Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Zathu Band Experiment

I had the opportunity to watch Zathu Band perform for MBC’s Made On Monday musical programme in Blantyre but for whatever reasons I could not make it.

Fortunately I chanced upon the programme on MBC TV on Saturday.
It is not like it is first time that I have had the opportunity to listen and watch Zathu Band perform. In fact I have been meaning to write about the band from the first time that I came across their music.

Now that I have heard them talk on the programme now it confirms my first impression.

Whoever was in charge of the auditions to identify the six members of the group that include: Xander (Paul Kachala), Annetti (Nyokase Madise), Mphatso (Theresa Dzanjalimodzi), Chikondi (Esther Chitheka-Luis) T-Reel (Praise Umali) and JP (Jonathan Pangani) did a good job.

These six individuals have talent which is unique to specific personality and the band has offered a platform to allow for its fusion which has further enabled the direction that the production of the band has taken, which is to amalgamate different genres in order to create one identifiable one.

What hit me the first time I listened to the songs from the band was that it was more like a one-stop-genres production where one cannot confidently declare the songs as urban or traditional.

What is clear is that much as there has been an attempt to provide the urban feel, the element of the local traditional sound cannot escape the ear.

The aim for creating Zathu Band was to bring boys and girls together to create a new sound for Malawi and indeed for me this new sound the band has created.

Imagine if let’s say the band is one made up if different talent of the following keel: Xander is Lulu, T-Reel is Macelba, JP is Skeffa Chimoto, Chikondi is Alicia Keys, Mphatso is Brenda Fassie and Annetti is Asa that Soul artist famed for her track Fire on the Mountain.

And all these diverse talents was one group. Ladies and gentlemen this is Zathu Band. Take time to listen to their music. By the way they have just released a 12-track-album Chinzathu Ichichi.

Besides the intentions of this band whose members are also a cast for a radio play that is trying to reach out to fellow youth as they try to hear out their challenges and find solutions for them, the quality of their music is something to talk about in a special breath.

If the youths in this country want to take a musical path, let them take a professionally dignified route. As I complain all the time, we are continuously being given a raw deal by a lot of pretenders.

For me I know very little about the band in terms of its nature of formation. Thus is it a project and if it is, how is it going to nurture these individual talents to reach great heights? Music in Malawi can be so tough if it is meant to provide the bread and butter. The question is how are these members sustaining themselves? Are they on contract? And who is their boss in this case? How happy are they with their package if any?

Again the most pertinent question is that one element that qualified them to be in the group is their youthful status.

Unfortunately soon they will grow into men and women and will become less relevant to the cause. How is the mission going to be sustained? Are they (I don’t know them apparently) going to audition another batch of youthful talent to replace them?

However has answers would really do me kind if they provided them for me and my readers. Otherwise without even any hint of doubt I would declare that Zathu Band is an admixture of super talent that needs to be perpetuated by all means necessary. 

The Zathu Band experiment has yielded positive results it’s time to replicate it.  

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Norfas Nkoma of Walala

Today I want to take you on a journey to a musical place I have always protected. Why so? Well, because it gives me fond and haunting memories. 

Every time I hark back to this period it shows me the face of music.

This is my personal story. It is one that I believe talks of how my musical gods were revoked and appeased. To date I should believe I am still doing enough to my musical ancestors.

The year should have been in 1988 and I was 14 years old and in Standard 7. Both my parents are retired teachers which meant that we would be at different places. At this time we were at Namaka or Kachingwe. This is a place along the Blantyre Zomba Road in Chiradzulu. You can reach this place by branching off to the right when coming from Blantyre at Nyungwe or Mbulumbuzi, otherwise known as 6B.

My exposure to music, as was the case with all and sundry at that time was at the mercy of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). It was the only available source or through shortwave radio frequency once in a while and this had to be BBC or Radio Nampura of Mozambique. Channel Africa was also offering occasional music every evening.

At the height of this period I cannot recall how it happened, but I befriended a standard 8 dude by the name of Norfas Nkoma. He introduced me to reggae and its associated Rasta livity through provisions of handwritten literature which he painstakingly copied from books. I was also meant to copy and return them.

