Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When Chaponda enlists Nkasa

If Joseph Nkasa was sent by minister of agriculture,irrigation and water development George Chaponda to douse fires currently burning down his political career, then his decision to take the offer has aggravated his dying musical vocation.
Conversely, if Joseph Nkasa decided to make money by singing about Chaponda’s predicament without his acquiescence then he needs to immeasurably apologize to the politician because this has done him more harm than good.   
To keep you in the loop, Joseph Nkasa, the once upon a time befitting ‘Phungu’ has produced a song that intends to spruce up the image of Chaponda who has been embroidered in maize transactions that has been bedeviled by claims of corruption.
In the song Nkasa equates Chaponda to Joseph, one of the 12 sons of the Biblical Isaac who became a defacto ruler in Egypt after being sold there by his brothers due to his closeness to their father.
He further claims that Chaponda is paying for his mercifulness to help the hunger-stricken and that people are trying to make him lose ‘his ministry’.
Nkasa declares in the song that the stones that have been thrown at Chaponda with will accumulate to his advantage as he will use it to build a house which will make him the landlord.
In all this the meaning is that Chaponda will use the ridicule currently peddled about his involvement in the maize saga to become the leader of this country.
Anyway, my intentions are not to get the meaning out of this song but to describe the artist Nkasa who has been dubbed as the master lyricist who ingeniously uses metaphors and innuendos to craft his songs.
Of course Nkasa came on the musical scene in the late 90 but it was in the early-to-mid 2000 that he hogged the limelight with the production of his ‘WayendaWapenga’ toils.
When he materialized again with an album that had tracks like ‘Zosayina-sayina’ the acceptance of lyrical packed songs was overwhelming that apart from huge sales in 2003 he got over K1 million in Mechanical, Public Performance and Broadcasting Royalties from the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma).

This was a huge amount of money at the time and it made him go bananas as he went of spending spree buying property including cars without thinking of how best to manage his resources.

By the time he got another cheque from Cosoma in 2009 which was close to K600 thousand, he had still not learnt a lesson on how best to manage resources.

To show that that his popularity has waned, in the December 29, 2009 Cosomapay out, it was Lawrence Mbenjere who set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.

Nkasa’s hunt for money has led him to many places including begging and even performing with Zembani and Alleluya Bands. But all this has not brought as much money as he wants.

In between though, he almost hit gold when he started toying with politicians in earnest.

He did a track for President Bingu wa Mutharika called ‘Mose wa lero’ which helped lift his stature as a presidential candidate making Mutharika the first to achieve an over 70 percent landslide victory.

Nkasa has always claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But this remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.

Nkasa composed a song for the then parliamentary Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he stood for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably.

After the Chimunthu debacle he went into an agreement with PPM’s Mark Katsonga who allegedly paid K7 million for political songs, jingles and live performances all to discredit Joyce Banda government and prop up the name of PPM’s torch bearer.

In fact media reports indicate that Nkasa signed an MOU with Katsonga to produce a five-track album – among the tracks, ‘Kulirakwa a Mphawi’, ‘Wanunkha Malawi’, ‘OpaniYehova’ – at a cost of K1,074,000.00; five promotional jingles at K500,000 and hold 93 live performances to a tune of K5,580,000 coming to a total of K7, 154, 000.

While the effectiveness of this project had not even materialised, Nkasa joined the PP ranks and did a track for Joyce Banda whom he had discredited in the other tracks.

The JB track which was first heard on her Ufulu Radio and state owned MBC presents a litany of development achievements of the President and why she would be voted to retain power.

While I can neither accuse Nkasa for his lack of ethical sense nor the politicians for taking any routes to seek vain glory, one thing that is clearly standing out is that Joseph Nkasa does not believe in what he sings.

It is therefore very difficult for Malawians to even believe in whatever messages his tracks contain, otherwise his message remains a mockery to voters. Imagine if one listens to both the Katsonga tracks and the JB song, would they really make a position based on Nkasa’s position?

No wonder Nkasa has not succeeded as a musician even when he attempted to establish his Zosayina Band because he is into musical prostitution that knows no morals. With such dearth of any guiding principles looking into one’s career, one cannot prosper in any discipline.

To prove my point, if the CSOs that are baying for Chaponda’s blood only gave Nkasa money to do a song against Chaponda, he will do exactly that unashamedly.

