Sunday, April 17, 2016
I am impressed with Wailing Brothers’ maiden album rightly named – ‘Unfinished Project’.
They don’t even waste time to get down to business. The opening track ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ is a loaded dice. It leaves you scampering all over the place for cover; running away from own shadow apparently. It’s so allegorical reminiscent of compositions of their first known leader Evison Matafale – not that I am disregarding the fact that the band was started by Elias Chokani.
This track leaves you with so many questions whose answers are in the chorus – ‘It is as you say’.
This particular track, like the rest that have been led on vocals by Chikumbutso Simbi, is a revelation of more than one thing; the sibling band leadership of Paul and Takudziwani Chokani has realised their deficiencies in delivering vocal output. I might speculate that this is perhaps the reason they had Matafale in the initial stages.
My observation is not without proof as it has been rightly represented in the tracks that Taku is on vocals which clearly show that this voice gift God did not provide him with when He bequeathed him with the skilful manner he puts on display when given a lead guitar.
In the track ‘Afritune’ the band has been very naughty with experiment where they play African drums that have been well intertwined with reggae elements coming up with a piece of work oozing refined creativity. There could never have been any better way to pay their tribute to their fallen brothers and cousins in Elias and Luis, Gift and Musamude Fumulani and of course Matafale, than in the ‘Afritune’.
The track does not demand stringent vocal levels that separate the novice from the elite. It has therefore suited the voices of its lead vocalists Taku and Paul.
‘Levi’ is a track which like ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ is serious minded reggae track. This is the album’s other best, done by Chiku on the vocals and like ‘Mwatero ndi Inu’ it is inclined towards religious, or is it spiritual foundation.
The flair with which the works of ‘Unfinished Project’ has been appropriated is easily noticed in these tracks. This is the more reason why, unlike those who faulted the revival of Wailing Brothers, I still maintain that we really needed a different voice of reggae in the industry.
This is a superlative variety; I would hate to call it an alternative to productions by Black Missionaries because to do so will be playing into the hands of those who are chanting that music is a mission and not competition in reference to the departure from the Blacks by Paul and Taku to reawaken Wailing Brothers.
‘Sindidzakusiya’ is a love track full of praise of a beloved woman which is another delivery from Chiku offered in a typical reggae beat, riddled with the usual rub-a-dub thump that goes with a serious bass line.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, the highly promoted track in the album is a mixture of the complicated and the simple and not so complicated vocal pitch arrangement. Of course the mistake has come about with the inclusion of this complicated vocal counter which clearly shows that it does not suit Taku’s natural vocal strength.
Even the best instrumentation that goes with this track is failing to conceal this vocal inadequacy; when you have the opportunity to listen to the track especially when being performed live, and then you will get the perfect opportunity to appreciate my observation.
I am not sure who is behind the compositions in the album as the information on the sleeve does not say anything. Of course this is one information aspect that lack in Malawi music. However, going by quasi-religious themed tracks that have been vocalised by Chiku, I would be tempted to believe that those putting up the voices to these tracks in the album are also the ones that composed them.
Take for example a track called ‘Tikudikira Munthuyo’ which has been built on a Biblical story of slavery that the Israelites suffered at the hands of Pharaoh. Apparently this is a prayer to God to save them from servitude.
Toza Matafale who is known to do covers for his late brother Evison with a kind of clinical imitation that can be mistaken for the original voice of Evison, going by his live stage performances with The Blacks and lately with Wailing Brothers, did not live up to the billing in ‘Nkhawa Biii’ also in the album.
I have said before that covers or what others mistakenly call ‘copyright songs’ that are based on compositions of the greats ought to have a unique element that should add value to the original and not devalue it. I am afraid this performance has achieved the latter.
‘Hungry Tiger’ one of the three English tracks in the album is also another reggae piece which forces you to listen to all its intended delivery. It has been done with mature weightiness. It has a ring to some vocal productions of Jamaican Alvin ‘Keith’ Porter of the Itals, but again as earlier observed it has a religious connotation. Why, because there is Chiku on the vocals.
The chorus tells you that once polished just a little bit, then Wailing Brothers Band has a lead vocalist in Chiku, who can take head on any international reggae stage and perform without bringing any shame to compatriots.