I remember that day I was forced to travel on foot a distance of almost 20 kilometres from this spot to his village in Walala Poya where he gave me the materials, unbeknownst to my parents and siblings.

From this literature, I read about Leonard Percival Howell, the founding father of Rastafari, the First Rasta and the Original Gong who inspired Bob Marley with his message that ended up gifting the world with reggae music as we know it today. I also learnt a lot about Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a proponent of Africanism and many more.

Now in the absence of music – I mean reggae music – this history could not sink in and therefore I needed music. But as Malawians had no access to music it proved difficult.  

But as fate had it my father happens to be one of the first teachers of Malawi Correspondence College (MCC). Because they had radio programmes they were making provisions of radio cassette players in such institutions.  

Besides this, my father had a vinyl record player which was a rectangular box sitting on four legs called radiogram. Well, my father’s taste of music included those of Jim Reeves, Super Mazembe of Zambia and believe it or not Jimmy Cliff, among others.

It was always Jimmy Cliff’s version of ‘No Woman No Cry’ on the LP that really made me move. But then I met another son of a teacher at the institution who was an elder, Grey Mabvumbe who first borrowed me iconic Gregory Isaacs cassette albums which I would listen to by playing them on the MCC cassette players/recorders from my father’s work place.

With exposure to a lot of reggae music as I grew up – briefly in Nkhatabay when teachers were repatriated back to their respective region of origin in 1989 through to my sojourn at Masongola Secondary School in Zomba and Rumphi Secondary School – my musical life completely transformed.

Therefore for the last ten years that I have been running musical columns in the weekend newspapers of the country, whenever I sit down to write, my man Norfas Nkoma always comes to my mind.

I am still not sure where he is at the moment but I doff my hat to my musical father who took time to explain to a 14-year-old boy of the different genres of music that are there. I followed my ear to reggae music which opened a lot of doors for me to appreciate music in general.

Now this is one of my many personal stories to music that I thought I should share with you this week.

Hearkening unto the wilderness voice

Long at last someone has started talking exactly what I have been saying since closer to a decade ago when I started writing about music. Former Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume told President Peter Mutharika at a rally in Blantyre West that community colleges should start offering musical courses.

As far back as 2009 I argued my case that there has never been one single trade that has generated youthful interest in Malawi at any given time than what music has done.

It all began with the advent of multiparty system of government and that was in 1993. If my mathematics is perfect that has to be 17 years ago.

It is a shame that government has not realised how to work something out, institutions have come and gone all in the name of representing the interest of the youth in the country including the establishment of the so called National Youth Council whose objective of promoting promiscuity had been achieved before its dissolution.

When the first head of state was structuring our education system, he created technical colleges which are supposed to offer vocational courses.

In the wisdom of the time, learners had to be carved to become or based on trades like Carpentry and Joinery, Plumbing, Brick Laying, Painting and Decoration, Plumbing, Motor Vehicle Mechanic, Auto-electrician, Electricians, General fitters etc.

If we look at these trades critically, we would realise that it was meant to build the country.

Take for example, construction of a government office structure or workshop. First to be on the ground would be brick layers before technicians that had mastered carpentry and joinery put their hands to work, then plumbers and electricians would appear on the scene before those in painting and decoration.

The same would happen to our houses; and for the workshops we had the motor vehicle mechanics, auto-electricians, and general fitters etc.

What was also happening was that once the learners had completed a course, they would be given a tool box with which they will use to start small scale workshops or joined established institutions with similar pursuant.

Just like a house, a song is also built with the involvement of different skills.
The technical colleges with music trade has to start with the elementary lessons in music in the first year, while in the second year, learners can choose who they want to become.

Guitarists, drummers, saxophonists, trombonists, percussionists, keyboardists or pianists should be one group while the other group should concentrate on music production, the third on music engineering in terms of studio recording while the other group should dwell on marketing.

Imagine if graduating learners were to undergo this kind of process and given the start-up equipment after their courses, believe you me, we would not have been talking of mediocre music that dominates our market.

There is one major challenge that technical college students face which is the competition from ‘bush’ artisans.

There are bush mechanics, bush carpenters etc. These are people who are accomplished at doing their work in particular trades, when they have never been inside a classroom. The same challenge would still be faced even when music was to be introduced in the technical colleges.