The way of Kenyatta Hill

Joseph Hill, the fallen reggae hero whose son Kenyatta and wife Pauline were in town a few weeks ago should be smiling from above.
There are several Jamaican reggae artists that have died. One that quickly comes to mind is Gregory Anthony Isaacs, a reggae legend who had released over 500 albums in his career. He lived from July 15, 1951 to October 25, 2010.
Of course before Isaacs, four years earlier Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill died after collapsing following a performance in Berlin on August 19, 2006.

Unlike Gregory Isaacs, Joseph Hill is one lucky fellow as his son is continuing doing the work he died doing on that fateful August day.
What is even more reassuring is that Kenyatta is performing with the original Culture members that include his Uncle Albert Walker and Telford Nelson.
Early June, the group performed at Mibawa Multipurpose Hall in Blantyre and Civo Stadium in Lilongwe a day later.
I attended the Blantyre show where in the process people who had entered the show venue with ulterior motives robbed me of my smart phone and a cash filled wallet right at the time when Kenyatta ascended unto the stage to perform.

If his performance was going to be a display of mediocrity then this would have been the longest night.

In any case the theft I suffered would have given me the perfect cue to exit the venue and drive back home. It was never to be and later after the show I felt more than compensated for my loss.

Kenyatta respected his fallen iconic reggae legendary father with dynamite packed performance. It dawned on those of us who exult good music that the legend of Joseph Hill lives on as he will continue bubbling on the top 100 forever and ever not only through his body of work but also through his son’s awe-inspiring musical performance.

Kenyatta has his father’s voice only that his has more clout and dynamism that he packages with youthful energy and electrifying stage presence.

For years, he has been his father’s sound engineer and this is also well demonstrated in the way he controls, not only the band, but the two elderly backing duo that has traversed the world with his father.

To imagine that he had only practiced with the band which had South African based members for a few hours, what followed spoke volumes of the kind of future that is in store for the young Hill.

He also displayed discipline that is only present in professional artists. If you must know, Kenyatta has three albums to his name, released after the death of his father. Never in a moment did he play any of the songs that he has done as a solo project.

When the sound was not coming out the way he liked he would stop the performance in the way that looked like it was part of the act. He was holding a short carved black stick that he was systematically using to tell one on bass what he wanted. He was in fact using the stick to communicate to the whole band.

Listening to his performance one would have thought it was Joseph Hill with improved rendition of his tracks. Under the prevailing circumstances he performed like the spirit of his fallen father had entered him, more so with his mother sitting right on stage watching her son.

Those artists that curtain raised the show like members of the Black Missionaries and Mr. Cool; I should believe learnt a lesson or two.

We have had children of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh’s son Andrew and even Garnet Silk Junior performing after the fall of their fathers. None has come so near to the perfection of the works of their fathers as has Kenyatta, he has his unique way.


The Wadusa pompa Rivalry

The first time I ever remember of rivalry over one particular song is when Annie Matumbi did collaboration with Nelson Katsache to hit back at Peter Mawanga who did a track called Amakhala ku Blantyre as Peter Paine.

Apparently Peter sang that people just claim to live a city life in Blantyre when they are suffering some undignified lives of penury and homelessness. In turn Matumbi and Nelson sang back by claiming people in Blantyre live a high life where living is not as bad as depicted in Mawanga’s song.    

As the story had it, Peter sought redress from Cosoma which ended up banning the other track as it was adjudged to breach some copyrights tenets.
Now the twin duo of Wiza and Westa whose showbiz ID is W-Twice joined forces with Nepman to do a track called ‘Wadutsa Pompa’  which is found in their Afana Chimodzimodzi Mixtape of 2015.

In turn five girls – Fortune who featured Danish, Kwin Bee, Enweezy and Ewe did a ‘Wadutsa Pompa’ remix which they called ‘Ndadutsa Pompo’ which is a similar attempt to discredit the earlier works of W-Twice and Nepman as was the case with the Mawanga-Matumbi act.

Just like Matumbi and Kasatche lacked in delivery in terms of creativeness and refinement, the same is way too present in the track by the five ladies.

The original track – both the audio and the video – stands out as it is presented with more finesse and measured jaunt befittingly ensconced in an accompanying ‘Manganje’ beat that sustains its taste. It is very clear that it was planned and this is why it is coherent and organised work while the girls rushed with their ‘corresponding’ track.

