Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chibuku’s failed musical road

I was privileged to have been one of the judges at last Saturday’s
Chibuku Road to Fame 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.

To start with, it was a disappointing encounter because, from the word
go, it looked as if those organising the event - the Musicians Union of
Malawi (MUM) and Chibuku Products Limited - were taken unawares to
put the event together.

By noon, when everything was supposed to have started, the
organisers were still mounting the stage. To make matters worse, this
continued even when bands started testing instruments which was a distraction to both the performers and the audience.

At the end of the show, I, together with the other panellists - veteran broadcaster and musician Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma and music lecturer at Chancellor College Andrew Falia, who was the Chief Judge - agreed that the competing groups should have refused to go ahead with the mediocre musical equipment.

I am not sure why the High Table was reserved for Sports and Youth Minister Grace ‘Obama’ Chiume and her officials when the reason we had assembled at the venue was to let the performers play music and be judged.

Because of such a bad decision on how and where to set the stage, a number of things were clearly improvised. So the make-shift stage was clearly that - ‘makeshift’! No wonder it kept mocking the K15 million that was billed for the event.

Just to demonstrate how haphazard the preparations were, while the
competition was still on - and having realised that it would be past dusk before the charade would end - the organisers came on stage and started setting up lighting, something that would have been done at the time the stage was being constructed.

In the end, I was not surprised that one band disputed our judgment that its performance was ‘below par’ because it played in the dark.

Then there was the question of the poor output of the equipment which made voices hoarser than the normal voice of the artist. Or, in a number of instances, the bass guitar would eclipse all other instruments leading to a cacophony of disorganised noise.

I wonder why a competition worth K15 million could fail to hire top-class equipment like that of the calibre of the Mibawa Open Air Music Equipment or indeed the one belonging to Mr. Entertainers Promotion.

It is clear that due to lack of good quality equipment, competing bands that brought other elements like Nyau, Beni and other traditional dancers managed to distract better musical judgement from the audience. In the end, a commendable initiative from Chibuku Products was reduced to be reduced as ‘one of those things’ that have failed to promote the growth of music in Malawi.

The idea of throwing light on talent that is hidden in dark corners of
the country for us all to see and appreciate is really what the local
music industry badly needs. However, when badly done, we should not allow ourselves to be shut up for fear of scaring away the potential sponsors.

If Chibuku Products Limited and MUM think of putting K15 million to good use, they need to be well organised. They should not be afraid to approach those that have music equipment that matter for the sake of the competition. After all, it is going to be a musical competition.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When Nigeria invades Malawi

I am not even in doubt; we are musically under heavy attack from Nigerians. All, if not most, vehicles in public transport system have the dominance of Nigerian music.

There have been funny names and titles from this West African country where musical artists have come on the scene and left the local music lovers none-the-wiser.

It all started with artists like D'banj real name ‘Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo’ Nigeria’s pop duo, P-Square of Peter and Paul Okoye as well as Flavour (Chinedu Okoli) it was more like one on those once off thing.

But lately with the mergence on the scene of more Naija artists, as they call it there, like Mcgalaxy with tracks like 'Skeme', Udoka Chigozie Oku a.k.a Selebobo who has featured J. Matin in a remix track called ‘Yoyo’.

There is also Enetimi Alfred Odom better known by his stage name Timaya who has done a track famously known as ‘Shake your Bum Bum’, Nwanchukwu Ozioko, (a.k.a Vast) is one half of the popular singing duo, Bracket whose other member is Obumneme Ali a.k.a. Smash. Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun known by his stage name Wizkid

Of all the names above one that seem to have taken control is the son of a Billionaire business magnet David Adedeji Adeleke popularly called Davido with tracks like Skelewu, Aye, and Gobe which are all over places that use music in Malawi, of course except Churches but not Christian weddings.

The Nigerian beat has become the heart beat of most entertainment activities in Malawi and their music were popularised by sound tracks in the films.

Of course Shemu Joya has tried to use local music by Agorroso in his films Seasons of Life and The Last Fishing Boat but what I am talking about is having a group of musical compatriots who would do music that will have a recognisable element to be referred to as Nigerian genre for example.

