mario Pacifici’ lined up Paul and Lucius Banda, Elias Kamoto, Charles Sinetre, Noel Makadali, Samson Chikoti, Vincent Kachingwe, Foster Chimangafisi, Mati Kalima, Pat ‘A Big’ Tung’ande and
Philemon Mwamadi and saluted them. How about that?
Philemon Mwamadi and saluted them. How about that?
Sunday, March 31, 2013
As I promised last week, I want to discuss Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam) following a half an hour talk that I had with its President, Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango two weeks ago.
Rising from ‘Ashes’
As I have always complained in the last half of a decade that I have been writing about music on these pages, Mam has been a big letdown to me as well as to the owners – the musicians.
The initial mentality that was inculcated in the musicians was that Mam was a body that was there to be moving around with a begging bowl on behalf of musicians and that whatever ‘booty’ they would chance upon should be shared amongst the membership.
No wonder, to the shock of the current committee members, musicians always ask for alms. I can equally testify that many musicians have always begged for alms even from me.
The Rev. Mhango team has now a duty to change this defeatist attitude of musicians.
Whenever you attend meetings organised by Mam in the past, it was crammed by musicians – or so they called themselves thus – who had no single track under their name. Or artists who have only released a single track or album that even without getting any bragging rights as it turned out to be a total flop, still made the owners give themselves undeserved acclaim that they are musicians.
The type of membership is the one that was used to getting undeserved allowances. Most of whom have not been inside a classroom or if they did, they never stayed long enough in that classroom to help them breakthrough in the industry.
Musicians used to behave strangely when called for music clinics. Like a pupil or student demanding payment for attending school, the musicians also wanted Mam or organisers to pay them for attending training workshops aimed at improving their music careers. There was completely no wish to self sacrifice.
It was therefore clear that previous committees of Mam embraced mediocrity by associating with dubious musicians and ignoring well established musicians.
The Rev. Mhango team is lucky because it has realised there is need to change this status quo. Already they have engaged with local music gurus that include Sir. Paul and Lucius Banda, Wambali Mkandawire and Ma Blacks, to mention but a few, from whom they hope to tap wisdom and more knowledge on how best to steer the body forward.
This is a process that is aiming at regaining trust and ensuring that musicians become responsible to sacrifice not only for the good of their association but for their own good as well.
As a mother of all artists from different disciplines including Mam, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) has been operating in the last 7 years without a board.
Now, Mam says they have fought hard with other sister bodies and now government has promised to appoint a board this year.
Affiliation for Foreign Musicians
One other thing that Mam has negotiated with government for is to put up a mechanism where all foreign artists that come into the country to perform must pay temporary affiliation fee. This is because they come here to work and it would be one way where the association will get help by being given an opportunity for an alternative income.
Federation of Professional Musicians
Mam is not part, nay! Mam cannot be affiliated to Federation of Professional Musicians because as the requirements demand, the local musical body is not a union.
Rev. Mhango says at the moment they are currently negotiating with government so that they can attain a union status.
Within the association regionalism is also at the centre of its challenges, where musicians openly say they cannot work with the committee members running the association because they come from other regions in the country. This will only bring dire consequences for Mam and at the end of the day; the loser is the musician himself.
Fund Raising committee
It has always been strange that a body of musicians that has musical equipment has always been failing to organise fund raising shows. Now at the helm of the committee is Sally Nyundo and I am only waiting to hear what plan of action he will come up with so that by December we should hear how much Mam has fund raised and how this money has transformed the body.
Introduction of music in technical colleges
I have vigorously campaigned over here that music has to be drafted in the technical colleges. Previous committee never explored the possibility. I hope this time round this committee will do something about it.
There has never been one single trade that has generated youthful interest in Malawi at any given time than what music has done.
The technical colleges with music trade has to start with the elementary lessons in music in the first year, while in the second year, learners can choose who they want to become.