‘Dzuka’ has a Robert Fumulani identity. This is a track whose vocalist is drummer Paul Chokani. According to my appraisal he is a notch up than Taku in vocal abilities but this is not to say he has what it takes for him to depart from the drum set and take over the vocal leading mantle. He is still best suited as the gifted drummer whose skills and talent few can match and this is where he belongs.
‘Sing a Song’ whose vocals have been done by Taku is where he is challenging that as long as he lives he shall sing a song. No dispute about that of course, but just like another track ‘Hallelujah’ where he is on vocals, this is where he has proved my conviction right that lead guitar is his place and calling but not vocals.
‘I Love My Guitar’ done by Taku and Paul has the same vocal shortfalls underlining the fact why this album’s title is indeed ‘Unfinished Project’.
This album reminds us once again that for over a couple of decades now, Donald Custom and MacDonald Chimkango remain the best recording backing vocalists Malawi has ever produced and their work in this album is unblemished.
But the vocals on the ‘I Love My Guitar’ piece have progression that tells us all but one thing; that there is still need of a great deal of improvement. The title of the track is in a way a telling testament that Taku better show his love for the guitar by somehow sticking to it more that his attempt on lead vocals.
Those that are true lovers of music in general, and ardent reggae listeners in particular, will doff their hats off for this particular album.
This is one of the few best reggae albums in Malawi but nevertheless it tells us that Wailing Brothers music mission is an incomplete project that needs to be perpetuated not finished.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
On the account of the contagious awe that his six previous albums have drawn out of many people, Anthony ‘Mr. Cool’ Makondetsa decided to carve another piece of facet that has become the most shining of his multi-faceted career when he released of ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ - his seventh album.
Since his first album in 2000, ‘Tisatengeke’ the journey has been that of hope. And 2016 we are told an Eighth album is in the making. But let’s talk about ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’.
Toils without Dividends
Makondetsa himself reminiscences that he always cherished the dream that, “with music I will get wealthier than doing anything else.”
Buoyed by this belief and the fact that he comes from a musical family, the following year in 2001, he released ‘Kambelembele’ in the hope that to have two albums in the bag would translate into a six-figured financial statement.
Perhaps he was doing things in a hurry and had a break of two years before unleashing a third and fourth album within two years. In 2003 he christened ‘Maonekedwe’ as the third album followed two years later by another one; ‘Mfakafaka’.
It is now apparent that every two years, Makondetsa releases an album if the release in 2007 of ‘Ndilibe Mlandu’ tagged along by ‘Mbumba ya Abraham’ in 2009 is rendering enough clues to reinforce this observation.
But well, it is flatly challenged by the release of ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ which came after four years.
The answer is in what Makondetsa says is his new posture of protest.
“At the rate we are going, I realised that in my country Malawi you can entertain the people through music for the rest of your life but still die a pauper,” observes Makondetsa.
He says for years, and after invading the hall of fame with seven albums which means an average of 84 tracks, there is nothing to show and yet through music in other countries, just one track has catapulted musicians to stardom.
“While the marketing system is a big letdown, then there is piracy to contend with. Piracy is lethal poison that is eventually going to kill the music industry,” says Makondetsa who rubs it in the face of most Malawians who help piracy by buying pirated music.
Makondetsa says from the preceding Mbumba ya Abraham album before the latest Fuko Lokondedwa; he made a decision that he will sing religious songs which will take him closer to his God in protest against lack of progress despite fame and more musical products.
“I realised that the schedule of this career takes me on the road half of the time and in a way was pushing me away from my God,” he explicates, “I discovered that I needed to create a situation where, if I don’t get anything from music then I should always talk with my God through music for my own spiritual benefit and satisfaction.”
“Now even when they will pirate my music and leave me a destitute, with God you don’t lose anything,” he philosophises.
Now, besides the protest for lack of assets accumulation out of music and that Makondetsa, a father of 13-year-old Yankho who though in Standard 5 is already a keyboard expert, says he is spending more time reading the Bible where he is getting inspiration to come up with latest compositions.
And indeed this reggae album has given people another reason why they should keep on mistaken ‘Mr. Cool’ as the de facto leader of the Chileka outfit – The Black Missionaries.
But perhaps without trying to be judgemental, it is only fair to state that his latest ‘drudgery’ only manages to confuse his followers more as it still adds to the myth that are in the themes of his message.
It reminds all, of living and fallen stars that once shone and still shines, and provide unfading light to the Singano Village in Chileka.
