Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Alleluya Band – the Modern Music Pioneer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is where Sinetre was Music Teacher and Trainer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what has followed has been a complete disappointment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Thursday, March 19, 2015

Princes rides on the back of 7thDay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nominate and Vote or Shut-up

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, March 2, 2015

Malawi Government sponsoring unsafe abortions

                                           Dr. Msusa
                                         Lewis Chakhwantha
                            Tinyade Kachika
By Gregory Gondwe
A College of Medicine lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology Ausbert Thoko Msusa has said government of Malawi is sponsoring unsafe abortions through the caring for post abortion care complications.
Msusa said according to research the government-run health care facilities bear the brunt as the government incurs a cost of between USD $300,000- $500,000 annually.
At an interface meeting organised for Parliamentary Committee on legal affairs by Ipas Msusa said the high cost of abortion has severe implications for women, especially those in rural areas.
He said the findings shows that approximately 70,000 women have abortions every year while about 30,000 of these women are treated for complications of unsafe abortion annually.
Lawyer Tinyade Kachika who is Managing Consultant at Lawplus says the country’s Penal Code Sections 149 – 150 make it an offence for a woman or a third party to procure a miscarriage, to supply the poison, instrument or other means necessary to do so, or to act with the intention to carry out the above.
She however says this contradicts Section 243 which says “a person is not criminally responsible for performing in good faith and with reasonable care and skill a surgical operation upon any person for his benefit, or upon an unborn child for the preservation of the mother’s life…”
She says there is need for abortion law reform because from a human rights perspective unsafe abortion due to restrictive law violates the right to safe abortion as recognised by the African Union which was ratified by Malawi in May 2005.
She says this is the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol, is the only treaty that specifically recognises the right to safe abortion.
Kachika observes that according to the charter the State Parties shall authorise medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest; and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus”.
Msusa said as a result of this law, women are paying a high price physically, economically and socially.
“One in five women who receive post abortion care had severe complications that need to be treated,” he said.
Msusa said at 675 per 100,000 live births, Malawi’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world.
“17 percent of these deaths are attributable to unsafe abortion,” he said.
He said those involved in unsafe abortions included 35 percent of women with first pregnancy while 61 percent were married women.
Msusa said 90 percent of women required womb scraping while 43 percent required stay in hospital more than a day, 4.6 percent required blood transfusion while about 14 percent had severe infection
Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on legal affairs Lewis Chakhwantha said the will need to consult widely before committing to the review of the abortion law in the country.
“The public perception is a hostile one towards this bill and we will first, gauge the temperature to see how responsive the public will be to the suggestion and only after we get a nod from the people will we be able to support it,” he said.
Anglican Church Priest Austin Kalimbe said it is necessary as Malawian Christians to reform the law because the Bible is not explicitly saying yes or no to abortion.
“We need to reflect about loss of life of women. If this is something that is going to save life of women then I am attempted to say yes to the safe abortion,” said Father Kalimbe.
Parliamentary Health Committee Chairperson Juliana Lunguzi snubbed the calls for safe abortions, telling off those calling for it to count her out.

“Unless you design messages for me to deliver to my constituents, I can never ask them to start carrying out abortions,” argued Lunguzi, herself a trained nurse and midwife.  