Nonetheless, this is the best way to assist the youth; considering that even initiatives like Youth Enterprise Development Fund is something borne out of political whims and therefore has no plan on how best it has to be executed.

Seriously, government has to make use of Bachelor of Arts graduates from the Chancellor Constituent College of the University of Malawi who major in music but do not know what to do next with it.

If government would invest in music, they would be surprised that many things would solve themselves because the youth would have the chance to study something in which they have a passion for and like Jamaica Malawi can start exporting music. Programmes that are initiated to change harmful behaviours of the youth would also reduce. Conduct a feasibility study to prove me wrong please! 

Nothing was said by anyone until Peter Kumpalume. Now I wait for the Government to move.

Let's Talk about Waxy K

Wonderful Kapenga, otherwise known as Waxy K is a local hip-hop artist that came into the limelight when he was only 16 back in 2015. Today at 19 he is still a child star who has squeezed into the top notch on the-who-is-who-list of the current crop of urban artistes.

There are a few things that has made him stand out, his funny looking small stature; funny because it does not correlate with his talent as a rapper whose lyrical prowess has left the old scratching their heads while his peers trying to jump out of their bodies.

His signature entry ‘Ndikhonza kuyamba’ whenever he is about to start dropping bars including clever verses that follow has separated the child star from the noises that have choked the local urban music industry. 

His punchlines are a typical imagination of a genius where he will use words that rhyme. Take a peek at these lines from his track Zazii:

Zazii zomveka mkazi Mphete
Kumamusiya kupita kumowa on the Payday
Zazii zomatumizilana ma nude
Zazii zomakhala kwamakolo anudi

At the moment Waxy K is hot property and with the influence that he is commanding there is no doubt that if he were a 16-year-old Justin Bieber of those days, he would be a millionaire.

His emergence also is a testimony that the old script where parents were always against their children’s calling to a music career is slowly but surely tearing away.

His emergence also is a testimony that the old script where parents were always against their children’s calling to a music career is slowly but surely tearing away.

For Waxy K the situation is even tricky when one considers that his father is a cleric in the Believers Assembly church but he accepted his son’s talent and even started financially supporting his in his secular music career.

Several interviews that I have heard the child star speak has told me that if only he were to have a manager who has a vision there is a huge chance that great things are waiting to happen for him.

In one such interviews he says he sings songs that should appeal, and benefit people which is more Gospel work to me than singing Alleluia in a church.

He is scheduled to release an EP but he has already conquered and he confidently declares that if the local music industry hold hands then they will be able to beat the international market.

He also has the spirit of protecting his talent by declaring whenever opening his compositions: ‘Zoti wina wake apemphe remix nyimboyi sindikufuna ayi’.

His reasoning is that once a composition has been made he doesn’t want any dirty hands infecting it with germs.

The excitement that comes with the little success somehow brings disaster. And for Waxy K the fame that he has earned could also be a pitfall that could stop his career in its tracks even before it has started.

His talent also requires a special nourishment that should provide it with a kind of growth that should allow him flourish and become a big star that he desires to become.

It will be a mockery to compare Waxy K with former child stars Millera Nkhoma and late Israel Chatama. For Millera there was no vision on how she wanted to carry on with her career. For Chatama it looks like with fame there was too much adult influence which led to his quick demise.

With such lessons all over, it would be disheartening for Waxy K to be a shinning star that never was when he fails before he achieves. With what he has achieved so far, he is an attraction to many things which are unfortunately both positive and negative.