One that quickly comes to mind is the star in fallen Gift Fumulani. He is Makondetsa’s cousin, whose last ten-track album ‘Mphamvu yake Mulungu’ still controls its place in the hall of fame as one such musical artefact that is more revealing. Long he had also decided to get his inspiration from the Bible.
Nonetheless like Makondetsa’s ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ it is a very personal statement of one man whose mind was still searching for a right spiritual sanctuary.
While Fumulani’s last ‘toils’ was an interface of intercession, mingled in a psycho-religious dilemma, spiritual declaration, interlocked with an expression of love devotion, in Makondetsa’s latest ‘efforts’ there is one religious man whose every track is incomplete without mentioning the name of God the father and the Son – Jesus.
Look at the opening track of the 11 tracks in the album, ‘Ali Pompano’ which impresses on the message that Jesus gave to his disciples that the one that will betray the Son of Man was amongst them. You are left wondering to whom the message is being directed to.
“Eeeh! Ali pompano – Yemwe azakupachike”(Yes he is here – the one who will crucify you)
Indee! Ali pompano – Omwe azakupele.”(Yes they are here - those who will betray you)
It shows that Mr. Cool loves to be allegorical in the lyrical aspect of his tracks.
Remember ‘Ndilibe Mlandu’? It does not specifically state its theme on one attempt of trying to understand its lyrical content.
“It’s just a gift from God that I can present my musical message in such a parable like way,” acknowledges Mr. Cool.
Gospel, Spiritual or religious
The second track, ‘Podzatitenga’ is something artists like Lloyd Phiri will turn green with envy with as it is a typical of what they call gospel tracks, still bringing confusion to the question, Who is a gospel artist?
‘Muyuda’ which is one of the album’s biggest hits has the same ring to it but I don’t agree to describe it as a gospel track, it’s rather a religious track.
“You can’t identify what I sing as what has become accepted in Malawi as Gospel music. It’s not spiritual music,” says Makondetsa before agreeing, “But yes it is religious music.”
Uyu ndi muyuda; Ochokela/wobadwira ku Yudea
Abale ake nga Chiyuda; Ndiye Mfumu ya ayuda
The rhyming chorus above has become explosive, and like is the case with the past works; these tracks tend to become street anthems.
‘Fire Time’ one of two English tracks is also talking about the son of man who is about to finish the revelation with fire, while the other English track ‘Black Woman’ is where he is expressing love of his black beautiful woman whom he cannot stay without.
This track and ‘Sadziwa’ as well as ‘Sudzampeza’ are the only three tracks that have no where mentioning Jesus and God, perhaps because they are love tracks.
Mr. Cool of the tribe of Benjamin
The title track ‘Fuko Lokondedwa’ is Makondetsa’s favourite: “In this track I am talking to my God and I feel good about the sensation it emits when I am singing it.”
There is a track dedicated to his grandfather Enoch Robert Fumulani called ‘Wagwa Mtengo’. He passed on to our ancestors four years ago.
He says as someone whose mother was last born as was the case with Biblical Benjamin – by the way, Robert Fumulani Jnr. father to his Black Missionaries cousins was 5th born while Arnold, father to late Gift and Moda was 8th while his mother was 9th – he made the track his personal docket.
“In this track I talk about myself and family in earnest. I talk about me and my upbringing in the household of my grandparents,” says the diminutive father of three, whose other two children are Anthony Junior and little daughter Salome.
In the book of Genesis 49 Jacob blessed all his 12 children and when it was the turn of Benjamin whom Makondetsa identifies with, he said “Benjamin is the ravenous wolf, devouring his enemies in the morning and dividing his plunder in the evening.”
Does this signpost that it is time for pirates to take cover?
The 11 track reggae album, [of course ten tracks, if one considers the dub version inclusion of Fire Time], is a typical of Makondetsa album, except that the Biblical influence seems to be doing wonders; besides its protest approach, it is quite engaging and one can only respond to Mr. Cool’s pleas and buy a copy.
“Piracy, especially in Lilongwe where it is being done on a large scale, is compromising our status and considering the poor music industry, I don’t know what Malawians are expecting us to become,” bemoans Makondetsa.
Charles Nsaku is a musician that the young ‘urban’ age can not relate to; at least this is according to my submission.
Nsaku emerged on the scene from a very different Balaka route, but it was Balaka nonetheless.