Govt. faults media on poverty reports


By Gregory Gondwe
Government has said recent reports in the media that indicated that Malawi is the poorest country in the world, based on the analysis of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of several countries, have exposed the incompetence of the Malawi media to interpret economic data.
Information, Tourism and Civic Education Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa expressed Government’s disappointment last week where he said Government has since decided to train the local media in financial and economic reporting.
“We are looking at the capacity of journalists in the country on how best they are able to cover and understand issues. That information per se could not have been interpreted as Malawi being the poorest country. Time is now that we need to emphasise much in specialised writing, in particular economic reporting” said Nankhumwa.
He said the bone of contention is Malawi media’s failure to differentiate between the GDP per capita in current US dollars and GDP per capita in purchasing power parity.
“These issues are quite different altogether. That is why I am saying it is very imperative that as journalist we need to emphasise much in specialised writing or specialised reporting especially economic reporting,” he said.
He said his ministry is at the moment undertaking to get some scholarships which are available now and they will be contacting media houses to provide personnel that can undergo this kind of training.
“Failure to interpret data is a serious source of concern,” he said.
He however said as government they are not saying that Malawi is not poor but not the poorest.
Nankhumwa said in the short and medium term for government is to put up policies that will increase rural production and income.
Presidential advisor on economic ... Collins Magalasi said members of the media have got an extra responsibility saying as government they have a number of sources of inspiration especially when policy development and implementation is influenced by among other things, what the public want to see done.
This fortunately or unfortunately Magalasi said relies on the biggest role of the media which is of informing the public rightly.
“I heard and saw what was reported as Malawi being the poorest country. I failed to understand how anybody who has an interest in the economy will report it that way,” he said.
Magalasi, who is an economist by profession, cautioned the media to be careful on how they use figures and issues of the economy because they can mislead the nation and in that way misleading the leadership.
“Measurement of poverty is a relative process and I was surprised that someone could write that they want to measure poverty using GDP,” he said.
He said the media need to answer several questions before taking this route.
In reaction to the government sentiments, Association for Business Journalists (ABJ) Deputy National Coordinator Dumbani Mzale agreed with the government officials that indeed the media did a botched up job on their reporting on the matter.
“We would look forward to ensuring that a tailor-made training for journalists do take place so that they can be able to interpret economic data,” he said.   

Muma Awards scores highly on Sauka

Disregard all the challenges that the organisers of the annual Music Malawi (Muma) Awards have encountered to put up the event for the second year running.

The gesture to decorate late Mr. Michael Fredrick Paul Sauka with the Life Time Achiever Award for composing Malawi’s National Anthem dims all such challenges.

MediaCorp Limited and Trocadero Consulting in partnership with Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) say they have unveiled Sauka as the Life Time Achiever for this edition going by the theme ‘Celebrating Malawi Music at 50.’

I happen to have been there on July 6, 2011 when late President Bingu wa Mutharika decorated eight musicians during the Independence Anniversary Celebrations at the Mzuzu Stadium.

Sauka was given the honour bestowed on those called Principal Achievers. At the time then I thought this honour had come too late considering that even on the day that Mutharika was sworn in, it was this Sauka-composed-national anthem that was performed several times.

Since on the day others had given top accolades I also raised a debate on whether or not Sauka deserved a Principal Achiever honour that he was given or needed a Grand Achiever accolade.

Born 1934, in his life time Sauka showed a unique talent both as a composer and pianist as he played music which became a big part of his life as it helped him emerge as one of the greatest musicians in the early 1960’s.

His musical exploits include composing the Malawi National Anthem, Mulungu Dalitsani Malawi Oh God Bless Malawi, which was chosen through a stiff and highly competitive process involving Malawian and non-Malawian composers.

He also pioneered the formation of the then renowned Blantyre City Recreation Fine and Performing arts group besides composing numerous pieces for the MBC Band and Limbe Cathedral Choir.
Sauka also used the performing arts group, to undertake development and health outreach mobilization programmes. He is also honoured for his ability to balance singing and teaching artists in music literacy and performance, thereby advancing his knowledge of music to the next generation.

The other reason I think Muma awards organisers have scored highly is that in April 2006 I was part of a Constitutional Review conference that was also attended by the current president as a consultant.

Participants and contributors to the Constitutional Review Conference proposed that some areas in the country’s National Anthem be changed in order to be consistent with the current political, economic and social scenario. Apparently none  has taken heed to such calls, speaking volumes of how highly regarded this composition is.

I remember that this matter, which came to the attention of the conference during the presentation by Rafiq Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) received support from Kamuzu Chibambo, a lawyer who is also People’s Transformation Party (PETRA).

Chibambo protested that Malawians have been singing about hunger, disease and envy for 40 years and proposed that these words be removed or replaced from the National Anthem.“

I remember that this was his argument: “What I know is usually what I affirm and what I affirm controls me therefore we must not let hunger, disease and envy control us. We need to address this issue because we must move on.”

Hajat who was presenting a paper entitled “A Constitutional Fortress: Mirage or Miraculously Possible?” also started by saying that some words in the National Anthem like where it talked of leaders must be replaced  with people.


The conference could perhaps consider amending our National Anthem to say, “”Bless our people - each and every one” instead of “Bless our Leaders”

To the applause of the participants Hajat also argued that once a person has become a leader then it means he has already been blessed and therefore if the conference wanted to maintain the leader in the National Anthem then it must be “Guide our leader and not Bless”.