The girls’ track bordered on a tasteless beef aimed at showing the side of female folks that feeds into stereotypes that women are fond of shooting their mouths off. Listening to the track you will appreciate that there is too much voluble anger and raucous noise to compete with a piece of art where Nepman was at his usual best as the twins weaved their way through perfectly well.

Without trying to take it away from the girls, they are talented lot yes but they should have taken their time to ensure that the remix cover was as artistically tight as it was attractively appealing. The reason it has become famous across the ghettos is because of people’s love of ‘conflict’ and ‘chaos’.

Even down the market street when a woman is shouting at a man, people will flock to the spot, as houseflies do to a rotten carcass, just to enjoy the unfolding drama. No way would such a rowdy woman lay claim that she is loved by such a curious crowd that pander to scandal and escapism.      

For the sake of entertainment as it is the case elsewhere with vibrant entertainment economies, a remix on a controversial song is serious business. It calls for more innovation as it is taken like a special project.

If you are watching me, I have not touched on the copyright matter because I believe Fortune might have sorted out copyright issues with W-Twice as she also featured in another track in this mix tape called ‘Bulangete’ which is another cover of one of Malawi’s oldies, meaning she is a buddy to the twins.

Sangie was overbilled

Granted, Sangie – the emerging reggae artiste– has graced the billboards where she is selling a number of telecommunication products and services. She has stormed the male dominated musical stage with a litany of single hits that have made Sangie the household name.

The artist missed by a whisker the Nyasa Music Award in the Best Female Artist category which was controversially won by Miracle Chinga.
All this makes a great reading when one attempts to profile Sangie – real name Angel Mbekeani – as her age and her musical achievements makes it sound like a fairy tale. 

However that alone does not say a great deal on how much mileage she has in the inventory in as far as her musical output is concerned. Such lack of knowledge in this aspect therefore can be the case with those that organised her maiden album Painless launch on June 30 at Cross Roads hotel’s biggest of stages – The Great Sapitwa Hall.

Signs and signals ought to have been weighed when the organisers decided to put a price tag on event.

Of course when you read different reviews there is none that has pointed out the aspect of weaknesses in the way the launch was organised as every one is saying it was well patronised by a variety of fans that ranged from the youth, middle aged and the elderly. And that all performers ‘slayed it’.
The patronage was mesmerised by her music, backed by the Dynamics Band. All the singles that she has been dropping ever since her career commenced three years ago that include I do it all for love, Ndangozizidwa, Mayi wangwiro and all others made the list.

A track called ‘Pepa’ which in the album features Lulu was also performed on day of the launch.

The fact that the launch was supported by established artists Lawrence Lulu Khwisa and Patience Namadingo did not help matters as they seem to have stolen the lime light from the hostess.

No wonder there is talk that the reception that the audience gave Namadingo was overwhelming that when he was about to get things really going power miraculously went off. And that was the uncharacteristic end of the show.

Of course I have heard that the price tag was targeting her corporate audience because of her involvement with Airtel and Itel as well as several events she has been engaged in with bodies like UNICEF prior to the launch.
The genre that Sangie plays is ghetto music, this I can say any time without any apologies. The reggae fans refer to the so called corporate as Babylon. Much as the marketing strategy ought to indeed reap from such special group of people it is a fact that it needed to consider the aspect of her genre’s niche market whose economic standing cannot allow them attend such gatherings.
I am told plans are underway to re-launch the album in Mzuzu and Blantyre respectively and this is perhaps where organisers should not be over ambitious again.
Sangie is a product of the Ndirande Ghettoh and the fans that have helped her become what she is cannot be left out now that the team that is managing her thinks she has all over sudden become an expensive product.

This is her debut album and this is Sangie that only started music in earnest in 2014. She is the same person whose childhood playmates and cronies still reside in Ndirande or other such places of equal socio-economic status.

Not that I am discouraging her and the team to be ambitious but all I am pointing out is that they need not kill her drive by overbilling her. She is still a tyro who needs more shows, more exposure and of course more stage practice and coaching before she is ripe for the higher price.    

Sangie gives her music a women theme

The unique approach to this male dominated industry has earned Sangie, the upcoming female artist, much respect among music lovers and critics alike. She has put out well thought out music in both audio and video forms that continue helping her hog the limelight.