A wealthy business person had started a band which he called Mwizalero Band in Balaka and that’s where he cut his professional teeth.
If you ask me, I will put Nsaku with a special generation of musicians who brought a special wind of music direction in the country. The Generation marshalled by Sir Paul Banda.
Paul’s younger brother Lucius prides himself as one who at one point or the other hosted many popular musicians when he established his Zembani Band and in the process helping to begin careers of Mlaka Maliro, Paul Chaphuka(Late), Billy Kaunda, Coss Chiwalo, Wendy Harawa, Emma Masauko, Enort Mbandambanda, Charles Nsaku etcetera.
But I put them in one music generation and of all those that emerged from this generation, only Lucius Banda can confidently declare that he is indeed moving with time. He has survived the tides and has responded to the present day demand. In my own words, I can say he has managed to migrate from analogue to digital.
It has been a process that has taken longer than one would anticipate. But one just needs to the listen to Lucius albums that he has hauled from past to the present including the present one rightly called ‘Thank You’.
Pardon my digression; I want to talk about Charles Nsaku. His choice of migration from analogue to digital was a little bit uncharacteristic and proven not to be in compatible with the system.
Being someone who has been around, especially when he established his band called ‘Ali ku Town Sounds’ many artists claim to have gone through his hands via the band including the current big names like Skeffa Chimoto.
Now, in an effort to return the favour, sometime last year Skeffa decided to hold a joint show with his mentor Nsaku at Wakawaka. The mistake that was made was to still use the obsolete ‘windows’ into the present advanced sophisticated operating system. You know issues of incompatibility.
Nsaku was still using the language he used to tell the fans he was performing before 15 years ago; still tried ‘Ankolo Pansi pa Bedi’, ‘Makaniki’, ‘Economy’, ‘Ndiphike Nyemba’, etcetera, oh God, it just could not click.
He really tried hard but it was apparent that most of the youthful patrons that had come for the show only waited for Skeffa as they could not identify themselves with the tracks of the old. No wonder those of old age responded with gusto and worse still the turnout was not one that is associated with Skeffa Chimoto, meaning even the old ones could be counted with the fingers of just one hand.
One thing is now clear; either Nsaku has to retain his niche market that has fallen for his music over the time or he has to adjust and adapt to the market demand.
At his time, musicians used to make a lot of money by selling cassette albums through OG Issah music distribution system. Now this is system is no longer relevant.
Not even CDs are an attraction as with the advent of digital production and piracy of course; people carry all the lifetime albums of an artist in just one singe CD or a memory stick in the name of MP3.
MP3 or MPEG Media layer III was designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as a means of compressing a sound sequence into a very small file, to enable digital storage and transmission.
What has to happen now is even a change to the approach of Nsaku music. The studio work has to be different from what he used to do. Now people popularise music that has been well done and this advertises for one’s upcoming live shows. This is where the musicians are currently mining their gold.
Unless Nsaku takes a drastic shift in his approach, he will be best suited to perform in our museums.
Lucius Banda has managed to avoid this by appealing to the present as well. When he plays his music people of different generations still know he is their own. One clever way that Lucius has managed to do to achieve this is to circumvent the issue of analogue and meet half way down with digital all the time. He has always adroitly moved with the pace. He has his place in all the generations. He has even co-opted into his album productions all youthfull musicians of the moment through collaborations among others.
If for example Joseph Nangalembe was to come back to perform today, it will be folly for him to expect to have a pull that he was commanding in his time with the performance of the old which was also meant for the audience of then.
Nsaku has been in the wilderness for so long, his comeback cannot be on the basis of riding on his ghost. On the said day, he even tried to bring along his younger brother Dave. Apart from the dreadlocks Dave is sporting now, he was just the same old one; energetic on stage yes, but with the same style that appealed to the old folks.
Sorry guys, times have changed, move with it if you still want to matter in the current Malawi music scenario.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
When Chris Kele says ‘it is a disdainful attempt’ to even compare the aspect of art and trade in Malawi music to that of South Africa, you might think he is only trying to cheapen the local industry because he has hit gold in the rainbow nation.
But when you hear him tell you how the South African government is unlike their Malawi counterpart when it comes to supporting music then you would understand why after 3 years of sojourning South Africa he can claim victorious.
Unlike Malawi where only sports can be the only engagement government can support, in South Africa, government’s tune is cheery to the ear of musical artists.