In a country like Malawi, you will have San B coming up with his own thing and calls it ‘Honjo’ and Atumwi will call theirs ‘Sendeza’. The African Representatives to the 2008 World Music Crossroads festival, the Boys from Mzuzu ‘The Body, Mind and Soul’ will call theirs ‘Voodoojazz’. Tay Grin, Nyau Music.

When Malawians musicians claim that they have come up with their own genre, are they fair to themselves?

Ben Mankhamba has tried to do a fusion of traditional dances with western instruments and called it Beni, Mwinoghe, Vimbudza. You see, our quest for a fixed and well established Malawian genre, has been tedious at times; the other day Lucius Banda told us that we were there with his ‘Zulu Woman’ beat.

Edgar and Davis thought a beat like ‘Kale-Kale’ was it; so were the sounds that emerged from the Lhomwe belt of the likes of Alan Namoko and Chimvu River Jazz Band and Michael Mukhito Phiri. Wambali Mkandawire has never called what he plays anything else other than African Jazz whatever this means.

Peter Mawanga and a certain sector of the industry believe he has cracked the elusive code to establish the much sort after Malawian genre with his type of music; but the response has only fascinated the ear of those that can read music.

Daniel Kachamba and his brother Macdonald are said to have been playing ‘Kwera’ music which musical historians claim was born right here in Malawi during the Ndiche Mwalare/Alick Nkhata days.

They claim when Malawians were descending down South Africa in the 1940/50s they took with them the ‘Kwera’ music which the South Africans took as their own and perfected it and became a springboard that has helped them established different genres that are still recognizable as South African.

Now when you hear Ademwiche by Fikisa you do not even want to be told that what you are listening to is a Malawian beat even with the presence of modern instrumentation.

This is clear that this is a traditional beat. But like a chewed bubblegum, where is it?

This is an argument I have ever made in the past, but point here today is why Nigerian music has taken control of all our entertainment joints.

Why is it that when it ripples within your earshot it is easily recognisable as Nigerian music?

Malawi’s Radio Presenters

I have ever said that I have problems calling Malawi radio presenters Disc Jockeys or fondly shortened to DJs based on the knowledge that I have of who a DJ is and what the radio presenters who call themselves DJs do.
Nonetheless, today I am not bothered with whatever names, titles, ranks, designations or positions radio presenters bestow upon themselves. I am here to wonder aloud if these people know their role to make Malawi music what it needs to become.
Forget about the question which one is the Malawi music. But one statement that I have to register from the onset is that Malawian Radio presenters or Disc Jockeys as they love calling themselves are a huge disappointment.
This is not because of the way they live their lives with their spouses and other extramarital activities as it were, but this is to the choices they make when playing music on the radios.
I have no problems with a radio like MBC Radio II or Capital FM who have declared that they are bent at promoting music, which is music. Meaning the foreign music all of us strive to emulate.
However, radio stations like Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Matindi FM and other religiously inclined broadcasters their interests has been cast around locally produced and sang music, call it gospel or secular.
The general complaint is that we have talent when it comes to music and musicians. We also have outlets that suit us but fail to satisfy us all.
Back to the radio presenters, the positions these dudes hold is very privileged and in some countries like Zambia they have used it massively to promote their local music. Someone was telling me there was a time when a decree was imposed where all media outlets in the country were asked to only play Zambian music; I doubt its truthfulness though.
Not that I am suggesting that we do likewise in the country; because we risk clamping down sources where we can learn from.
In that way, we will not have anywhere to assess ourselves as a country to see if we are indeed doing what we should be doing as a musical nation or whether or not we are stepping on the same spot or moving either forward or backward.
However, given that we also impose a similar decree, do you see ourselves achieving anything? Considering that even when the radio presenters have the opportunity to play our local music, others creating programmes that have local music as the only input it still raises a number of questions when you see how these radio presenters comport themselves.
You find that they will stick to a track or an album of a musician who everyone who has an ear for music is condemning due to his or her mediocre feat and yet the so called DJ will be heaping praises that you who is listening fail to see its justification.
In the process, the questions of corrupt radio presenters which has ever come up in this regard pops up again.
While other presenters will do likewise due to naivety, others largely seem to have a hidden interest that is not even well hidden…
If the Malawi music has to grow and glow, its fate, to an extent, also lies in the hands of these people.
Radio promoters or DJs, as they would like me to call them, are promoters of sorts. If they play bad music on their respective radio dials, then it has to be on the back of trying to point at weaknesses in our artists’ music.

