Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Flash Disks Killing Our Musicians

To sell 1000 copies at a single musical show, in one night and at K2000 a copy is a feat that can translate into something else. Already, this means K2m a night and this is excluding gate, plus hire collections.

Assuming that the artist is going to perform in all the 52 Saturdays in a year, he would make K104 million in sales of their music alone.

Well, forget about this figure; this can only happen in my fantasy world. But the point I am trying to drive home is, Malawian music followers are helping the industry to drown into a quagmire of retrogression.

As we speak, right now every Jack and Jill is running some rundown music with two or a single rickety computer that is leaking out musicians’ wealth of their lifetime. And now they can do so with the blessings of Copyright Society of Malawi.

For some time now, even in the face of vehement protest from musicians themselves, Cosoma has chosen to be the issuing of soft copy licences which once gotten people can upload hundreds of albums in flash disks for sale.

For you to get the music all you need is a flash disk or a mobile phone that can take in some media and some K100 and you will get all the albums that Lucius Banda, for example, has come up with over to decades that he has been in music business.

These ‘flash disk patrons’ for one thing, are always in the forefront cursing the artists for lack of innovativeness, ingenuity and progress, forgetting that for artists to achieve such, they require resources.

If we were willing as a proud country to have our musicians reach the dizzying heights, we surely were supposed to dig deep into our pockets and patronise the work of our artists so that with our buying of their products they can be fired into some ingenious mortals who will be able to give us even better material that can stand the international test.

Ever since OG. Issah, that music distributor, stopped doing something he has only known best in his life because no soul, no longer goes before his counter to buy music. People have now found a way of getting music cheaply and without regard to its maker.

One might laugh off the decision by the distributor, but one thing you might not realise is that even patronage of music through flash disks would be snuffed if materials will no longer be forthcoming.

The musicians themselves feel the pinch that is why in every music video album our musicians produce these days, they will make sure to warn against piracy.

Much as we might gloss over such warning in the conviction that there is no system in this country to track down music pirates in earnest, one thing which has to stand out clearly is the fact that we are helping in making our music industry achieve some mediocre status. 

In the past I used to scream mad at radio stations, including the mother institution the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which at one time equally behaved like a flash disk patron.
They would get the music through the flash disk but still fail to pay for royalties incurred because the music was being played to the public as it were.

The same was the case with entertainment joints that have our music as its heartbeat. If you remove the music it means you are getting rid of the pulsation and consequently killing it.

Owners of such places, just like owners of radio stations have realised that they can never be without music. Pity though, they have this feeling that music just comes into flash disks without deeply thinking about sleepless nights that one spent to compose the lyrics and even the accompanying instrumentation to come up with the music that brings fame to their joints.
There is something terribly wrong with a culture of getting things on a silver platter. It feels the same way as the culture of getting free lunch. It kills the spirit of discernment where you have a special place for the maker of your favourite music.

Because the moment a patron has respect for the artist who makes their favourite music, the only way to give back is when they buy – read me tight here – buying their audio compact discs or DVDs without having to let some virus infested computer empty hard earned music products into their flash disk at the expense of the maker of such music.

One other good thing is that we have our music selling at very affordable prices and there is no way anyone can claim that they can manage a music player but not the music that gives the gadget meaning for its existence. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Copyright Act: Govt’s Wish list

Before the enactment of the Copyright Law in 2016, everything that was not happening right in the arts sector in general, and music industry in particular was being attributed to lack of such statutes.

A couple of years later, artists seem to still be at the mercy of the perpetrators of arts related offences and sins. This is so even in the presence of the law and those that are empowered by it, the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma). 

They continue sleeping on the job and do little or nothing to enforce it.

Cosoma officials would argue their case all they want but they can only hear from me as someone who is echoing out the brutal and naked sentiments of musicians and other artists in different disciplines.

I will quickly take you to the recent matter relating to Collins Bandawe, the musician famed for his Tchekera Maluzi song. Apparently without his knowledge, two urban artistes – Saint and Macelba – decided to do a remix of the track.

When asked by the media if they had the consent of Bandawe, the duo said since Collins was nowhere to be traced they therefore sought permission from Cosoma.  

Assuming that Cosoma indeed gave them such a go ahead, then if the body’s action is not fascinating enough, then tell me what is. Because it is as good as going to the police to borrow a gun that one intends to use for a heist. 
Cosoma failed to use the very law that provide for its existence.

Copyright Act section 66 in simpler terms guides on how best this could be done. Among others one is supposed to find the original owner of the works; inform them of their intention to redo their work and even provide the address of the place at which they intend to make the recording.

It further describes the kind of work as follows: “Sound recordings made… may be in the form of an adaptation of the musical work previously recorded.”

Once this has been recorded the law guides that the original owner is supposed to be given the copies that have been made 15 days before publishing them and at least by 90 days royalties should start trickling down the original owner.

In the case above, others can argue that section 36 of the Copyright Act provides for the permitted free use of the works. However, on a number of conditions the duo did not qualify even under transient and incidental copies.

It is therefore disheartening that the society allowed all this to happen with careless abandon when they are supposed to be in the forefront promoting and protecting creativity as their sole existence suggests.

When one sits down and go through the Copyright Act what comes out clearly is that this has just become government’s wish list.
There are issues to do with Copyright Fund on section 98 of Copyright Act for example.

The law expects the society to administer this fund so that it can be used to enforce this law, promote and improve creativity and artistic skills as well as promote and preserve works which depict a cultural identity of Malawi. It further expects the society to, through the fund, pay proceeds from the fines paid for infringement of the rights under this Act.

Artists claim that they have not heard anything from Cosoma as regards this fund even when this very section expects it to conduct civic education on the same.