“If the [Malawi] government would fully support music the way it does with soccer, Malawian music industry would turn down side up for sure,” says Kele.
Kele the Producer
And why can’t you believe him.
As a guitarist with authority, studio artist with clout, a composer with finesse and professional producer with proficiency of the trade, Kele has made it big in a music industry where talent beckons you to more prosperity but only when you stand out to be counted.
“One good thing about South Africa is that music is highly appreciated and well understood,” he intones. “And if you are good and strong minded musically, it gets easy.”
Kele believes that the South African music industry is in high-speed in every sense including technological and organisational characteristic because musicians are treated very seriously while government support is without stint or limit.
Composing for Ringo
When Kele travelled to the rainbow nation, he worked with different artists in studios besides performing with several musicians and other artists.
At the moment he says he has composed a song for Ringo which they are to record soon.
If you must know, Ringo is a South African celebrated jazz guitarist, full name Ringo Madlingozi, who has released a string of highly successful albums that have garnered several awards, including Best Male Vocalist at the South African Music Awards as well as Best Male Artist (Southern Africa) and Best Male Vocalist (African Continent) at the Kora awards.
His journey started in 1986 when his band Peto won the Shell Road to Fame contest and ever since he has built a prosperous career, collaborating with celebrated artists and groups including UB40, Dillon O’Bryan and HHP.
Many local artists know that Kele is no stranger to the local industry either, having cut his first tooth as a producer with the all great MC Studios, at the Lilongwe base.
And having learnt the ropes, Kele who has ever played alongside Erick Paliani, who is also riding high in South Africa, as well as multi-award winning Ben Michael Mankhamba in the Acacias Band, established his recording studio which he called 'Metro Jive Studio'.
His Malawi studio exploits was like undergoing rite of passage because once he hit South Africa he established himself by working with different artists as well as musicians in studios.
Already, he has produced artists like Born African, especially his latest album ‘The Past, Present and Future’.
“I'm currently producing a UK based South African Reggae dude by the name of King Pablo,” says Kele who has once again established a recording studio called Mavume Productions which deal with music production.
Kele the Band Man
Like he did with the studio, Kele also formed his own band in 2006 in Lilongwe which he called 'The Jazz Image Band' and had a three year contract agreement with Chameleon Cafe in Lilongwe.
“The Jazz Image Band was formed when I was in Malawi and the remaining guys are still playing Sunday Jazz at Chameleon cafe along State house road C-Centre,” he says.
Right there in South Africa, Kele has also formed a multinational band he is calling ‘Mavume Gurus Live' a similar name of his studio which in Venda language of South Africa he says means big noise from a huge crowd .
The band which has a South African bassist, a Ghanaian drummer, and a Zimbabwean keyboardist has Kele on the guitars, and already it has written itself a curriculum vitae of note considering the places and artists it has played with.
“With Mavume Gurus Live, we have performed in places around RSA, and I personally have performed in different stages in South Africa,” says Kele.
At Ditsong Museum he has played side by side with Jamaican reggae great Ibo Cooper. At State Theatre he has performed alongside Louis Mhlanga. At Shikisha Club he has executed musical shows alongside Sister Phumi. At Orange Farm Music Festival, Kele has shared stage with Zahara, Black coffee, Big Nuzz, Gangalee Adeluler, Bass line, and Pata Pata. He has also performed at The House of Tandoor, Afrocentric cafe, as well as in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland just to mention a few.
For one to be such a conqueror in South Africa, Kele says it is not just a matter of playing chords, but one has to know music communication within your group; one need to understand what the other fellow is playing and how to accompany him/her.
“If your goodness makes you visible, it is easy for other artists to notice you and that’s a starting point because here in South Africa one can be very talented but if he is not connected its difficult sometimes,” he says.
The industry is very advanced and depending on the genre that you play, once you advertise, he says you are likely going to have patronage of a kind of an audience that understands what you play.
“If you advertise for a Jazz show you should expect people who understand Jazz to be there,” he says.
This third born in a family of seven also says record companies in South Africa are real deal, unlike in Malawi where most exist in newspapers.
He says in South Africa, record companies have simplified what would have otherwise been a complex scenario for musicians.
“Record companies really help you. Once you are signed in, then you have made it, it’s up to you to deliver. Once a record company signs in turn show them songs which are making showbiz sense,” says Kele.