May be it is high time radio station started deliberate programmes that look at a particular song or singer and critique their way of performing and final music production.

Patriotism comes in many ways, if presenters give us quality music we promote quality products from Malawi, which can bring us forex before we know it, not to mention catapulting the artist to international stardom.
Next we try to look at what makes one a DJ.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oskido’s unprofessional antics

Something is not adding up. Either the problem is in the mediocrity that is our entertainment industry that the so-called ‘big names’ play games with us or there is something professionally wrong with South African artists.
Last time in April we were told by Platinum Entertainment and the Entertainers Promotions that they had invited the renowned South African Kwaito/House star Oskido, real name Oscar Mdlongwa.
He was scheduled to perform at Wakawaka Hotel in Lilongwe on May 4 and later follow up with a Blantyre show at Country Club in Limbe on May 11.
First they announced the postponement of the Lilongwe show but promised come rain or sunshine Oskido will perform in Limbe.
Come the day when patrons had parted ways with their hard-earned K3,000s to sample the famous hits Tsa Mandebele  and Y’Tjujutja (Waichukucha) at Country Club, they were told the artist missed his flight and will, therefore, not make it.
The organisers said they had already paid him all what he had demanded in order for him to come and perform in Malawi and they had to give back to the patrons the money they had paid as entry fees.
The world being a small village these days with the internet, it was clear to establish if indeed Oskido had missed his flight or was playing games. And, good heavens! The dude had another show in Soweto at Dreamers Celebrations alongside Professor and Uhuru, some big names in South Africa who he has collaborated with on some projects.
Locally, there also used to be some gospel and secular artists who used to collect money from organisers while knowing they have other scheduled shows on the same day some 500 kilometres away.
Now this Oskido guy is not just a toddler in the profession and considering that he was named one of the Top 10 Kwaito legends of all time by MTV Base in 2009, you would expect him to be professional.
I don’t want to be tempted to doubt his professionalism by looking at his beginnings because it might not be fair.
But wait a minute; this is a guy who started his career from outside Club Razzmatazz in Hillbrow where he was selling roasted sausages having left Zimbabwe, his father’s home country, for South Africa the home of his mother where he was born.
It was in the early 1990s when late at night he would sneak into the club to have a dance and ended up being fascinated by deejaying. Occasionally he used to take over the mic when DJs were taking a breather.
As the story goes, one day the club’s resident DJ didn’t pitch up and, as fate would have it, Oskido was approached to provide relief and he has never looked back.  
Honestly, a disciplined performer would not take people for granted if he seriously wants to advance professionally. Perhaps he thinks he is advanced professionally already?
Imagine, organisers at the previous event were crestfallen and even refused to go ahead with the show with the local acts that included King Chambiecco, Gwamba, Nessnes, Black Jak, Skeffa Chimoto and Real Sounds Band.
Now Wakawaka Hotel has taken over the initiative and says they have already spent K5 million to bring the artist into the country. The next date is June 29.
My prayer is that come the day, the most sought-after dude should not fail to turn up again, should not miss his flight again.
Perhaps the solace would be in the fact that another South African artist, Big Nuz, also missed his flight last year but he later turned up for the Wakawaka show.
But in the event that Oskido misses his flight again, please organisers shed off the mediocrity displayed last May. This time sue for breach of contract.
Or there is no contractual agreements in these deals?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When fame clouds Lulu’s head