It looks like all and sundry now want to associate with her to an extent that her face is beginning to be linked with everything good including brand ambassadorship for mobile giant Airtel and Korean phone company Itel.

But it looks like Sangie, the country’s reggae/dancehall revelation is not only breaking the glass ceiling in taking the male dominated genre by storm but she has also elected to continually play the women’s rights card.

Sangie’s first offer on the market was “I do it all for Love” which was an anathema to women rights somehow as it is basically a love song about a woman so in love with her boyfriend such that she is not willing to dump him even when she acknowledges that her man is cheating on her.

It is however her subsequent offerings that are beginning to shape the face of the artist as a champion of women rights.

In her song “Ngwazi ya chikazi” which features well-loved poet Robert Chiwamba, Sangie sings her heart out about equality between men and women. She presents her lyrics that talk of women’s capability to do any job so long as they put their minds to it since they are no different from men. She demands equal opportunities.

Long before this track she released another song “Ndangozizidwa” which tackles property grabbing and domestic violence against women in the event of death of a spouse. The song resonates well with many Malawian women who either have experienced the malpractice first hand or have witnessed it happen to other women.

And lately the young artist has released another song titled “Mkazi wa Ngwiro” in which she is celebrating the strength of the women. Sangie highlights the many sacrifices that women do make for the sake of their families. And her video which features prominent women in our society like Jessie Kabwila, Patricia Kaliati and Scader Luis is doing justice to her campaign.

Lyrical pen finds this approach not only creative but important in a society where male dominance is taken as a normalcy. It makes beautiful poetry to see a lady who herself is breaking barriers in the music industry dominated by men also singing about women empowerment.

Sangie follows the footsteps of her iconic Jamaican reggae star Queen Ifrica who has also tackled the issue of female abuse by males head on.

Going by how Sangie has popped singles it is clear it’s high time we tasted a fully fledged album that has to test the market. 

At the moment these singles that are becoming too frequent that some of us cannot keep up with the speed only means that Sangie is an artist who has come of age. She therefore needs to have her music packaged and set for market and with her obvious female rights theme she can easily find support from likeminded institutions. 

Quantity against Quality in Live shows

This week as I took a walk around Motel Blantyre I couldn’t help it but notice the numerous posters advertising live performances by Malawi artists. They ranged from secular to gospel artists promising scintillating performances in various venues around Blantyre.
I will say again that my home is a stone throw away from Motel Paradise which is one haven of live performances by artists and this gives me a front row seat to witness just how often Malawian artists do hold live shows.

As a music critic I sometimes wonder if the repeated and numerous performances that our artists give are as a result of passion or a quest to earn a living bearing in mind that music distribution is a challenge with the closure of OG Issa music centre.
I find it pleasing that Malawians can choose to attend music shows of their favourite artists week in week out in the major parts of the country. But as the trend is recommendable one can’t help but notice that it is the same artists who have the privilege of holding such shows albeit at the same venues.

If one asks around, the reasons why certain artists can’t hold shows, the answers range from lack of funds to poor patronage. Yet every week we see posters, newspaper adverts of say Mablacks holding shows or The Great Angels Choir having a series of shows where people patronize such shows.

This trend has two faces; one is that it gives Malawians that much needed entertainment. The other face is that the artists of bands which have resources are monopolizing stage performances so much so that frequent patrons have gone to the extent of memorizing how certain artists handle themselves on stage.
Sentences like “Timangopita chifukwa tinazolowela” are common. In other words the ‘wow’ factor is long gone.
But is there a limit as to how often artists can hold live shows? The answer is no. However in order to sustain the interest of music lovers it is important for those artists who hold live performances frequently to make sure that they put in a lot when preparing for such shows.

This includes dressing, choreography and the singing itself. When one put in mind the frequency, one wonders as to whether some of these artists do have time to properly rehearse or they just jump on stage, a microphone in hand and sing their lungs out.

My wife is a huge fan of US pop Diva Mariah Carey and by association, I was somehow persuaded to watch a few episodes of Mariah Carey’s reality show called Mariah’s world. The show basically chronicled her world tour which took her to several countries including South Africa.
One thing that I appreciated about her is the seriousness of her preparation when going on stage. I mean the diva has a throng of dancers, make-up artists, wardrobe managers, floor managers, performance directors and even a hair dresser! I have not even mentioned a team of sound engineers.
And when she goes on stage and performs a song let’s say “Hero” which was released over 20 years ago, everyone cannot help but appreciate the artistry being displayed and the great effort put into the performance without considering that the song has been performed on stage for years.