He says the day Malawi will have record companies, will be the baptism of fire for the local music industry from where, it will never be the same again.
Who is Chris Kele
Kele who declines to disclose his age is a widower, having lost his beloved wife Bertha.
He discovered his music interest at the age of nine while in Blantyre Mandala.
“Then when my parents moved to Lilongwe area 15, I met some friends like Erik Paliani, my own brother Mada and other guys. We started a musical group although we were primary school kids,” he recalls.
Kele says he did his primary school at Dharap in Blantyre and Chigoneka in Area 47 in Lilongwe before pursuing his secondary school studies at Zomba Catholic Sec School and Bvumbwe Private Sec School.
“I'm currently studying Music Management and theory in RSA while pursuing my music career too,” he says.
The ‘Ulendo’ Album
Kele who is now a single father to Nick and Samantha says he started the album project with his late wife Bertha five years ago.
“I wasn't sure of the type of Jazz I could do until I realised that I had great familiarity with Jazz which I then fused with other African rhythms,” he says.
“Bertha (late wife) helped me a lot on this album and she brought the choruses of several songs like 'Ulendo', “says Kele who says he can’t believe his wife whom he buried in Mulanje is gone.
Because the fusions of Jazz and African melodies / rhythms in his music he has coined a name for this particular genre and he is calling it 'AFRICULTURE JAZZ".
“I did it in seven languages as follows: Sena,Tumbuka, Shona, Nyanja, English, Yao and Zulu just to at least let everyone get something out of my music. I'm Sena though,” he says.
Kele says the album has been recorded at Mavume Productions, Nubian Studios and Zoi Recording Studio (RSA).
He says the album has different African flavours because he has worked with Ric Deja, the American saxophonist, Joy Sevens the South African Keyboard player and King David the Nigerian saxophonist.
Some of the musicians Kele has featured on the album include South Africa's jazz artists Nqobile Douglas and Samsam Manjeya.
Late Mayeso Chirwa also features in one of the tracks in the album called 'Dimingu' a re-edition originally done by Joseph Tembo.
"I had to use Mayeso because he was very familiar with the song,” explained Kele.
Music Crossroads yet again has established a unique concept of promoting the growth of Malawi’s music industry through the art of critique.
For some months now, every Wednesday a music video is picked, watched, enjoyed, loathed, loved, and then an inconclusive verdict is passed by members of Music Inspire Club whose core business is to dwell on completed artwork of music and just do the above.
In the words of Vincent Maluwa, who is the Music Crossroads Academy Administrator, Music Inspire Club is a brainchild of Music Crossroads Malawi and is situated across the long leg of art to provide a critical and analytical discourse of particular musical production.
“In its quest to offering aspiring young musicians the chance to equip themselves with the knowledge and know-how to become professional musicians, and to take part in the competitive music industry, Music Crossroads Malawi has established Music Inspire Club. This initiative is done to compliment the pedagogical approach of the Music Crossroads Academy that has been offering professional training and lessons in Music. The club basically, aims to critically analyse music of different artists through intellectual debates based on lyrics, instrumentation, quality of production, performance among others.”
By the way, the club members meet every Wednesday at Music Crossroads Center in Area 23, Lilongwe from 5:30pm-6:30pm.
Vincent communicated to me a few months ago as follows: “On the fore of this background, it is in the spirit of this letter to kindly ask you to be the patron for the club. The role is based on your incredible contributions to the local music industry through your professional and critical writing on the discourse of music in your column Drumming Pen.”
Well, I guess I need not tell you what my response was, but I can assure you that the following Wednesday I decided to partake in this unique activity where I found the members discussing a live music video of Karonga based Lusubilo Band when they toured South Korea – by the way, I am now none the wiser; one time this band will be Lusubiro the other time Lusubilo – but this is the grouping the Wednesday meeting was discussing anyway.
How impressive it was to find out that this was not only a male dominated venture, ladies too were not just available but contributed immensely.
The grouping looked at the how Lusubilo members presented themselves in terms of their costume; how as a band they strolled on to a half lightened stage and the meaning of the cheers they got.
When they started performing they also considered the musical contributions of each band member in the total creation of distinct melodies, harmonies, rhythms, sections, and so on; the issue of interaction between these elements and emotional expressivity through their demeanour and how a totality of all this received applause or not became the main subject as well...Then the talk also looked at the cultural aspect associated with music and how it is performed. The question was did Lusubilo represent a Malawian/African culture in the way they dressed and performed their music?