Last week I wrote something about the show organised at Lilongwe Golf Club by Mibawa. What I dwelt on more was how I thought Mibawa owner John Nthakomwa is one investor that the Malawi music industry desires his replication.
One of the performers at the function was one local artist artists I hold in high esteem. Lawrence ‘Lulu’ Khwisa is a complete musician. In fact he is a full package that has been sufficiently value added. He is a guitarist, a drummer, a keyboardist, a vocalist, a dancer and a music producer all rolled in one.
It’s not all the time that one person can be as blessed as Lulu is. One thing in the past that made everyone appreciates Lulu, which I still believe is the case, has been his humility despite his multi-endowment.
However, lately it looks like his talent is going to his head and as his fan I would be failing in my duties if I will let it pass as if it is ‘business as usual’.
At this show at the Golf Club I saw a Lulu that attempted to prove to the contrary the humble image that I have always associated with this multi-talented artist.
It all started when the patrons started demanding for particular tracks from several of his albums but he could hear none of such demands.
“Ndizipitatu mukamavuta. Lero ndiyimba zofuna zanga. Musandiwuze zochita.” (I will leave if you will be pestering me. Today I will sing what I want. Don’t tell me what to do).  This was the response from Lulu when his fans made demands to him. When they kept on demanding for tracks that they wanted he retorted: “Mukupitiriza? Ndizipitatu. Tikatere ndiye timawerukapotu”. (Are you still continuing [demanding songs]? I will leave the stage. This is where I call it quit.)
Make your own judgement but to me who has seen Lulu perform for countless times, I think this was a new phenomenon. It does not augur well for the image of humility that he has cut for himself over the years. 
The danger of such tendency when it creeps in the psyche of our artists is that it eats away the system and takes away their allure. We have examples where artists have become big headed and telling off the very patrons they perform for, only to experience a crumble in line with the saying that ‘Pride comes before a fall.
Before it comes to this, Lulu has people like me who would shout out a warning and plead with him to remain what the industry has known him to be.
When musicians compose, they do it for the fans. When they perform, the fans they compose for show their love for particular songs and while artists prepare what exactly they will perform they also need to be accommodative as Lulu has been over the years.
Because he has always been compromising, his fans have been attuned to behave in a way where they will express their demands and this cannot be changed just one day without warning.
Like in this case, Lulu was supposed to be tactical in sending his message across that he would not be doing what his fans were demanding. The absence of this tact portrayed a bad image of an arrogant Lulu who is getting drunk with fame which is ironically coming from the very fans he wanted to be bossy with.
I hope this is not the new Lulu.

When music runs into a saviour

John Nthakomwa is one investor that the Malawi music industry desires his replication. It’s a pity it had to wait until last Sunday on June the first for me to realise this.
There has been a time when I have been shocked with disbelief. Last Sunday was such a day. Mibawa has acquired musical equipment that is going with a movable first-rate stage which is valued some billions of kwacha.
To imagine that there are people who can invest such huge amount in entertainment you really cannot help it but doff your hat. If one would be taken by a pleasant surprise at the sight of the equipment and numerous speakers that produce crystal clear sound, then you would also be in profound disbelief at the quality of sound that bellied the atmosphere.
Mibawa Resident Band with Goma Nyondo and his two vocal leading partners, the accomplished reggae outfit Soul Raiders, Skeffa Chimoto, Lawrence Khwisa and Faith Mussa sounded as if they were using their studio recorded music in CDs.
Well, the proof was when Mibawa and Soul Raiders who played several famous reggae copies from Bob Marley to Peter Tosh to Culture faultlessly were there to prove that the patrons were indeed faced with reality.
Now with such huge musical investment, Nthakomwa now wants to continue mesmerising the country’s music lovers.
Nthakomwa has now even invested in what he is calling Mibawa One Stop Complex which will include recording studios – mark studio(s), shops restaurants and an entertainment club. All this will be along the Midima Roundabout in Limbe Blantyre.
In his words Nthakomwa says they have invested in sound and studio equipment and now thet want to take the lead in development of local contebnt for Malawian Television stations which dish out too much foreign content.
I mean this is what I have always been talking about.
Nthakomwa is the man that all and sundry need to emulate. Who does not use music at one point or the other? But even when the response would be a deafening affirmative on how everyone uses music there has not been much when it comes to investment in this industry.
Of course you cannot take it away from lawyer Jai Banda, Mr. Entertainer himself who for years has really tried to promote the music industry with huge investments, but for long he has been a lonely voice. Investors like parliamentarian Lucius Banda have really tried but not given credit because he is an artist himself and the feeling has been that it is to his personal benefit.
But when you check the list of those that I have mentioned above, you will appreciate that these are individuals, with have companies like Chibuku Industries, Sunbird Hotels who are not seriously into the needed investments.
I have always argued that companies like Carlsberg thrive on using music to promote and achieve sales of their products but they have not invested a lot into the industry. Therefore when the music industry gets blessed when it has people like John Nthakomwa he needs to get encouragement from the private sector as well as the government.
Well, what was ironic last Sunday was that here was quality but patrons were dropping in, in dribs and drabs but John Nthakomwa was undeterred as he managed the sound console to produce the quality that ever music loving ear would kill for.
With the kind of high-tech equipment that Mibawa has invested into, musicians will no longer find excuses for their handicap to dish out the best and I can now declare that open-air music concerts in Malawi will never be the same.   