And as she tours the world over and over again, Mariah Carey will still put in so much effort to make sure her looks are on point, her voice is crystal clear, and her back-up dancers are in sync and so on. One can argue to say maybe Mariah Carey is a world class act that cannot be compared to our local artists.

I dare to be different and say, if Malawian artists want to improve then maybe they should reduce the number of shows they hold and improve on the few they can hold. If the outcome improves, they will be appreciated more and they will make more money by increasing the gate fees among others.
Rehearsing more and improving other aspects of a stage performance is also a sure way of giving Malawians an experience that is different from the one that we are used to.
The other day someone was asking why The Great Angels choir seems to be popular but music critics have always argued that they do not have the best vocal talent? My response has always been the same; they are the most polished, most organized, most visible choir ever and yes, they produce some great music videos. Simply put, their presentation is attractive and therefore marketable.
What am I trying to say this week? If our artists want to up their game, they have to relook at their game plan. Is it just a matter of holding shows and collecting gate fees? Or it’s a matter of putting in a lot more effort, hold less but classical shows that will improve their image, prop up their standing in society and hopefully takes them on the world map. This is one aspect of the music business that I think in Malawi is neglected. For an artist or a band to be respected, it takes more than just frequent appearances at shows.

The ‘looks’ or appearance have to be an investment, the clothes, the dancing, the vocal arrangement and stuff like that. Otherwise this business as usual attitude where artists give Malawians the same dance moves, same songs, same progression code, same routines is what is delaying the growth of the industry somehow. Food for thought right there!

The Patience Namadingo Way

Many people reacted differently when musician Patience Namadingo announced that within the next 40 days he will be one artist with one guitar followed by one cameraman to perform one song on every visit out of 400 visits he was prepared to take.
What he was doing was to raise K1.2million in 40 days for a Paediatric Cancer Ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. He used what he described as three simple steps to raise this much. The first step was for those interested to call him to visit the caller’s space, be at their homes, in their office etcetera to play just one song for K3000 per available person.
The arrangement was that he would be responding to 10 calls every day; but the news is that just 4 days into the initiative he already has K1.2 million in the bag.
The debate raging fierce after this announcement had several conclusions. While others thought Patience is a genius, others said he is just being a witty and cunning businessman because the K1.2million he is talking about might as well just be 10 percent of what he might end up making.

The claim is that he is the biggest beneficiary of the initiative. What if he is invited to a factory of 50 workers each parting ways with K3000 which is already K150, 000?
Others were saying who is going to audit Namadingo because some might pay more than K3, 000.Others were doubtful that he could not reachtargeted amount as they felt Patience was overrating both his importance and popularity because he has a high opinion of himself. Others said they did not see anything wrong if he gets more because he will also need to arrange for logistics.

Now this is how we discourage a good initiative sometimes. How many so called famous artists in this country have ever taken an initiative to show a social responsibility regardless of how much they would benefit themselves? Granted, Namadingo is barred from going ahead with the fundraiser because he will personally benefit, so who should be allowed to do it? As a musical artist Patience Namadingo seem to be getting inventive in marketing his brand. Recently he has been recording short songs without having to produce a whole album including one where he sang about local supporters of European football teams. Then look at the quality of his music videos not to mention his own branded and personalised website. Others have argued that Patience has one tune which he only changes by bringing in different lyrical contents. This is an argument for another day. Apart from Q Malewezi, BICC is a venue that most local artists fear to tread. But one ambitious Patience has strutted his stuff right there.
 And at least by the reviews that this column got, the young man gave out a spirited performance. So far we haven’t heard of people who went there complaining of poor sound or anything negative. All we have heard is that the evening was one to remember.
 Now looking at the path that the young man has taken it is clear that Patience Namadingo is one determined artist. And this is the more reason that the determination that he has in his professional life is being extended to his charity work which is somewhat chained to his artistry. The news that in less than a week Namadingo managed to raise the initial 1.2 million kwacha is a powerful message that art has potential to turn things around in Malawi. It has power to turn the fortunes of the less privileged in society.  All that we need to do as Malawians is to develop an open mind and be more optimistic and trusting about issues that are being done for the good of the nation. This type of art that Namadingo is promoting is one sure way of not only promoting his brand as an artist but surely lessening the burden of the less privileged in society.  While ‘doubting Thomases’ have the right to ask one or two questions, The Lyrical pen can only say this ‘Good luck Patience Namadingo!  