If the submissions on the changing of the National Anthem were to take effect, it would have been the first time that it was to change since the adoption of the anthem in 1964.

Sauka died on August 15, 1990 a poor man, because he did not get any royalties from the National Anthem prompting his relatives to press on Government to assist his widow, which it never did.

The organisers say going by the theme of the awards “Celebrating Malawi Music at 50” which is in tandem with Malawi’s 50 years of independence, a selected panel of Judges have decided to give this converted award of Life Time Achiever to Michael- Fredrick Paul Sauka, the composer of the country’s National Anthem, which has been Malawi’s heart and soul for the last 50 years.

I doff my hat for the judges that include broadcaster Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, Journalist Penelope Paliani Kamanga, ethno-musician Waliko Makhala, Music Crossroads Country Director Mathews Mfune, DJs Kenny Klips, broadcaster Jean Chalungama and DJ Maya who scrutinised the nominations and given a nod to Sauka as the Life Time Achiever.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Inviting Davido to plant trees

Nigerian David Adedeji Adeleke whose stage name is Davido got his fame
through music. Last week he was in the country where he was paraded
around like a doll to pose with fans and plant trees here and there.

Davido who is a recording artist, performer and record producer was in
the country for three days courtesy of M-Cinema and the Go Green
Campaign.

Mainly he was invited to be a red carpet guest at a special screening
of new Nollywood film Spirits of the Assassin.

He also planted trees around.

Not surprising, he ended up posting a picture of himself in bed at
Capital Hotel expressing his feelings at that particular time which
was that he was bored.

Now everyone wanted his head, the patriotic and the not so patriotic
Malawians thought he had insulted them because all it meant was that
he was saying that Malawi is a boring country.

But wait a minute, what do you expect when you invite a musician from
a foreign country into yours in order to be planting trees and posing
with fans?

Why didn't the organisers invite him to perform as a musician? This
guy sings on stage and not planting trees around.

And talk of our organisers; what is the meaning of inviting a star
like Davido, book him at Capital Hotel when you do not have what it
takes to host anyone at a facility like Capital Hotel.

Now that the failure by the organisers to honour their contract with
the hotel only ended up helping the spilt over when it exorcised the
violent demons in Davido, where he roughed up a few, broke to pieces
anything fragile article standing on his way before speeding off to
the airport.

There was commotion at Capital Hotel Davido fought his way out of the
hospitality facility in order to evade payment of a hotel bill of K1,
048,000.

Police had to shoot in the air when the American-born Nigerian and his
team tried to drive off in a car prompting the driver to stop when the
gun was pointed at him.

What was the agreement and why should we be inviting musicians to do
the opposite of their calling.

We know Davido as some guy who sings. And now with all his talking and
perhaps taking one too many, he kind of lost his voice and added to
difficulties for anyone within his earshot to grasp what was coming
out of his mouth compounded by his thick Nigerian accent.

There was nothing that one could get from him which is a clear show
that his voice is wasting away because he is not using his system for
music alone.

The other thing is that it is very apparent that fame has got the
better of this young Davido guy. Talk of youthful exuberance but this
is something that cannot excuse him to live undignified life as he
pleases.

Does it say anything about failure to manage fame? Does it tell us
anything about our own artist as well? Is humility that expensive that
most of these young artists cannot afford it?

What reputation does this leave us with when it comes to organising
and hosting foreign artists? Are we being able to attract the best
quality to come here and perform and not do stuff that is not part of
what made them?

Where are the Music Malawi Awards?