Music being the kind of art that it is, I think Music Inspire Club is the right mirror that musicians in the country can make use of. It would be interesting to see accomplished artists like Lucius Banda taking their final piece of production down Area 23 one Wednesday just to hear what the musical students will say about it.
In the study of music philosophy there are a number of discourses that have established that music is perhaps the art that presents the most philosophical puzzles.
‘Unlike painting, its works often have multiple instances, none of which can be identified with the work itself. Thus, the question of what exactly the work is is initially more puzzling than the same question about works of painting, which appears (at least initially) to be simple physical objects.’
In the process, I know even the critiquing by Music Inspire Club can equally be found wanting but at least this is work in progress. We have so big an interest in music that has been put on display by many youthful Malawians. There are also many rote musicians that are making it big and once some professional reality check is sprinkled over their work they can improve even more.
Sometimes musicians have just jumped unto the band wagon without knowing what the journey brings. They have performed before a danceable crowd but they are yet to perform before a seated crowd. The two are different; one loves the noise the other the musicality.
The question now is if you were a musician, before which of the two set of audience would you love to perform for. Now this is where among others Music Inspire Club comes in. It is just there to direct you through the basic dos and don’ts.
Sometime ago I had listened to the latest song that the self-styled Nyau King Limbani Kalilani - showbiz named as Tay Grin – released called Chipapapa, which features the Nigerian singer 2Face.
I was about to write something against how it has been done when The Nation wrote a story implicating him in a copyright infringement case.
What is worse is unknown rapper Zizipizgani Beza aka Zizi-B accusing Tay Grin of redoing his Chipapapa song.
The reason I wanted to register my arguments has now been well buttressed by this case considering that Zizi-B is a mere Form Four student at Pact Secondary School in Blantyre, and he claims to have produced the song earlier in December last year with Twin Beats at 123 Records and gave it to Marcus Pasanje a DJ at Joy FM.
The argument of the two is that the hook is the same and I am surprised they are making such claims when this is a childhood song that all of us partook in singing.
Rightly put in the article, Tay Grin says Chipapapa is a childhood song that no one can claim ownership and if such song was like Chinafuna M’bale he would have sought permission to redo it.
He goes further to say it is his trademark to reproduce old songs…
Now this is where it was all clear that I needed to say something about this.
Now if you are like me and are listening to Chipapapa by Tay Grin one thing that comes out clearly is that it has been badly done if one compares it with what used to obtain when we consider the musicality in the original childhood Chipapapa.
Even the hook that these two are fighting for is one a short riff that used to appeal to us not only as children but even to our elders at the time.
What is even more disappointing is that just like he did with ‘2by2’ he has clearly killed the musicality in the childhood song.
The original Chipapa has was able to exude some sensitivity, knowledge of eerie and flat but sticking musical talent that provided the quality and state of being musical which is absent in the Tay Grin rendition even after trying to elicit the services of the Nigerian musician.
The Tay Grin beat has also failed to relay or even better the musical ability pitch, rhythm and harmony that the earlier one commands.
The original Chipapa had a very strong musical receptivity which was why generations after generations we were able to reproduce it and its storage was just in the air and the mind. That’s how powerful the folklore and childhood songs were or are.
Now this is why it is bringing me to appoint that Government as a representative of the people needs to hold the intellectual property as well as the copyright of these songs. I suggest the Museums of Malawi or the Malawi National Archives must be holder or custodians to these rights.
We can’t have artists like Tay Grin who are more of entrepreneurs than musically talented artists to be defiling such a rich heritage. These holders are supposed to ascertain if the recreation of such folklore or childhood songs because we do not want the mediocrity that Tay Grin churns out that destroys this treasure.
In The Nation story that I talked about earlier also interrogated Copyright Society of Malawi senior licensing officer Rosario Kamanga who said they can only act if they have established a violation.
My question is it will be violation against what because anybody can just woke up one day and start destroying the contents of the country’s musical treasure trove.
The challenge when artists fail to stimulate their creative juices they only settle for something that is already a household. This is what entrepreneurs like Tay Grin do.
He is like Shawn Corey Carter, known by his stage name Jay Z, who although a rapper, record producer and entrepreneur his music rides on his entrepreneurial scores and not the other way round.