Guitarists, drummers, saxophonists, trombonists, percussionists, keyboardists or pianists should be one group while the other group should concentrate on music production, the third on music engineering in terms of studio recording while the other group should dwell on marketing.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Rock Sunday on Matindi
There are numerous misapprehensions when we hear or listen to a particular music genre. Even right here in our country there are mythical stories that go with the kind of music our musicians churn out.
There are illusionary views for reggae music which, for other strange forces, still receive an understanding from local and international gospel musicians, leading to its adoption by most of whom have their albums packed with reggae.
But there is isolation, or is it unwritten rule where rock music and its ‘satanic’ association have not enjoyed great reception; especially when it comes to hard rock.
What makes it worse is the fact that rock stars are, utmost, dressed in tattered jean clothes, not to mention the tattoos all over their bodies; bodies which are also pierced all over, even in unimaginable areas that only afford to send uncomfortable corporeal feeling down your spine, if you are religious.
Now, when I was switching around numerous radio stations last Sunday night, I think it was exactly at around 21:45 hours that I bumped into an inaugural musical programme on Matindi FM that, according to the presenter Alicia Siyasiya, will not only dish out rock music, hard and soft etcetera, but also dispel the illusions that has cast a bad spell on the way people accommodate the genre in Malawi.
I should believe, judging by her voice, the presenter is a young lady and what impressed me was the translucent passion in the genre that she demonstrated and the depth of knowledge that made the programme an element that sent me spell bound.
In between the programme she promised to present religious, or call it gospel tracks done in rock in the ensuing programmes just to show that the rock genre is not as bad as it sounds or the players behind it comport themselves.
This reminds me of pictorial story by Reuters found on this link http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=USRTR3F104#a=1
There is a Mexican priest Adolfo Huerta, known as "Gofo", who was ordained five years ago, but is described as an unconventional priest because he likes rock music, dyes the ends of his hair red, dresses in black, and enjoys riding his motorcycle.
Father Huerta who says it is important to demystify faith and accept people's differences without judgment, found God and priesthood while studying philosophy at the Pontifical University in Mexico City as well as working with HIV-positive patients and sex workers as a social activist.
In his sermons, Father Huerta references rock songs, quotes books and tells jokes. If you check his image you won’t differentiate it with that of Chad Robert Kroeger, a Canadian songwriter, singer, and guitarist best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist for the Canadian rock band Nickelback.
It is important to say it right here that rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in 1950s America before it developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States.
If your age is like mine, you will agree with me that our fathers and mothers will tell us how they used to grove to "rock and roll" beat around that time right here in Malawi, which would also take centre stage during the nationwide beauty contest.
Wikipedia states that Rock has also its roots in 1940s' and 1950s' rock and roll, and it is heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music besides drawing strongly on a number of other genres such as blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical sources.
Musically, it says, rock has centred on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with bass guitar and drums and it is a typically song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature utilizing a verse-chorus form.
It observes that the genre has become extremely diverse and common musical characteristics are difficult to define.
And this is the story Matindi Radio, through Rock Sunday is ready to tell us in order to demystify the unfounded illusion. I, for one applaud Alicia Siyasiya, her Executive Producer Vuto Zamadunga and the radio station for the effort.
When MAM President Calls
It is not always common that in this job, someone whom you discuss in critical shade should give you a call and pat you on the back.
Early last Monday I got a phone call from Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) President.
He humbled me when he said he buys the Malawi News to see what I have drummed out right here week in, week out.
Going by his explanation, which I intend to discuss here last week in long breath, if all the plan and vision that the good Reverend and his team have come up with will fall into place, I can say here without fear of contradiction that the life of a Malawi musician, who at the moment is liken to a street beggar, will never be the same. Please watch this space.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Malawi is a comical country to belong to. Its people are full of pretence. They will always bring a facade on almost everything they do. You believe what you see out of your own peril.
The story of Snowden Ibu is one typical example of such pathetic pretence. The country waits the day that this acoustic vibes master will come out and tell us that he has cancer and then the bells of recognition will ring at the same time before they will die out and bring out an intimidating dearth.