In January 2014, the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) inaugurated what it called the Music Association of Malawi Music Awards (MAMMA); the awards have since changed and rebranded to Annual Music Malawi (MUMA) Awards to reflect the overall mission and vision of the Awards.
By August 2014 organisers of the awards, the MediaCorp Limited and Trocadero Consulting who were doing so in partnership with MUM had already started calling for nominations of the best artists/groups/songs for this Edition of the awards to be presented in the Month of January 2015.
The way I read my calendar, it looks like today is January 24th. I am sure if I have not heard of the date the presentation is going to take place, it is because the organizers have not announced it yet.  
While this can be changed as per the dictates of the circumstances I cannot help it but to consider the fact that it was rebranded and with it came a new format in the selection, nomination and voting of the best act.
One other act done for this year’s awards was the involvement of media houses that’s both print and electronic, selected clubs, music outlets and media practitioners to nominate the best act for the 2013/2014 season in each of the 13 categories.
Each participant was invited to select a maximum of ten acts in each category and thereafter a panel of judges will scrutinize the given lists to come up with 5 (five) in each category. These 5 (five) will then be put to a public voting.
The initial arrangement was that at least by Wednesday October 15, 2014 nominations would have been received.
Those that delayed to submit their completed nomination forms, where given an extension to do so by Wednesday December 10, 2014 meaning by now everything is set and the winners are now in the bag just waiting to be unveiled.
Soon after the inaugural awards everyone who matters tried to give the awards its Good, Bad and Ugly side.
I had my own misgivings as well and fought the temptation to point out at some glaring anomalies including failure to create categories with nominees that were mismatching.
Last awards were scandalous because even the MUM Chairperson Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango also got himself an award and so was the then Deputy Chairperson of MAM Women Desk Favoured Martha.
The demand I made last year was for the two to surrender back the awards because they did not deserve them, which was never the case.
Now this time round I am looking forward to an improved organisation in the awards giving process having learnt many lessons with the last year’s charade.
I expect the nominees to be in their deserving categories and please no executive member of MUM should walk away with any award again this time round. It is immoral to do so therefore take heed.
With all the time the organisers had in the world since August last year I should have been seeing posters, stickers, flyers and what have you informing us of the day the event is going to take place.
The inaugural event took place in January and it would have been befitting had the same also taken place this same month as the organisers told us last year.
Is it still on or?

Sangie’s jump into cheaters sequel

Sangie is the name that is lately on the lips of many. In June last year she did a track ‘I do it all for Love’ which has hit the airwaves as both an audio track and a musical video.

Of course it is a rhythm pronounced ‘Riddim’ created in 2012 by Foxxy at Step Up Records studio but she has bolstered it with her composition which is a reggae track that is in between the borders of Lovers’ Rock and non-hardcore dancehall.

Real name Angel Mbekeani, Sangie at 20 has managed to carve her place amongst the established artists, not in Malawi alone but also in Jamaica. 

This is what I mean: When you listen to her track you realise its a sequel of an issue that was first started by Christopher Martin when he released a single ‘Cheaters Prayer’ in August 2011.
In November the same year Ce'celie released ‘Cheater’s Prayer Counteraction’ in reaction to Martin’s hit single.
Now when you check the lyrics you will understand why Sangie’s can be lined up as the two tracks by the Jamaican stars is also one to be taken seriously.
For example Martin sings: “Oh Lord, don't let me cheat on my girlfriend, cause as far as I can see, She loves only me.
Oh Lord, don't let me cheat on my girlfriend, but Lord if you can't stop me from cheating, just don't let me get caught.”
In response Ce'celie sang back:
“Lord I don't wanna cheat on my boyfriend
But as far as I can see he's cheating on me
Lord I don't wanna cheat on my boyfriend
But lord since you can't stop him from cheating
wait til him left di yard, is a next man a come in yah.”
But while these two are trying to compete, where Ce'celie tries to cheat back on Martin for our Malawian voice through Sangie its a different case she sings:

“Oh Lord, don’t let me catch my boyfriend cheating instead make him stop because I am not leaving... Because I do it all for Love.”
It is a revelation that gives a fresh air to contributions from our ladies towards the development of our secular productions. The challenge is that the moment we start looking at our music with a spectacle Published on Jun 25, 2014.

“I do it all for love” audio was recorded at Mtanda Media produced by Sispence instrumental programmed but the Video was shot and directed by Lion Soldier and was edited by Platinum at Black Flames Edutainment.

But when you consider all the matters, it is clear that Sangie has not ashamed us by challenging with her part in the sequel as she has done it wonderfully well.

It is a revelation that gives a fresh air to contributions from our ladies towards the development of our secular productions. The challenge is that the moment we start looking at our music with such a spectacle, we blur the picture completely.

I have asked before that if you were to point out at a legendary lady musician in the country, who is into secular music, would you do that at the drop of a hat?
I would really be surprised if that were to be the case. Over a period of time if at all we have had lady musicians doing secular, then they would be a one album sort of artists.
I would not desire to go a yonder to give examples. I know you know Amina Tepatepa, Emma Masauko, Wendy Harawa, Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, and Beatrice Kamwendo as some of the names that have hogged the limelight and then either disappeared completely and got stuck in the peripherals.
It is so bad that most of the women musicians are dominating the gospel arena where they survive by the faith of such religious following other than sheer talent and creativity.
There are very few names within the gospel cycles like Grace Chinga and Ethel Kamwendo Banda and of course Favoured Sisters and the Chitheka Family who are musicians by talent first and playing gospel as a contribution of their talent towards the work of God.
Sangie now comes to answer my question: Seriously, do we have a Malawi female musician worth mentioning?