You look at people who have creative juices like Evison Matafale; he composes a track like Waseseleka and it stays on the lips of everyone. But artists like Tay Grin do not have what it takes to come up with such compositions and instead just want to regurgitate the famous folklore and childhood music.
My problem therefore is how instead of improving on the same so that it helps to perpetuate our priceless treasure, these Tay Grins of this world come to degrade them. Of course there is also timeliness related to copyright where after such a time elapses its free for all...But I still want some honour to be bestowed on our best works.
We therefore need the protection of those that we should empower so that we are able to preserve the musicality and all those related and attendant issues that make such songs priceless.
Let me start with a confession that when Layison Njati came on the musical scene, with his track, ‘Ndizakupasa Love Yabwino’as Anko Layi I had huge reservations.
This was at a time when I had been arguing that we needed a musical identity as a country where anything musical that would be produced by us once played within any earshot should easily be recognised as a Malawi music genre.
But here was an artist who did not only come up with a childish showbiz name Anko Layi, but came up with a cheeky track ‘Ndizakupasa Love Yabwino’ and worse still he was sounding Zambian. And everyone was as usual overtaken by another bubblegum production.
However, a track ‘Makwatirakwatira’ in his latest album ‘Khala Chete’ has changed all that. It has made me pause a bit and take a look at the artist with a really serious ear.
When one listens to the track, you would wrongly dismiss it as just one of those tracks that are hitting the airwaves all over the place because besides entertaining, it leaves you in stitches as it has a description of the song’s character that borders on comedy.
But this is the track that needs to be taken seriously as it has again shown that it is possible to have a Malawian genre.
Three years ago when Maskal released ‘Zili ndi iwe’ and ‘Usatope’ I was of the view that ‘Usatope’ was truly a fusion of an R’n’B like resonance that was reverberating in a ‘Manganje’ like thrash; it kind of fit in the frame of most of the traditional tracks that take after the ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ lilt.
This quickly takes me to the works of Sonyezo Houston Kandoje, especially a song track called "Tsika" which he also describes as Manganje on steroids as inspired by Malawi’s very own ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ sound.
No other African country has this sound which is fortunately present in Manganje, Vimbuza and many other traditional beat.
These tracks are a sign that Malawi music is slowly and surely observing a departure from a cacophonous and fleetness beat that characterized it in the past.
The advantage is that Sonye’s place is in the musical studio and his self-produced song is an indication that he is turning the studio into an experimental lab.
The same experiment would be said of Anko Layi who has a studio rightly called Audio Clinic.
Two years ago he produced a sound track for a story board and animations project called ‘Tilitonse’ by Stephen Emilio of GD Art & Designs.
If one attentively listens to this sound track, they would not be surprised with Anko Layi’s ‘Makwatirakwatira’ because it is as a result of a long time experiment on how to turn the ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ beat into some hybrid funky that should identify with Malawi.
Its simplicity explains why Anko Layi should be taken serious because he almost made me get disappointed that this is an artists who has studied music at the University of Cape Town in South Africa; was nominated as the best guitarist, has a diploma in music reading, writing, and composing as well as being a vocalist and yet look at his lack of contribution to the development of a local genre.
Now I can confidently describe him as an accomplished singer, guitarist and producer and now with his own band known The Boosters Band he needs to spread this genre across.
Having been performing with Edgar ndi Davis Band, it would not be difficult to popularise the Malawi beat.
I do not know why our sound scientists like Anko Layi and Sonye for example, do not come together to experiment with ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ beat even further. When you listen to the ‘Tilitonse’sound track I am talking about, then Sonye’s ‘Tsika’ as well as Maskal’s ‘Usatope’ you’ll realise that even with ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ as the holding sound in order to identify the genre there can still be sound variations that in any way cannot remain monotonous.
‘Makwatirakwatira’ is built on ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ with a soft continuous tap which is fused with ‘brass bridging’ that could have come from synthesisers and this is maintained throughout the song as it is cascading with some playful lyrical content that has been embossed in powerful and disciplined vocal output.
Anko Layi in ‘Champweteka Chimanga’ should be taken serious. It’s one of the best experimental versions, as we try to procreate our Malawi music genre from our musical laboratories. I guess I now take my earlier reservations back; Layison Njati is indeed trying to become the Uncle of Malawi’s music genre.