You don’t believe me? Look no further than at Stonard Lungu to know what I mean.
Lungu sang for us in all his life time and until cancer struck him, everyone else wanted to pretend to suggest how best he could be helped. The frustrating thing with Malawi is that they will give out millions of Kwacha for the ruling People’s Party night and only talk on what Lungu can do to raise money. We will help those that are not in need at all but let the helpless to find their way out of their financial or health maze, by themselves.
Having failed to elicit any positives from his begging bowl to have his cancer treated, Lungu was forced to go on stage to try to still perform even when he was experiencing excruciating pain in order to raise money to save his life, which was never to be.
Now, if you talk of acoustic artists that have graced our entertainment space in this country, the story will remain incomplete when it is told, minus the name, Snowden Ibu.
What is now surprising me is the revelation that even when I can recall lines of the track “Ndachita Mwayi” it is clear I listened to the music from radio MBC:
“Ndinali Kuyenda Pamseu;Tsiku Lina m’mawa
Apo ndinakumana ndi mkazi, amene ndinamulonjela
Ndinati mulibwanji; anati ndilibwino kaya inu anzanthu
Ndinamulankhula mawu; anandiyankha mokondwa,
Anati ndachita mwayi, Anati ndachita mwayi
Poyankhulidwa ndi inu bambo”
You can imagine that it is long time ago that I listened to this track, but I am still able to recall what its lyrics calls are and even the accompanying acoustic rhythm.
And to imagine that a musician of such influence, whose talent he has given to us all; soothing us with his music since 1969 when he began his career, he has no penny to show for it; how more heart breaking can it get.
It is even unbelievable that this acoustic maestro does not have a physical album that you can find on any shelve, be it in homes, or music libraries in the country, because he cannot afford one. Aren’t we a big joke as a country?
To start with, Musicians Association of Malawi should, at least, by now have been enforcing a deliberate policy to promote artist that have been tried and tested like Ibu.
By this time, the association should have been trembling in its wake at every mention of musicians like Mr. Ibu. He is the kind of guy whose musical pedigree only equals the figures that have long died; the likes of Allan Namoko, Lungu, Daniel Kachamba etc.
Zodiak Radio owner Gospel Kazako had a project that gave posthumous honour to fallen venerated Allan Namoko. He built him a tomb.
Now looking at the case of Ibu, you might be tempted to wrongly think that if people like Mr. Kazako cannot assist the likes of Mr. Ibu now, maybe he might, once they (the likes of the Ibu) kick a bucket?
When is the best time to help? I don’t know.
The second problem from where to look at the problem is on the lack of musical labels or companies worth their salt.
A genuine music firm will surely sign artists like Mr. Ibu knowing that their ware is not difficult to sell because they already have a foundation, unlike artists who are trying to break even.
Now, unless, people rush to assist the immensely talented when they are in need, they better stop whining when they are dead and give us useless eulogies on what great they would have achieved had they lived more.
Lucius Banda, Anthony Makondesa, Black Missionaries
When Lucius Banda, Anthony Makondesa and The Black Missionaries descend to town with a new album, there is always scampering for a copy, of course others run around to pirate the musical products.
But the effect of each of the three individuals’ new release is magical, to say the least.
Now imagine that the three of them decide to release their new albums at the same time, would it really not confuse the consumers and compromise the benefits to be accrued out of such products?
Added to all this is the question of economic hardships the country is currently experiencing, would the average person who is the dedicated patron afford to cough K4500 [Assuming each is selling at K1500 each] just to own the music at this point in time.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Those who religiously follow Malawi music will remember Ishmael Dapalapa. He has been band leader for several Mzuzu based bands before he made headlines when he stormed the inaugural E-wallet.
I happen to have known Ishmael Dapalapa Mhango long before his musical exploits and when he released an album which never faired encouragingly on the market, I encouraged him never to give up, considering how frustrating the local music market is and how it is good at killing talent right in its bud.
I saw so much talent in the lad. But he never took heed. He trekked down to South Africa and I felt disenchanted because in my heart I said here is another lost talent.