Fitting Songs in Political impasse

Granted, no one seems to know when next we are going to swear in our fifth President as it is now apparent that President Joyce Banda has done her God given two-year-term.

While people on all levels of life are trying to make sense of the political situation that the nation is faced with, the artists have shown that they do not want to be left behind.

You rarely hear about the ‘Soul Raiders’ – a Lilongwe based reggae band led by Prince Martin. Those that have followed Malawi reggae music would not need introduction of who Martin is.

Our musicians are known to get involved in politics, but it is usually when the campaigning in ongoing like the case of Lucius Banda and Joseph Nkasa for example.

But it is perhaps only late local Reggae King Evison Matafale who showed a way on how reactive artists can be to come up with prompt compositions based on the situation on our hand. Remember ‘Time Mark’ a track he did soon after the September 11, 2001 attack when terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners to strike targets in the United States where they killed nearly 3,000 people died.

The track got revs for its swiftness and the wit observed in its composition. Matafale who was known to play Reggae music that stuck to the Rub-A-Dub a style characterized by a powerful, round, low and deep bass, as well as a very simple drumming, with the bass drum and the snare drum alternating on the first beat of each bar. But with ‘Time Mark’ he brought an urgency to the track that made it look like the ‘ska’ version of reggae.

Now with the current political scenario, the Soul Raiders have come up with this track ‘Song for my Nation’ which, well, speaks more of what people are into with not knowing where the country goes next. Here is part of the lyrics:

My nation is in frustration,/ Lacking direction;/ Does the government has a solution?/ I doubt./This song is for my nation/ In desperation,/Life is in devaluation

Please God, give us direction/ we’ve lost our vision/Can't see the way/And who's gotta bring peace to my nation?/ Seems there's no way out/ From this situation.

Of course the situation is not as hopeless as the track depicts. First impression would be that it is a very good reggae track.

On second thought though is that it lacks the urgency that Matafale used when he did ‘Time Mark’.

This important message coming at the ‘correct’ time should have been packaged in an extraordinary envelope.

My point is, you would miss the gist of the track’s theme if you would listen to it casually as just one of the Soul Raiders’ tracks.

This point is even strengthened by how one of the band members Joel Suzi has posted it on Facebook when I first saw it.

In fact what compelled me to listen to the track were they lyrics that have been posted alongside a link to the reverberation website where the track has been uploaded.

A unique track like ‘Song for my Nation’ needed a far better innovation in terms of choice of the reggae beat to go with it. However, that said, it does not take away the spirit shown by the reaction from our artists from these situation. It’s wrong to always think of singing praise songs – for a price of course – when politicians are campaigning for positions.

Of course the argument would be, so what changes can it bring to the political situation, but the fact is the ability from our artists to be charged artistically and come up with tracks like ‘Song for my Nation’.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Not the Lake of Wealth Stars

The Lake of Stars Music Festival seems to always vindicate my misgivings of this whole charade. This time round it has compelled me to write about the Lake of wealth stars owing to the exorbitant charges placed before local patrons will get an access to the event.

It is apparent that the Lake of Stars seems to be getting off our hands directly or indirectly.