Lyrical Pen’s top 2017 Stars

So much happened in the music cycles in 2017 and the pen was really busy. Along the way the Pen angered local Hip-Hop star Fredokiss for what it felt was his unprofessional and childish conduct but the fact remained that he stole the limelight in the year.
Much as everyone else did their best, there can always be one winner with the pen as is the case with any other awards and recognitions. I might not be in agreement with several people but according the Lyrical Pen, these were its 2017 stars. Anybody can come up with their list.
TOP ENTERTAINMENT ACT - Patience Namadingo
Unlike other musical awards organisers who struck off initial awardees from the list because they had disagreed, it is not the case with the Lyrical Pen. At the moment the pen has issues with Namandingo for painting the whole media fraternity on Facebook with one brush of condemnation for a mix-up of his mother’s picture in one daily.
Regardless of this fact this has been Patience’s year. We saw a different brand of the all new Namadingo that performed to mammoth crowds in Blantyre and Lilongwe venues. He also worked wonders singing in different places to raise money for the Queen Elizabeth Children Cancer Ward. He also showed the world the comedian in him. For all this he is the pen’s top entertainer for 2017.
The pen concluded that Ellias Missi known in showbiz cycles as Atoht Manje shot himself to the top of the game.
Not many really considered Atoht as one to make a mark amongst the youthful musical group of Lilongwe where he emerged from until he started dropping tracks like Majelasi, Lululu, Tizipepese, and etcetera.
Atoht is endowed with a crackly voice which is suitable for dancehall or ragga genre. The tracks like Majelasi and Lululu really came riding this genre until Tizipepese, which his fans call Mabvuto came in. It’s fast pace bordering on something that can best be equalled to a Congo beat or merely a local hurried up beat like fast paced Manganje as he would love to call it.
When one listens to Atoht’s productions with a trained ear, you would easily notice that his lyrical structure is messed up. He literally follows his heart, the result of which is a general appeal to his fans but an immediate shock to music teachers.
The same applies with Che Patuma, the track that he made to grab the top musician for Malawi in 2017 according to the pen.
The pen settles for Fredokiss not to appease him for getting angry at its ‘venomous’ ink, but because he proved that the local hip-hop genre is so influential that it would be foolish for anyone to pay it a blind eye.
He held three free shows in Ndirande, Masintha and Mzuzu where he parked the venues in a way that no meeting, be it political or religious could achieve. With politics and religion you know their manipulative power where they will try to profess popularity by parking vehicles with people that they ferry to such spots for obvious reasons. For Fredokiss it was just consumers of his niche products walking by foot to the venue.

In the year, Fredokiss who is also known as Ghetto King Kong released hit song “Njira Zawo” which features Lucius Banda. This is the rendition of Lucius’ “Ali ndi njira Zawo”. An additional to Dear Jah Jah, another hit.

TOP LOCAL ALBUM – Sunset in the Sky
Lawi’s second musical toil in ‘Sunset in the Sky’ is the pen’s pick for the best local album of the year slot. The album launched at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) on 2nd December in Lilongwe is a show of artistic progress of one talented artiste.

The Afro-Soul musician and producer has in the album tracks like Timalira, Dance with me, Therere and Yalira Ng’oma to mention but a few. The album has 25 tracks in total that touch on spirituality, life and wide range of issues.

The album has taken a good four years to put together and the proof of well thought composition is evident, making Lawi a top brand.

Jah Prayzah’s Pleasant Christmas Present

The Blantyre Sports Club performance by Zimbabwe’s Jah Prayzah’s was a perfect Christmas gift to music lovers in Blantyre. The fans had to brave the initial downpour just to make sure that they watch the Zimbabwean son.

His electrifying performance was a perfect gift as it took the fans from Christmas Eve across into Christmas Day without them knowing how time had flown past with such speed.

His bellowing voice thundered off the greens of the Golf course where the stage was mounted but still shook into life some of the patrons who had taken one too many and had dozed off.

Jah Prayzah showed why he has shared time in recording studios with Africa’s current greats, Yemi Alade, Diamond Platnumz, Davido, Mafikizolo, Oliver Mtukudzi etc…

The Zimbabwean contemporary musician, with his Third Generation Band, with their signature band uniform of military regalia, went to work and as professionals. And as professionals they never relented neither did they gave out anything half-baked.  

One thing decidedly noticeable is that Jah Prayzah is not just a contemporary African musician but he equally and perfectly holds on to a true African roots by not only word of mouth but he sings this African identity. 

He sings in no any other language but Shona. He promotes the Zimbabwe Mbira genre without stint or limit. 

In Blantyre he did just that. Occasionally he would play on Mbira, a traditional instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe which is the main stay for the Mbira genre.

Everything about his music, in terms of lyrics, the African beat and presentation is undoubtedly African the only freestanding aspect that can safely not be linked to his huge African theme is his performance name Jah Prayzah which sounds Jamaican. Of course his band name is also strangely English – Third Generation Band.