Meanwhile, there was his young brother Bright Mhango who was busy with school stuff and although occasionally he would follow his brother to do some musical performances. I thought he was just a casual artist.
Now he got so serious with his talent that he adopted a showbiz name Bingolingo – Bi for Bright and ngo from the surname Mhango and Lingo for language.He released his debut album ‘Issues’; a 12-track multi-genre album with tracks coming in different forms that include rhythm and blues, Afro, reggae, hip-hop and local beat where unlike many artists of other tribes other than Chewa, he infused his chiTumbuka mother tongue in his tracks, of course with chiChewa sprinkled here and there.
In earnest, I would say he never chanced what is known as ‘beginner’s luck’ because many must be wondering who Bingolingo is.
The inaugural album has tracks like Kaswenga, Stay, Heart Broken, Sibwene, Ndiwe Wane, Mama, Napulika, Timakondana, Ndidziwe, Ndiwe Wekha, Never Let You Go and Sindingathe and you can tell the rich vein of talent but more so the lack of maturity in other tracks.If you log on www.reverbnation.com/bingolingoMW you will listen to the album.
You could tell that here is a lad with a golden voice but could not manage to ostensibly utilise it to his musical advantage.
I am the best untrained ear in the business and still hoped the best was yet to come from the young Dapalapa.
Now considering that it was in 2011 that he realised this album, now he has managed to release five tracks Uchi, She is trapped, Make you my wife, Pavuta Pano and Wahneeitorah muwteeimah in the forthcoming album ‘Mwachaje Satafuna’.
With these singles, now he has made me to listen to the Bingo Language with some serious attention. The ‘Bingolingo’ has added wise and unique words in its vocabulary.
Buoyed up by the revs he has received on the internet and perhaps in the local media, he has become mature in his approach. I am still in a state of disbelief that this young chap I have looked down upon as he was being overshadowed by his big brother has finally swayed me.
If you have been exposed to lover’s rock reggae genre, Uchi is one such track that will only be betrayed by the chiChewa lyrics that has been used. Remove the chiChewa words you would think it’s a Jamaican reggae beat or in other words you would think it is the Frank Paul type. In this track, you are left salivating for more such like tracks.
I must make my confession to demonstrate how attractive the track is. Two weeks ago, I was unable to report for work because I was sick. I asked my sister to escort me to a health facility and she came to pick me in her car (I am justified to mention this). We exchanged pleasantries and in the background a radio was playing and I was not curious to establish which radio it was.
But then when the reggae beat started playing, it got me startled and while my sister kept on rattling on, unbeknownst to her that she had lost me completely to the music and I now paid 100 percent attention to catch the back announcement to ascertain who is behind it, having realised it was Malawian.
It was going: Uchi-uchi uchi uchi uchi; uchi m’patse nlawe. Uchi-uchi uchi uchi uchi; uchi ndiwe sugar-sugar. Uchi-uchi uchi uchi uchi; uchi ndiwe super-super.
And the ensuing rhyming verses left me in appreciation of how playful he has been with the lyrics and how tight the backing instrumentation is. It is a simplistic approach to a sophisticated production that sticks to mind and that make children ably mimic it endlessly.
The DJ even said, I think this will be another street anthem and I can’t agree more.
There is also a track Pavuta Pano and if you are a Dan Lufani fan you would think this is his latest track only to be flabbergasted by the use of chiTumbuka.The singles have also a redone version of Wanitola Mtima renamed as ‘Wahneeitorah muwteeimah’ where he mixed Wambali Mkandawire type of beat with R’n’B showing some incredible innovation.
But just to show how unsure he is with music even with such talent he works at Blue Financial Services as a quality assurance officer and still pursuing an accounting course. How painful!
Simply put, the Bingo language has really started making much sense. Please try to catch up with him; seriously you will not be disappointed.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
At least Code Sangala made a name in music long before his Big Brother Africa exploits. Others would argue that the same could also be said of Tendayi Namate who prides in the showbiz spotlight of DJ Lomwe.