So far we have the Tanzanians as our biggest instigator of a building confrontation over who owns this lake and as the matter is undergoing arbitration I better not delve into it at the moment; I will let it pass for now and discuss it another day.  

But what I want us to discuss this time round is the Lake of Stars Music Festival. For the eight years that it was running before it took a break of three years I had been complaining of the uncharacteristic latitude displayed by its organisers when it comes to organizing the event.

This is to do with how they hire our local musicians, to start with. If you look at this year's line-up you have the Zambia's award winning Zone Fam, The Swedish/Malawi ‘The Very Best’, European artists and Skeffa Chimoto and if you will check the pay-out for these artists you will find that the local artist will be the least paid by 500 per cent.

This other day I had complained that the organisers were giving musicians outside the Malawi border lucrative contracts worth big sums of money at the expense of the peanuts that they would offer our own artist.

This, forced Lucius Banda and company the other day to stage their protest when they organized a parallel festival which has now been christened as sand festival to drive a message home that as local artists, they deserve better.

I have always argued that there is some scheming and machinations by organisers who use the event to make money for themselves. We have a lot of foreign folks who do a number of activities outside the glare of the concerned authority and therefore do manage to dupe the citizenry.

To start with, to his or her benefit is the Lake of Stars Musical Festival? Ever since it started do we have any positive pointers that the event has benefitted the country?

They talk of promoting tourism, but ever since the festival started, the department of tourism has never come into the open to explain how beneficial the event has become to the nation.

Apart from creating a platform where foreigners come to get stoned with our Malawians gold – as in cannabis – what more do Malawi benefit from the event?

The other day I used to think this is going to create a stage where our Malawian music talent will be showcased and accordingly utilise a window of opportunity to export talent but lo and behold it has proven not to belong to the local musical industry.

No wonder therefore, neither Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) nor Cosoma is involved in earnest when it comes to Lake of Stars.

Last time I asked who these stars shining along our lake? The answers that came showed that, in fact they are not even local and ‘native’ stars.

Now while the government officers with regulatory authority are sleeping on the wheel and shutting off our musical artists, this time round the organisers have even decided to make the festival an all foreign and elite affair.

How do you explain charges for this festival slated for Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi split into early bird tickets at K21, 000 if bought before the month of May and later K31, 000?

Listening to the organisers talk about this fee without any compunction make you realise that this is not Malawi's own.

So far they boast that they are experiencing high demand for the tickets across Africa before describing the pricing as very fair. In fact the organisers have the audacity to compare these prices to high scale economies where spending 90 pounds sterling or K60, 000 does not change anything.

The organisers say local price costs a third of the international price but this is Malawi, if the organisers want more money they better go where they make that lot.

If it were in my power I would really stop this exploitation in its track and at the risk of accusing the authority of being corrupted by the organisers in concept and all sense, they will bury their heads in the sand and pretend all is well.

For the sake of argument, if all is well can I be told how much forex is garnered every time Malawi host this event, touted by CNN as 'One of Africa's most respected festivals' ?
Ever since it started what are the positive deliverables in terms of advancing our tourism sector that we can boast about.

At whose whim does it happen? The other day the organisers decided they were not making enough money through Lake of Stars so they came up with city of stars.
If it is indeed beneficial, why hasn’t government taken it over as a national event when one considers the rhetoric that tourism is one of Malawi’s development pillars of top priority?  

Where is Morgan Heritage?

Of course this is only April and the year is still very young. But I guess I can start from where I stopped that on August 29, 2013, at around 1841 hours, Gramps Morgan wrote on his official Facebook wall that it’s official: “We are coming to Africa, the dates have been cut out any ‘Experienced Promoter’ can link us or if you know ‘the best promoter’ in your country have them contact us Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe.”

I have been watching the media spaces in the country but I have not seen anywhere else where it has been mentioned that Morgan Heritage has confirmed of their coming to Malawi.

At one point or the other, we were told that Multi Choice Malawi was in discussions to bring the Royal Reggae Family band to Malawi but there issues to do with the size of the monies that would exchange hands before they could really confirm their availability this year.