Godwin Muzari Arts Editor for The Herald wrote that it is hard to ignore Jah Prayzah’s music in the era of Zimbabwe’s political transition and that his songs, especially “Kutonga Kwaro” which means "How a leader rules", are being played everywhere. 

Muzari further wrote that since every revolution is oiled by music that resonates with winds of change, Jah Prayzah’s album “Kutonga Kwaro”, which was released 43 days before Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president, has dovetailed with the greatest political development since the country’s independence which he said was the resignation of Robert Mugabe.
Just to emphasize how he wants his music to strictly hold on to African signature, Jah Prayzah did a collaboration which features in his sixth studio  album “Jerusarema” with the Jamaican reggae great Luciano but all his contributions in this track are in Shona.
Looking at how things are flowing for him, one would expect Jah Prayzah to be contented with his rich vein of form and therefore going into his head by way of his actions.

On the stage at the Blantyre Sports Club, the fans witnessed the performance of a down to earth artiste whose humility was unbelievable especially looking at the sizeable crowd, by the Blantyre Sports Club standard – that had come to see and dance to his tunes.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces gave Jah Prayzah an ambassadorial role which compels him to demystify the army and destroy the fear that is generally associated with them.

Through his music and energy filled live performances, Jah Prayzah aims to deliver this message and in Blantyre in the wee hours of the Christmas night he perfectly did this by performing a fusion of military brass band marching sound that sat well with his Mbira genre for the joy of the fans that came for his performance.

It was a performance so unique that the earlier glitches witnessed at the beginning of the show were all erased and people will give their attention again to Agulugufe 1200 Limited when they will bring another top notch musician to Malawi.

Setting up benchmarks for Malawi Music

In Malawi scenario or the rest of the world quality control in this case refers to letting our music pass some form of litmus test...

Most radio and TV stations complain that they receive an uncountable music compact disks or sometimes tapes brought by every Jack and Jill who say are musicians or singers in need of airplay.

Without trying to play a condescending card to the owners of music outlets, meaning those that have radio, TV stations or entertainment joints or public spaces like buses that play music, I think if we are to have quality music, then we need to set up standards.

Once singers and musicians bring their music, it must be passed through a rigorous due process where it has to pass all or 90 percent of the prerequisites drawn on the checklist.

The purpose of all this is to certify quality; some hints could be to look at the quality of sound i.e. is it filling the whole eardrum? On the other hand, is it trying to pull off the ear? Is it going to ‘infect’ the eardrum or just use it as a passage as it soothes the soul?

When listening to it are you feeling ashamed that the so called musician or singer only exposed their mediocrity?

Are the vocals showing that the one behind it was gasping for air? What about vocal variations, is it blending with the instrumentation? Is the music some common organised noise?

I know there could be many areas to look into before venturing into unknown terrain. At the end of the day standard and quality enforcement should be the order.

There are some operatives in the radio and TV stations, and even entertainment joints that, at the expense of their jobs, let gluttony scarlet red in the teeth.

Those that can be easily caught; you find every time this unexceptional artist comes to the premises they always demand to hand in their stuff to the very particular radio or TV presenter or the people who play music in entertainment joints.

This kind of greed is not motivational in the would be musician and it encourages them to go to a person who has a mixer placed in his dining room on his dining table linked with a ‘scraggy’ boom microphone.

Within two hours the so called musician will gurgle out noise, which the man owning the dining table and the mixer placed on it, will mix the panting sound with some computer programmes that will give it a drumbeat, accompanied by sounds of guitars and percussions.

All this will be happening on the back of an outcry that Malawi music has and still is struggling to get a place on the international market.

Some have been attributing this failure to lack of establishment of a unique music genre but this earns my disagreement because this happens because artists do not know what they want to achieve.

Our artists will rarely exercise measured patience when producing their music, even those that are nationally acclaimed, as our top musicians have no patience to take time before releasing anything and there for quality is always compromised.

Radio stations will always have no problems with this, as they will establish several programme specifically designed to ‘promote’ this kind of local music. If what is meant is to be achieved is really to promote, then I have a problem with the mediocrity they are championing.