But yes I would agree, but not further than the fact that the two’s musical augmentation equalled where both were DJs for radio stations, but that both have been musicians, that’s where I am putting the full stop.
Twice, Code had enjoyed the glare of international limelight when he represented Malawi in two Big Brother shows. Lomwe as well has also had second-chance-stint when he was invited as a performing artist at the Big Brother show after his participation as a housemate.
But if you check their musical presence on the market right now, you will be left unsatisfied as they are found more on media pages than they should be found in music players entertaining people through radios and dancing halls.
DJ Lomwe even attempted in vain to enlist the expertise of a fellow BBA housemate from Botswana Zeus, (real name Game Goabaone Bantsi) and collaborated to do a 12-track hip hop vibes ‘Double Wowza’ mix tape.
The rapper Zeus is no small man in the world of music. In 2010 he was ranked seventh on a list of the top 15 South African rappers and his song 'Imagination,' was once nominated for Best Reggae Dancehall video in the Channel O Music Awards. In 2009, he won the Best Hip Hop video.
Lomwe music career for starters, was instigated by a trip he took to Botswana after the BBA show where he met Zeus to record two tracks, one of which is the album title ‘Double Wowza’.
The duo reunited at the Lake of Stars Music Festival where they also recorded two tracks at around 2am – one of which is 'Catch Me If You Can' - after meeting up with Theo Thomson and set up a studio in a hotel room because Theo had the equipment handy.
Two more tracks were recorded after Lake of Stars, when Zeus decided to stay a little while to have ago at DJ Sonye's Baseline Studio in Blantyre.
As fate had it, the two were invited to Kenya for a charity programme organised by that country's BBA representatives, Nick and Milliscent and while there, they collaborated again to record more tracks under the stewardship of the East Africa's urban music juggernauts in the likes of Nameless, Mad Tracks and Wyre.
As you can see the album was a production of chance and not of proper planning or music and marketing strategy. I will not be surprised if it is performing dismally on the market; that is if it is even on the market at all.
Just to show you that DJ Lomwe is under the ‘charms’ of Zeus, on his own in March last year at a Big Brother Africa (BBA) double-up party show at Chez Ntemba in Blantyre he completely lost it.
He collaborated with DJ Mbuzi but both shouted throughout their performance when they were trying to mimic what musicians do.
Now, after Code Sangala’s second Big Brother Show, he came with two surprises as he attempted to show that he is a decorated music artist.
He changed his stage name to C-O to signal the start of a solo music journey and secondly, he did it to the shock of sibling Shadre. Code and Shadre had together tapped fame using the Kapirintiya music outfit.
Code assured Malawians that "Kapirintiya remain intact while he was going solo to exercise his artistic right.
You cannot blame him when you consider that his musical background is ensconced in his late father’s musical talent and having tested maiden stage performance with his elder brothers Wallstone, presently at MBC, and Caesar you would be believe he won’t stumble.
I am wondering what his ‘Tradistic Soul’ album is doing on the market considering that it was equally launched with pomp – that is if inviting some of the BBA housemates that included Zimbabwe's Bertha with whom he collaborated in the BBA house to perform the song 'Luwalangu' could earn that description – there is nothing to write home about.
Nothing that Code has done so far has reached the top bar set by the Ndirande based group Kapirintiya’s 'Kwathu Ku Ndirande,' album. Yes they did try to come up with the Christmas art piece 'Noel' and then 'Bwenzi Langa’ but they were still found wanting, a solo performing Code has not changed the status quo either.
As Code once advised: “Leave it to time” perhaps I am not a patient man.
But when I try to imagine if such BBA exposure was given to artists like Peter Mawanga or Joe Gwaladi, they would not have taken it on the chin and wait for an invitation of sorts to act?
To me, DJ Lomwe and Code have failed BBA; they needed to take advantage of it to catapult their musical careers beyond the realms of poverty, but with the console of fame and artistic beauty oozing ingenious musicality.