‌Ndirande as a cradle for musicians

 There has been talk presented in engraved tones about Balaka and Chileka when it comes to music. I know I have celebrated the musicians from the Lhomwe belt because of their immense contribution to Malawi music. 

In fact at one time I even declared that the Lhomwe belt has entertained Malawi more than any other in as far as generating music is concerned and therefore needed a special award.

Then I thought it strange though, that on one hand we had coined the Balaka beat [Paul Banda’s brainchild] and on the other hand touted Chileka for all the music goodies, but we always came short of writing a deserved story for the Lhomwe belt productions.

There was a special kind of innovativeness that was employed in producing music of Michael ‘Mukhitho’ Phiri a.k.a Michael Yekha and Alan Namoko. This is the reason why, to date, if their music is played in entertainment joints, it keeps sending patrons unto cloud nine. 

There are also names like Joseph Nangalembe, Mikoko Brothers Band, Murimwa Brothers Band, Diamond Kudzala, Namakhwa Brothers Band, Fyson Ngwezu & Mulanje Mountain Jazz Band and Chimvu River Jazz Band to mention but a very few, but would send patrons into a trance using locally made instruments.

The Lhomwe belt has also not been left out when it comes to usage of modern day instruments. Joseph Nkasa, Thomas Chibade, Collins Bandawe, Moses Makawa to mention but a few…have soared with such equipment.

For Chileka there is Singano Village, clipped between Michiru Hills in the West and Chileka Airport to the East where the Kachambas started being heard as early as the 1940s. But Daniel Kachamba went on to get a doctorate degree in music from Germany because of the unique way he produced his music.

Daniel Kachamba’s father, his elder sister Anasibeko and his young brother Donald and many of their colleagues were also musicians of note. After them, Singano produced Robert and his younger brother Arnold Fumulani before hell broke loose where we now had/have Evison Matafale, Fumbi Dance Band, Anthony Makondetsa, The Blacks, Kachamba New Breed and Davis Kapito who was part of the Christ in Song Quartet…

While mulling over these three places; Balaka, Chileka and the Lhomwe belt one good afternoon something just hit me when I realised that Ndirande -  the most popular and populous location of Blantyre -  has neither had its share of respect nor has its contributions been noticed enough.

Remember Hotel Chisakalime and its resident Love Aquarius Band in the 1980s? It had its band leader in Stampie Kamwendo – a Ndirande resident.

Then talk of Saleta Phiri, The Jupiters, Kapirintiya of Code and Shadre Sangala, and of course with their elder brother Wallstone Sangala doing his musical indentation in minds of many with his musical jingles.

The modern musicians of Ndirande also make up a very attractive array of Sangie, Nepman, San B, Sally Nyundo, Ndirande Anglican Voices and Ndirande Anglican Melodies to mention but a few.

It is therefore clear that Ndirande cannot only take its rightful place when the narrative is political but it has produced enough artists to also claim a place in the musical hall of fame. It’s indeed ‘Kwathu ku Ndirande’ as Kapirintiya touted the place as the cradle of music and musicians.

Musical Competitions - No defined future

 On Valentine’s Day this year Mibawa Entertainment Limited TV announced what they called a ‘grassroots music competition for the youth’. The Prize for winners: A DVD and audio recording deal.

From the onset I have to disabuse any hostile critics of any preconceived ill intentions – that I hold against this initiative – as I know I am allowed to have misgivings of its effectiveness.

I have high respect for John Nthakomwa one investor that the Malawi music industry has immensely benefited from ever since he came up with Mibawa.

My biggest problem is that these competitions are mere marketing gimmicks that are staged to hoodwink unsuspecting youthful prospective musical artists.They 'gullibly' think time is nigh for them to command the stage once such competitions are announced, which proves to the contrary.

Competitions that I remember to have ever took place in the country include Kuche Kuche/Malawi Gin Music Award, Chibuku Road to Fame competition, Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’ and Airtel Music Competition, to mention but a few.