If by accident or chance a member of an international music-promoting firm is visiting the country or any of the websites that have some of the local radios that are streaming online and catches the hurriedly prepared musical stuff, will they really be encouraged to come and promote it for the international market?

If we are to achieve quality as a country and promote local music, then local radio and TV stations and entertainment joints in collaboration with organisations dealing in and with music and musical artists have to set up benchmarks, which have to be used if music produced has to gain airplay.

These outlets need to critically look at the music videos produced other than broadcasting or playing anything they lay their hands on.

Even the news producers for all media platforms should not always carry stories for mediocre performers who just visit newsrooms, declare they are musicians, and get story space.

Entertainment writers have to listen to the music of an artist before they can start glorifying mediocrity. We can do better with quality control in the music Industry.

Poor Malawi music videos

The question that is sometimes posed is whether or not music and
television relate in any way. Television is the place where one can watch ready-made music videos or watch live performances of musicians.

One other major characteristic of music videos is that it gives an opportunity to showcase dancers.

In Malawi, musicians have only started getting acceptance now, unlike in the past when parents would not encourage their sons and daughters to venture into music as it was regarded wayward. There was a bad tag linked to anyone doing music although, ironically, people would cherish the art of listening to music and enjoying it as it were.

Now, while musicians were looked at with disdain, dancers were regarded as the worst kind of people. Everyone else dancing in different places, except, of course Kamuzu’s mbumba and all other performers at political events, were regarded as out-casts.

But the coming in of television has helped the society to appreciate that dancing to music - or performing as a dancer - is another form of art that deserves appreciation and respect and not disparagement.

Now if you look at music videos Malawi has been churning out over the years, you are left with nothing but helplessness because the system to allow such music sees the light of the day is so restrictive.

The sole so-called public broadcaster has left powers in a few individuals who would always want to get a little something every other time musicians want to provide their music to them.

Malawians always complain that her music is not breaking onto the international market and, therefore, it is not bringing money on the table.

There are, of course, many marketing and distribution aspects that Malawian musicians do not know how to handle. Most international musicians would send press kits to local media, radio stations, television stations, venue managers, record labels and studio executives in order to either create or increase their visibility.

Now, coupled with lack of knowledge to market and distribute our music, Malawi music does not have enough media channels that it can use to sell its musicians.

Programmes that are musical in nature are not enough to contain the production that is on-going at the moment.

The point at which we have reached as a country is that we at least need a television station that will solely be dealing with music or, better still, we need more television stations that equally and ably deal with entertainment.

Then we were saying that lack of provision by the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to give out television licences to those interested to run them is not only hurting the intended targets, it is also making our music industry suffer.

Now we have numerous television channels like Chanco TV, Mibawa TV, Times TV, Zodiak Television and many more, giving hope that may be they would provide a change in the approach. What is doubtful though is whether they will get any economic sense from travelling down that road.

In other countries, playing latest music videos on television boosts sales of music and patronage at live shows.

In Malawi we have a number of private firms where we are getting both quality and mediocre production of music videos. Without any set of standards or criteria we get music that is beamed on television that leaves you with a bad after-taste.

You are always ashamed of the person performing because you realise that for such run-of-the-mill production to chance airtime it has passed through a number of hands. It does so much damage to the aptitude of those working for the television station.

Then we were saying government through MACRA was tremendously contributing to the poor quality of music video production in the country. 

Because there was a single television station the problem was in two folds; the television would beam anything provided such mediocre player has greased the palms of the one in control or that those behind such productions would disregard quality because they knew whatever they produce will come out regardless.

This left no room for competition. But a healthy competition breeds innovation and creativity.

Therefore since we now have a sprouting of new television stations we hope things will change. It is high time the few production houses we have upped their game to inspire creativity among our artists.

Only then can our music industry grow and break into the international market.

Learners and Bluetooth Speakers

I stay closer to Motel Paradise where recently a new private secondary school has opened its doors. It has given me an opportunity to observe ill-disciplined learners doing all sorts of naughty stuff.

What attracted my attention is a group of these learners who would bring to school wireless and Bluetooth operated speakers that produce booming sound either sourced from their mobile phones or memory sticks and cards.