Friday, February 22, 2013
You cannot ignore Lucius Banda. Whether you love or hate him you will still pay attention when he makes any slight move. I came to this conclusion long time ago. I have done my share of critiquing his work because I could not help it.
But unlike some artists who would have taken my critical analysis with a pinch of salt and turned me into a nemesis, Lucius is what he is a professional and did it differently.
He invited me to observe what gruelling engagement studio work is and therefore let me with more opportunity to be able to punch more holes in his work of musical art when he was doing his 16th Album, titled ‘LIFE’.
This is the album, remember, that awakened the censorship board bull dogs as then the regime of late President Bingu wa Mutharika was unpopular and unknowingly gave Lucius free advertising through continuous vilification of his toils, before banning airplay of his music on public media outlets.
Now he is recording his seventeenth album ‘Time’ which I believe borrows its cue from the track ‘Nthawi’ in the "15/15: My Song" album.
I have the opportunity to listen to four tracks that he has released for sampling and they include ‘Missing Lucky’, ‘Mphawi Uja’, ‘Paulendo’ and ‘Tseketseke’.
I have a feeling that perhaps I need to hold my patience before I make my assessment, but just a peep into the album via the four tracks one would still be left with what I always call ‘the same Lucius Banda aftertaste’.
With going through 2012 without an album, expectations from his followers are higher than ever. But perhaps I can as well tell them that the star track in this album is not amongst the four tracks I have listened to.
May be except for the track ‘Mphawi Uja’ which shows how a powerful story teller Lucius is, where a poor boy marries a rich girl, he has reserved the best to be served later.
Lucius is in South Africa to polish his 17th album so that it shines like a diamond stone with the backing of The Slaves, the band that backed the slain reggae legendary Lucky Dube.
Of course he said by local standards the album is done and dusted with Ralph Ching’amba’s tricks. But he has even sought after more panache from the late Lucky Dube’s producer himself - Davie Seagal who together with our own Erik Paliani will do some more magic to satisfy any unappeasable music ear.
The Slaves will feature in three reggae songs Missing Lucky Dube (a tribute to Dube), Tell her I Love Her and Carry On. I have a difficult-to-please reggae ear and I can tell you that unless more is done on the Missing Lucky track, the likes of me won’t give it a thumb up; will give reasons when I will do an album review.
Then what is not present is perhaps that one track, the ‘Dub Reggae Poetry’ styled after the Mutabaruka or Linton Kwesi Johnson has not been released for sampling.
This time round, it is clear that the track will be ‘TIME’ going by tradition.
Now this is the trademark that Lucius impresses on his albums and with these particular tracks he tastes political, social and religious leadership.
Then, former President Bakili Muluzi used to take Lucius as just any other musician until these kinds of tracks pierced through his political cosset and made him feel uncomfortable and saw Lucius.
Mutharika felt the political heat that these Lucius tracks emitted but since him, unlike Muluzi is one who never wanted to endear his enemies, had no joy with Lucius Music and he banned it on MBC.
Believe you me; with ‘TIME’ it is now the turn of President Joyce Banda to have a feel of how Lucius keeps alive ‘dub-reggae poetry’ to say what the people want the presidents to hear.
Again this is a multi-genre album, and it goes against Lucius’ past declaration that he would go traditional and part ways with reggae.
He proclaimed that his trademark would now be songs like the ‘Zulu Woman’ found in his ‘Freedom’ album.
But as has been the case following this declaration – the tracks come in different shapes and shades.
Lucius says that apart from reggae tracks that have made it into the album, he has also incorporated two house songs, two traditional songs, three slow numbers, gospel songs as well as urban songs.
He calls it an album for everybody - ‘a multi-genre album’ – which also has a hip-hop song TsekeTseke.
And I am none-the-wiser because when he said he wanted to remain traditional, the feeling is that he wanted to be put in the class of Mte. Wambali Mkandawire and Peter Mawanga.
But I guess I can speculate the reason. He wants to make more money.
He has once acknowledged his lack of presence on the international market.