 

Malawi music from a US Perspective

Heather Maxwell produces and hosts the award-winning radio program "Music Time in Africa" and is the African Music Editor for the Voice of America. Maxwell is an ethno-musicologist with a doctorate degree from Indiana University specialising in African Music.
She is also an accomplished jazz and Afro-Jazz/Afro-Soul vocalist and has been working, researching and performing in Africa and the U.S. since 1987.
Recently, Maxwell visited Malawi and on December 3, she posted on the space for VOA bloggers what her experience was like.
Enjoy the excerpts below:
"I landed in Lilongwe, Malawi on October 9th, 2014. My mission: to learn more about the country’s music. The energy of Lilongwe was entirely different than in Johannesburg or Cape Town, South Africa, where I had just been the week earlier. Here, things moved at a slower, more relaxed pace. Day and night, joyous voices of nearby church choirs wafted through my windows. I discovered sweet songs sung in four-part harmony, soft acoustic guitar melodies, and to electric dance beats with wholesome good fun lyrics.
“I was surprised to find a music shop in the city centre that still sold cassettes. In fact most of music items available there were cassettes, followed by CDs and some DVDs as well.
“DVD music by Symon & Kendall, purchased at shopping mall. Lilongwe, Malawi 10/10/14. The most popular genre, by far, was gospel music. But in popular music, the Lilongwe-based duo Symon & Kendall were the staff’s number #1 pick.
“Popularly known as the Nyembanyemba Boys, this duo produces only DVDs of their music and their videos usually feature village-wide involvement. Their most popular clip to date is ‘Nkhwiko’ released in December 2012.
“According to Malawian music blogger Gregory Gondwe, the title track is about the oesophagus. ‘Imagine,’ he writes, ‘you might think there is a serious message to this, but nope, as the track merely tells the oesophagus to get ready as it will experience better food passing through it down into the stomach.’
“What’s great about 9the song) is that it captures moments of everyday life in Malawi with a twist of humour. The quality of the video and sound is also excellent.
“The highlight of my stay in Lilongwe was on Saturday morning when I visited Music Crossroads – Malawi (MCM). It is one of five centres for music training and production in southern Africa; the others being in Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. I arrived at the centre to find a well-organised group of young musicians waiting to greet me and to share their talents. Each one gave me their music on CD and a short performance that I filmed on the spot.
“Some had professional CDs to offer while others had only rough mixes. During a brief interview, they told me why MCM was important to them. George Kalukusha comes because it offers a great sense of community and a place to meet like-minded people and share ideas. He’s currently working on a song called "Good Blood" about a girl living with HIV/AIDS and the struggles she goes through.
“Neil Nayar is an English singer/songwriter who came to Malawi two years ago to be here at MCM. He heard about MCM musicians playing in Malawian youth prisons. After arriving he did that for nine months and from there, has been developing his own music style with local bands that he calls Afro-country fusion. ‘Country music is really popular here. Since I arrived as a foreigner not knowing any local language, the one style that carried me through in the beginning was Country because people really love Country.’
“Lackson Duncan Chazima is a singer and teaches voice and music theory at MCM Academy. He likes it here because so many ‘big’ musicians from Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and even West Africa countries converge here and share knowledge and repertoires. He says he learns a lot just being around them.
“Last but not least is singer songwriter, Ernest Ikwanga. He says he’s grown up at Music Crossroads – Malawi. He’s been coming since age 17. ‘It has been and still is my home’, he says.
“Ikwanga has just finished his theory classes and recently opened up his own home studio in Lilongwe.
“There are also other musicians and singers who contribute to the diversity and positive energy of the place. Thanks to all of them, and to Director Mathews Mfune and Music Crossroads International Director, Joe Herman.
“Music Today in Malawi is developing and several of the Music Crossroads artists told me that they were searching to find Malawi’s music identity. They have a few models to look to for direction such as Fikisa, Wambali Mkandawire and Symon & Kendall, but they are already well on their way.”