Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Friday, November 16, 2012

Where are Live Albums?


Before Multiparty dispensation, the most common music was that from outside the country. But immediately after, Malawi music dwarfed the international music and had local consumers in a kind of gold rush for the local music.
What has however, remain is lack of variety in the music that is offered by the local musicians as there is no serious live music album that any of the local musicians have ever released.
This is however against the backdrop that musicians who matter in the country, perform live performances from January to December without relenting. 
There is a hallowing absence of live show albums on the market. There are no albums of Lucius Banda live at Ozone or Wambali Mkandawire live at French Cultural Centre.
The lack of live music albums comes side by side with lack of cover songs for music that was already done by the dead music heroes.
There is just no present musician who has tried to take advantage of a famous musician to redo their tracks; meaning, there is no redone tracks for Robert Fumulani, of course apart from countable tracks done by his sons in the Black Missionaries, whenever they are releasing their Kuimba albums.
But show redone tracks on songs that were done by Daniel Kachamba, Michael Yekha Mukhitho Phiri, Allan Namoko and Ned Mapira, there is completely none on the market.
Last time I tried to talk to local musicians on why there is dearth on live local music albums most of them said they could not just afford it because it is damn expensive. 
But fact when I once talked to Mte. Wambali Mkandawire and asked if at all it is lack of resources that there is no live album of his on the market he said he could not know because he works under a record company.
But in March 2003 he told me that he would prove whether this was the reason because he was scheduled to record a live jazz performance album backed by a band in South Africa in April of that year. This is 2012 and there is still no live album from Mte. on the shelves of music shops or in libraries for radio stations.
At the same time, parliamentarian cum musician Billy Kaunda indicated that he could not do a live music album because it is expensive. He said in Malawi there is no set of equipment that can allow musicians in the country to have top notch live recorded albums.
True to his words, I witnessed the performance of a number of reggae musicians that included Junior Delgado, Iqulah Rastafari, and Chrisinti among others, man, there was right at the middle of the stadium a marquee with studio equipment that that was recording the artists performing live, and right there and then producing live audio and video albums. 
There were cables that descended from the stage down to the marquee which had hundreds of pieces of equipment included top of the range computers that were doing the magic.
It is a pity that despite numerous false starters, there is just no one to give Malawians what they badly need.
Many music lovers say they are ready to embrace some variety music more so when it is a fact that Lucius Banda and The Zembani, Skeffa Chimoto and The Real Sounds Band, The Black Missionaries, to mention but a few are awesome to behold when performing live and people are anxious to have their music recorded that way.
The variety for music can not only be restricted to live albums, but it can as well extend to dub version albums; meaning, the music already done in generic albums can be redone in instrumental versions. Perhaps one can argue that we do not have the right equipment as well and that our market which at the moment is under piracy assault cannot buy such productions.
I would really not argue on this because I know that The Black Missionaries went back to the studios before the death of Musamude where they came out with four potent tracks that included the all time great ‘Mthunzi wa Imfa’ which never went on the market.
I am surprised that I have the tracks but I really cannot say how I got them, but it is a collection that one, especially – a well exposed music follower like yours truly – cannot live without.
So, we now have music companies like Nyimbo and the other so called music labels in the country, don’t you think we need to venture into just one project that can bring Malawians a live music album for once.
Believe you me, live music albums do not reduce number of patrons to your shows, if anything they are a plus factor and those that doubted how a musical outfit might perform live, can have samples on our hands.        
Until we have such an album, I think Malawi is yet to undergo an initiation ritual for a very exclusive passage of rites into an international showcase which matters more.

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