Like I said before, I have no problems with other countries where they had scheduled to visit because such musicians of repute visit and perform in those countries times without number. But I had a problem with how the local entertainment industry is going to handle this offer.

It’s a challenge, I said, that will speak volumes of how organised or mediocre our entertainment industry is. For someone who has been writing about music since 1993, I find it sad that if Gramps Morgan were to contact me to find him the best promoter in the country, surely I would not point at anyone.

I know another musical star, the Jazz connoisseur Earl Klugh, who visited Malawi courtesy of the Standard Bank’s ‘Joy of Jazz’ project.

For the sake of those that missed my first entry on the same I have to repeat by saying that I might assume too much that each and everyone here knows who Gramps Morgan - or The Morgan Heritage - is.

Denroy Morgan is the patriarchal genesis of the Morgan Heritage. He fathered 17 sons and 12 daughters. Denroy is famed as aJamaican reggae artist who was born in May Pen in Clarendon, but left Jamaica in 1965 at the age of 19 and travelled to theUnited States to become a musician.

He was part of the formation the Black Eagles, a New York City reggae band, in the 1970s before launching a prosperous solo career in the 1980s onwards.

With his Black Eagles, Denroy won the New York Reggae Music Festival in 1977 which set of his rise to fame which continued into the early 1980s. His most successful release "I'll Do Anything for You" in 1981 reinforced his fame as it peaked at Number 9 on the American soul chart. It also peaked at Number 7 on the dance charts and these successes helped to launch his solo reggae career.

His 29 children were all musical growing up and have since formed two separate bands; The Morgan Heritage and LMS.

Morgan Heritage is reggae band initially started as an octet featuring eight of Morgan's 29 children. Morgan Heritage began recording with their father in the early '90s.

Their father produced their debut single, ‘Wonderful World’, in 1991 followed shortly after by an album, ‘Growing Up’. Morgan Heritage’s first break came the following year when they performed at the Reggae Sunsplash.

Morgan Heritage is known globally as the “Royal Family of Reggae” and the “Rolling Stones of Reggae” owing to their electric stage antics.

Now the reggae band is made up of Peetah Morgan, Una Morgan, Roy ‘Gramps’ Morgan, Nakhamyah "Lukes" Morgan and Memo "Mr. Mojo" Morgan.
On the other hand, LMS is a dancehall and hip hop band made up of the trio Noshayah Morgan, Otiya ‘Laza’ Morgan and Miriam Morgan.

Now Roy "Gramps" Morgan who posted about their possible trip to Malawi is also a solo reggae singer whose debut album entitled ‘Two Sides of My Heart’ earned him a number of nominations for awards. He also made it big in 2009 when he featured in India Arie’s track ‘Therapy’. He has his second solo album to his name ‘Reggae Music Lives’ released in 2012.

After recording several successful albums that included ‘Full Cycle’ and ‘Three in One’ among others, Morgan Heritage took a five-year break but this year they have they have released their latest studio album ‘Here Come The Kings’.

Now if you look at the resume of Morgan Heritage - or better still Gramps Morgan - you will realise that they are not a small music unit.
And I repeat that their expressed interest to perform in Malawi cannot be taken lightly. Between June and August they will be perfoming in the USA with Barrington Levy. Currently they are touring Europe since March.

Now I ask again, where is the promoter to talk to The Morgan Heritage?

Time is running out.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kenyatta Hill, the True Musical Son