Going by what actually happened to those that won such competitions one is left with a bad aftertaste as the face of exploitation is more prominent where the end justifies the means. None can point me to one that has graduated from these competitions and are now riding high, musically.

In September 2014 Airtel mobile company started its Music Competition where the winner carted home a whopping K14 million by our musical standards.

From the onset, what I discovered was that the devil was in the methodology used, as for subscribers to join all they did was to call the Airtel Trace Stars number and sing through the phone while the machine at the other end will be recording.

Once done, voila! The winner emerges and takes home the opportunities as stated above.

Around the same period that Airtel was launching their competition I was privileged to be one of the judges at Chibuku Road to Fame competition where twelve bands from the Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern regions competed for the grand prize of K1 million, plus a K400, 000 recording deal, as well as a trip to the regional Chibuku Road to Fame in Botswana.

There used to be E-Wallet as well, aimed at searching for music stars, around 2013-was called Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’ and aped the South African and US Pop Idols, although without being a complete replica when it came to what accrues for the competitors.

Look, the American Idols, for example, since it began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, has not only become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television, but has also spawned 345 Billboard chart-toppers besides producing what have become top international stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks.

Of course, the South African idols has its fair share of controversies through the television show on the South African television network, M-Net, as until its eighth season the contest only determined the white competitors as best young singers in South Africa until KhayaMthethwa became its first black winner, ending the dominance of racial minorities.
The good news is that Mthethwa took home a prize package worth almost R1m, including a recording contract with Universal Music, South Africa.
The Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’, other than the marketing ploy that it is, was but a mockery of the ‘stars’.
Adrian Kwelepeta fast comes to mind. He won the 2013 season and it took forever to release an album because he was looking for resources.
Apart from promoting the Sunbird brand, the country’s search for a star really also needed to ensure that the stars are not just fading.
The initiative for competitions is commendable because it is the best when it comes to isolating the talented from the crowd. My opinion however is that there is need to take a mile further by finding the winners institutions that should train them to become professional musicians as a form of perpetuating their careers.
At the current trend, it is all clear that these youths, who are hungry for fame and swayed by the belief that what their vocal cords can project is sweet sound that can stand the musical test, will remain being used as pawns in this marketing promotion game.
The flowing of benefits in the end create a disharmony of sorts as it is one-sided, flowing at the promotion of the corporate firms without trickling down to those players that make the whole event matter.    
Adrian pocketed a K500, 000 prize money but where did it take him to if for a year he had to hunt for resources to record an album?
But where is the talent that E-wallet unveiled? Where are the Sunbird ‘stars’ that were ‘searched’ and ‘found’ through the events and what will happen to the Mibawa winners if it is not only meant to popularize it?
My fear is that such competitions only make business sense but nothing for the music industry and its players.

Is Wailing Brothers already wobbling?

Granted, I might be jumping the gun. But I dare conclude that the reggae band, the Wailing Brothers, is already wobbling just a few months after its revival.

The promise looked full when siblings, drummer and lead guitarist Paul and Takudziwani Chokani respectively, left yet another reggae group Black Missionaries to breathe life into a Wailing Brothers that dripped into comatose immediately after its pioneer the siblings elder brother Elias passed on.

The band, which started long before The Blacks, tried to copy what bands with clout and most considered successful going by round the clock, round the year countrywide shows do. But it looks like Wailing Brothers has run out of steam long before they even started in earnest what their competitors have done for years.

The bands that quickly come to mind are of course The Blacks, Lucius Banda’s Zembani Band, Alleluya Band etc. Zembani has also reduced its live performances ever since boss Lucius Banda went back to parliament.

Without studying the ‘travelogue’ used by these bands it was all clear that not even the single album in the bag would save the situation for Wailing Brothers.
Not that the album is bad and could not carry them through, but perhaps there is a better explanation to explicate their absence.

Listening to Wailing Brothers’ maiden album rightly named – ‘Unfinished Project’ you realise that it doesn’t even waste time to get down to business with the opening track ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ which I describe as a loaded dice. 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.

This tracks 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 the Chokani brothers 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 God did not provide him with the gift of voice 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 also 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.

Those who faulted the revival of Wailing Brothers missed it. 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.

“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, you will get the perfect opportunity to appreciate my observation.

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 than 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.

But with their disappearance, will they indeed perpetuate the project?