These learners will therefore play the music from these gadgetries and sing along while dancing. Meanwhile, their classroom lessons are in session which now casts bleakness on what becomes of the national future if the learners are showing no interest to acquire this all important knowledge with such impunity.  

In the early to mid 1980s when the legendary fallen music icon Mjura Mkandawire was a tutor at Blantyre Teachers College, the fruits of his toils were evident in the student teachers.

We used to learn more about the basic music theories from the student teachers than we were able to acquire from our traditional teachers.

The sad part is that Malawi is a poor country. The poverty is not only stinking but it is palpable as well. Not surprising, where the authorities cannot provide the basic necessities like classrooms, chalk and enough teachers, to mention but a few you can’t expect them to provide musical instruments to help in the practical aspect.

At least the absence of such requirements was understandable during the reign of the government of Kamuzu Banda. He is considered to have been one with top standards and class and therefore wouldn’t have expected anything less, but there was none because no future was cut out for music.

But then even when we were learning music there was nothing to show for it because those that made a name were rote musicians and artists like Allan Namoko, Mzalawayingwe Jazz Band etc

Today music is required almost in every aspect of our socio-economic and socio-religious day to day lives. Proliferation of churches that are bent at attracting more following that would equally provide more Sunday offerings for example, use live musical bands a lot. Then talk of artists and musicians that are appearing in each and every household these days

I believe had we made music a compulsory and practical examinable subject from primary through secondary schools we would perhaps have benefitted a lot as a country.

Surely we would also not have had learners staying out of classrooms and choose to entertain themselves with some loud music. Thanks to the sophistication of technology which has allowed tiny gadgetry to produce unbelievable sound and the availability of digitally stored music in memory cards and sticks, the learners have all they need, not only at their disposal but easily solar powered. 

Lately, music as a subject is not as serious as was the case in the old curriculum where it was given a higher recognition. Music can be interesting sometimes because it can act like fire which can be both a good servant and a bad master.

Writing for Times in December 2014 Melissa Locker observed there's little doubt that learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains.

Melissa further wrote that science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn't otherwise hear. This helps them develop "neurophysiological distinction" between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

A good environment which provides both theoretical and practical atmosphere for learning would be conducive to the learners which in turn would not allowing them to abscond classes and entertain themselves outside the classroom and during learning period. In this case music would be considered a bad effect to learning and schools need to discipline such learners in order to save the good name of music.

Dan Lu’s publicity stunts overdose

Sometimes the restraint to talk about ‘below the belt’ actions or howlers by music artists engulf me so much that I let it pass at the risk of either glorifying it by any mention on this space or ultimately missing out an opportunity to speak my mind.

But Lyrical Pen is there for these musicians and any wayward traits observed in the artists’ conduct need to be stopped in its track by opining on its merits and demerits.

Dan Lufani, the urban Afro-pop star is a talented artiste. No contest over this fact. He has proven through and through that he is one artist endowed with flair to dish songs that massage the auditory wits of the most hard-to-please music lovers.

It has become so difficult to ignore him; this is why every time he posts a picture kissing a ‘bared’ belly of his pregnant wife on Facebook; tongues engage a top gear and start wagging.

While entertainment experts lately consider posts of this shocking nature as a true ploy to draw attention and plop up their following and presence as part of publicity stunts, Dan Lufani’s latest exploits in Ireland clearly showed that he lacks guidance in order to only court beneficial controversy or publicity.

When you look at what Lufani’s PR team tried to come up with in order to palliate the controversy he courted while in Ireland, it is clear that it was a shoddy work because those doing it lacked skills and the dirt that Dan sprinkled on his professional fabric was just too much to be washed.

Some titbits that make up the subsequent statement says Dan Lufani tried to avoid meeting or being photographed with his ex. There is a half-naked woman that did not only pose with Dan Lu but they also hugged each other and yet the statement says he never touched her.

My take is that all this is a botched up job. To begin with, there are artists like Tay Grin who are an attraction to a bevy of beautiful girls but he will tactfully stay away from his female fans without being rude. He will either pose with the female fans in a group without being too touchy or he will pose with one fan but in a manner that clearly shows the boundaries. In other words he does not pose with fans in a compromising manner. This is called being smart and a sign of restrain which is a virtue eluding most artistes.