When you listen to the album, ‘Live On: Tribute to Culture’ by the son of the legendary Jamaican reggae outfit’s front man Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill you realise how a true musical son he is to his father.
I really do not know if his situation can be compared to the other sons that took over from their fathers, like the Black Missionaries back home, for example, but in the case of Kenyatta Hill one would really be tempted to believe what is written on the website called  that his career began the day his father’s ended.
Kenyatta’s dad, Joseph, who was the front man and songwriter for the Jamaican vocal trio, Culture. He collapsed and died while on a 2006 tour of Europe. The website notes that to the amazement of promoters, fans and critics alike, Kenyatta stepped onstage and delivered electrifying performances time and again - nineteen shows in all - until the tour was complete. And this was unheard of in any genre of music at any time, it states.
“Kenyatta gave of himself so totally – as his father had for so many years – that the two seemed to become one, the eerily similar voices and the vibes igniting the critics and yielding a new reggae mantra ‘magic, not tragic!’” the website reports.
As if what he displayed with the remaining shows of his father was not enough, at the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston, Jamaica, at the memorial concert for Joseph, the website states that Kenyatta’s performance with Culture was the highlight in the star-studded night and garnered him the rousing applause of the hard-to-please Kingston reggae audience. It further notes that Kenyatta went on to front Culture in a series of performances in the US, Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina and Peru, again leaving audiences amazed and delighted.
The coming on the scene by the young Hill is said to be influenced by elements of dancehall grounded in the roots tradition and motivated to carry on his father’s work. Kenyatta set to writing, finishing songs that Joseph had started and creating new music of his own.
“On his poignant debut single, “Daddy”, (Tafari Records) backed by a masterful roster of musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser, and produced by Lynford “Fatta” Marshall, he confronted the emotional pain and uncertainty he felt after the loss of his father. He cried while he wrote, just as audiences in Europe had cried while he sang,” the website states.
I am getting all that the website wrote because it truly expresses what I wanted to say about Kenyatta having listened to his album this week. The website marks ‘Pass the Torch’ as the complete CD having “a collector’s item feel” which was released in 2007 to long-time Culture fans and critics who have embraced the son, named after Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya.
“With its very lovely and high level vibe Kenyatta Hill’s first CD prompted one long-time Culture fan to proclaim, ‘Culture is ALIVE’,” states the website matter-of-factly.
The website says indeed Culture, featuring Kenyatta, continues to share the wisdom of Joseph’s conscious reggae, overlaid with Kenyatta’s own lively and youthful musical vision. Kenyatta toured in support of ‘Pass the Torch’ with a number of festival appearances throughout 2009 as well as a highly successful US tour with Beres Hammond in 2009 and 2010.
It was after these tours that in 2011 he released ‘Live On’, a highly-acclaimed tribute to the music of Joseph Hill and Culture with Kenyatta performing fresh renditions of some of their classic compositions. 2011 also saw Kenyatta Hill on tour with a hot new band and expands his musical horizons beyond his formidable roots.
Of course, the father is always the father, but listening to ‘Live On’ one cannot help it but realise that indeed the father, Joseph Hill, is still alive in the son, Kenyatta Hill.
One big question back home would then be: is it the same with the living sons? Is Robert Fumulani still alive in the persons of Anjiru and Chizondi?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nkasa’s musical Prostitution

Joseph Nkasa came on the musical scene in the late 90s with kind of music that never made any mark. It was until in the early to mid 2000 when he brought some ‘Wayenda wapenga’ toils that he got his first substantive recognition.

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 K1m 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 bought property including cars without thinking of how best to manage his resources.

By the time he got another payment in 2009 from Cosoma 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 this December 29, 2009 pay 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.

At that time it looked historical that since the establishment Cosoma the K2, 523, 459.16 that Mbenjere got was the biggest money it has dished out to a single musician.

And at the same event, Lucious Banda carted home K1, 094, 579.10, Thomas Chibade K712, 742.48. Joseph Nkasa who in 2003 got a million got K597, 942.27 this time round.

Nkasa’s hunt for money has taken him to many places including begging and even performing with Zembani Band. But all this never brought as much money as he wanted.

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

Copying Lucius Banda’s 2004 campaign song ‘Yellow’ he did a track for the President Bingu wa Mutharika called ‘Mose wa lero’ which helped lift his stature as a presidential candidate making Mutharika the first to win with an over 70 percent landslide victory.
Nkasa has always claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But with his show for political money, this now remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.
Nkasa composed a song for Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he was contesting for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably.

After Chimunthu Banda he allegedly 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, ‘Kulira kwa a Mphawi’, ‘Wanunkha Malawi’, ‘Opani Yehova’ – 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 has not even materialised, Nkasa has now done a track for Joyce Banda whom he discredited in the other tracks where he is singing complete opposite to what he sang 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 will be voted into 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.