Lucius has once confessed that he really does not understand the Malawian audience and their needs, because when the compose songs with international class they will not like it.
“So, what you do sometimes is to put yourself in their shoes," Lucius has ever said this.
True to his words he has said top-notch artists like his brother, Paul, Ben Mankhamba, Wambali Mkandawire and Peter Mawanga do not make sales in Malawi.
Monday, February 18, 2013
If you recall, in 2009 when this column, The Drumming Pen, started appearing on these pages, it started with the name Gregory Gondwe before a forced metamorphosis led it to Prof. Zungwala.
I borrowed the name, Prof. Zungwala, from my late Great Grandfather who has now demanded it back and I am now left with me. From now on, I am reverting to Gregory Gondwe with sadness.
Sadness, because when I was writing under the pseudo, it was possible to critically look at poor musical work of artists without directly courting their wrath.
Now all that privileged status is gone and I am left alone without the protection of the Prof., now to pay for all the truth that will ruffle some feathers, once told.
There was a time, nevertheless, when I wrote something about the dwindling standards of Billy Kaunda music, when without warning I got him on the other end a phone call.
There was no phone number on the column then and I was surprised how he first, knew Prof. Zungwala was in fact Gregory Gondwe and secondly even got my number to chastise me for critiquing his work, somewhat using political powers as at the time he was deputy minister.
Reverting to the real name is not a big deal to others when you consider that I have been invited by Music Cross Roads as well as Musicians Association of Malawi to be a judge at their various music competitions. This means that there were numerous members of our community who had no problem connecting the two identities.
South African Based Malawi Musicians
Well, now that I am back to the beginning, let me try to look at the something I stumbled on, when I was browsing the internet sphere. It is called South Africa Based Malawian Artists Inc. (Sabma)
This Sabma thing when I enquired about it, I was told is an organisation of Malawian artists based in South Africa.
It was established on 14th October, 2012 by the disbanded Born Famous Hip Hop Duo, Mathews Lawnex Tembo and Danny Jones Simfukwe, Gospel Artist Clara Thom, & Promoter Samuel Mwale, with a point of uniting all artists who have been for long working individually.
To be honest with you, before this information I had never heard any such musical names ever existed anywhere else in the world.
But listening to the guys chatter their dream you are actually nearly believing what they are telling you that they want to act as a bridge linking artists back home here in Malawi with them that are in the land of gold. They told me that they now have quite number of artists, gospel as well secular ones, joining them in South Africa under a project they are calling ‘Together We Can’.
Naturally I wanted to learn how they would achieve anything at all and they told me that their approach to promoting artists and making them the centre of their focus is by organising live performances for artists within their organisation, in order to showcase their talents.
Sabma also wants to invite upcoming as well as established artists based in Malawi to perform alongside the South Africa based ones, to ensure an enhanced link between artists in Malawi and South Africa.
The will therefore also support the said artists financially, either in Album launches, studio solo projects or any other way.
At the moment Sabma says they have a live band set and a professional sound crew available to all Sabma artists at a free of charge.
And Sabma is aiming at having their own state of the art music studio to accommodate each and every artist. They tell me once they lay their hands on the desired equipment at the expiry of every 6 months, they will be coming to Malawi ‘to explore and promote hidden talents one at a time’.
They will be choosing artists right here in Malawi and take them to South Africa for recording deals before engaging them in promotional deals after the final production of their music.
So far Sabma claim that they once invited Symon & Kendall to perform live in Johannesburg alongside with Sabma artists last November.
If you ask me, this sounds too rosy to be true that one has only to demand more information before allowing themselves to be taken on board Sabma.
It is a musical project that sounds familiar. We have heard about such over the years and we are left licking the wounds as we have been left badly bruised with what has turned out to be mere lies or lost an arm and a foot when a supposedly free offer turned out to be an opening where we deposited our meagre savings only to disappear into thin air right in front of our noses.
We better be vigilant as this is neither the first time we have heard such promising news, nor will it be the last time. Our role is simply to be watchful and cautious.