We can be all what we want as entertainers but the moment we decide to commit to a matrimonial acquaintance we need to behave like it because we stop only living for us.

Many talented artists have ‘strangulated’ their careers before it blossomed to beneficial levels because of the way they behave both in private and public life.
Somehow the actions of some of these artists have a bearing on their parents, siblings and not to mention spouses. Much as the artist would therefore desire to behave in a certain way that will make them enjoy all the trappings that go with this life, there are those people that wear this shame that should make artists cautious before they act.

There is always a limit to how much controversy one can use to get attention and publicity. If one is so careless that he becomes the topic of discussion on social media but in an all negative manner and a reference of ridicule to his spouse and family then it’s time to sit down and reflect.

I know many artists in Malawi adore Diamond Platnumz for his musical exploits as well as off stage stunts with beautiful women. But believe you me; lately he has started losing track and focus because he went off the rail.
It is crucial for artists to always play it smart and avoid being in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.     


Lucius Banda’s Free Shows loathing

On 14 October, 2017 Lucius Banda decided to use his Facebook wall to detest what he called a common practice in Malawi where people seek free entry into musical shows.

He went on to deduce that this is not due to poverty because people who do this come by car which has obviously been fuelled and upon getting into the show they buy a lot of beer.

What he abhors is that it is clear to such a person that only paying to the artist to gain entrance is what they hate. Sometimes where positions are reversed where the patrons might have a grocery shop, they cannot give free loaf of bread to that artist whatever the case and it would even sound funny if they were to ask for free bread.

He goes on to pour his heart out by wondering why people feel comfortable to enter shows for free despite knowing the artists have loads of overheads to take care of. He then marvels at Malawians’ lack of spirit to support arts.

In his wisdom Lucius believes if all the fans were paying at the door during such shows then Malawi will have her own export quality musicians like is the case in other countries around Malawi.

He goes on to cite Nigerians, Tanzanians and Zimbabweans where he says musicians grow because people are ready to support.

Lucius made this Facebook post barely hours after rapper Fredokiss had held a free show at Masintha which made the venue bulge at the seams.

Rightly so, his post attracted a comment from Mchiteni Nthala II who urges Lucius to organise a free shows sometimes; his argument is that music is not meant to be sold always as there are a lot of people out there who are his loyal fans but cannot afford the gate entrance fee.

Repay them by holding a free show by borrowing a leaf from Fredokiss, who according to him does not have money but has managed to hold a free show in Ndirande as well as at Masintha, he argues.

He then further says Lucius can also do the same by holding free shows in Mhuju - Rumphi, Kabudula- Lilongwe, and Mayaka - Zomba.

Lucius however is still adamant by inviting the contributor to his constituency in Balaka to see for himself what happens on his ‘gate’ [the entrance to his residence, I presume] where what he will see will make him cry for him. Lucius argues that he doesn't give back to people using shows.
 There were several subsequent comments

One Charles Percy Gama says it's indeed a matter of concern that after investing a lot in advertising, getting supporting artists, venue hiring and organizing a show, somebody comes with all family members and friends to enter for free. When the artists get poorer and stop performing and switch to vegetable farming or bicycle tax business the same people will snide at them for lack of vision. He says it's high time we supported our artists.

Another comment from my namesake Gregory Chisomo Likalamu argues that Lucius needs to ask Gwamba or Fredokiss to establish who pays for the venue because at the end of the day music is not only for money, but for fun too.

He further states that since Lucius is a politician it’s not surprising that he is egotistical and therefore will only hold free show that will be to his own benefit or when someone pays for it. He argues that Fredokiss is paid with love and not with money.

As a journalist, one would expect me to enjoy free entry which I don’t. I have never been to a show for free even when I will write an article for such artists. However Lucius response is mixed up. He serves two constituencies; a political and a musical constituency and whatever corporate social responsibility activities he does as an MP cannot tick on his check list as an artist.

Several reasons have been offered on his post. But I still believe whether Malawians love free shows or not, he owes it to them and one day it cannot hurt to pay them back as an artist and not a politician of Balaka North.