The question could now be, what is keeping those officials busy at Cosoma when they cannot make a sound decision on a seemingly very simple and straight forward issue.

Are the artists safe under those that are running the show at Cosoma? And what is the mother ministry doing?


Reggae Lyrics and the Yesterday Youth

There was a time when legendary Wambali Mtebeti Mkandawire jokingly told a group of us that had he been playing reggae, no one around would have been his match.

Then I have heard artists like Tiwonge Hango saying they have to do a lot of groundwork in order to break the market for the kind of traditional music, which they play, while there seem to be a ready market for reggae to those that know how to do it well.
Why is it that reggae has managed to find room in the hearts of a many music lovers in the country?

When the youth that are middle age now were growing up, there seem to have been a proliferation of reggae music to an extent that those that had many a lyrics in their songbooks earned themselves respect.

One other aspect that also helped a lot at that time was the philosophy and positive teaching from reggae music, which to an extent helped or traumatised the duty of parenthood.

To an extent, music moulded the quality of education that was on offer then. Have you heard grandparents whining that their form four grand sons and daughters cannot stitch a sensible English sentence while at a Standard six level of that time our grandparents could advance an English debate that could carry the day.

The traumatising part with reggae, which I do not desire to dwell on today, is the question of ‘International Herb’ in the reggae music, which is encouragement to the smoking of Chamba.

Those that fell for it either succeeded with their studies or fell by the wayside, while others found themselves preaching senselessly along the streets while naked while the lucky ones found themselves at Zomba Mental Hospital, St. John of God Mental facility in Mzuzu or Bottom Hospital in Lilongwe.

Those that took the positive meaning out of the reggae music that was available then triumphed because they were good at the English language, which sometimes would be a barrier to all other subjects that the school was offering.

Reggae, like most music is transmitted alongside a lyrical content that needs full attention for anyone interested in message other than the accompanying instrumentation.

Take for example the track TRUST ME from the album of the same name by the late Joseph Hill who later in the days used to play under the name of Culture. Below are the lyrics of the song Trust me.
Reggae Music for a reason
You see you can play it under Jah season
I play reggae music in the middle of the street
Play reggae because it's our beat
Play reggae music because it was ordered by the Messiah Marcus Garvey
Trust me, trust me, trust me
Why don't you trust me, trust me, trust me
Allow politicians to fool you again
Allow a lawyer to plea your case
Allow the doctor to poison you
And even the minister to indoctrinate you
You trust the teacher to teach your children
Trust the mechanic to build your car
Trust the carpenter to build your house
And yet you don't trust your brother at all
You don't even trust yourself
Please be yourself
You trust the media to give you a news
And my simple words you do refuse
You don't trust Rastafari
You won't even listen to I and I and I
I stand up for the rights of every man
Just lonely as long as I can
We can win the victory
To fight on for humanity
Nine holes are in the human body
Seven of them are in your head
So why don't you clean up your life
And try and live just like the Congo Natty Dread
One mother you've got
I must remind you
And you must respect her to the highest level I say man
Although the lyrics in this song cannot make you change your religious belief but it will at least give you a positive reason to fight for your cause.

In general in the song Hill who was of Rastafarian life had problems with people who could not trust him as a musician with his counsel but could listen to politicians, lawyers, doctors etc.

If you look at how reggae spread throughout the country at that time you could tell why even when bands like Kalimba, Makasu came on the scene this the route they took is, remember ‘Sometimes I Wonder’ or ‘Let’s Talk it Over’.

Even when Alleluya Band came on the scene, reggae was the route they took and I do not need to tell you about stories of Joseph Nkasa and friends whose locally blended reggae beat has made them get riches that even surprised them.

Reggae, which originated from Jamaica, influenced the reasoning of the Malawian youth then and to an extent now. Because even when American Gangsta music has come over, the violence message that is its major theme has not moved any sensible youth, but to an extent it has killed youthful interest in reggae, which has resulted into a number of negatives including poor educational performance.

Music is an influential aspect to life and it is not just any other music but particular genres have particular influence due to its style and to an extent its lyrical authority, which is very perceptible in reggae music.

Nkasa’s musical confusion

Joseph Nkasa, the touted wordsmith is a unique musician on the local scene for more than one reason.

Like a bee to a flower, politicians have always been attracted to him. But politicians being what they are only use him for a particular purpose and once that has been achieved they tend to leave him waiting for unfulfilled promise. 

They behave like bees indeed, once they get the nectar from an attractive flower, and then it’s a done deal.

Former President Bakili Muluzi got attracted with his fame and as he had successfully done with Lucius Banda, he wanted to rope in Joseph Nkasa to be in his hero worshiping team. He started by promising to buy Nkasa a vehicle.

Of course, the car never came and Nkasa composed the track ‘Anamva’ where he reminded the president about his promise.

Exit Muluzi enters Bingu wa Mutharika. The late Mutharika, according to Nkasa, promised to buy him a house due to ‘Mose wa Lero’ a track that indisputably helped Mutharika’s 2009 Presidential campaign.

Now if you look at all these happenings, one thing that is clear is that it was secular music that he used to touch base with personalities that were perched right there at the pinnacle of the country’s political authority. 

Now when Nkasa came on the musical scene he truly came as a gospel artist. I should start by saying that ever since he started in 1996 his career to date has been decorated with 18 albums.

If you look at his first 4 albums you will appreciate his initial gospel bearing. He started with ‘Satana Waponya’, ‘Messiah Alikubwera’, ‘Ndigwireni Dzanja Yehova’ and ‘Kutha Kwafika’.

Now FOUR gospel albums, one semi-gospel of course, never did any good to Nkasa’s name. And what does he do? He decided to jump ship and turn secular with the album ‘Kupupuluma’.

Now after soaring so high with secular music and even after making himself a name he thinks he can go back and start all over again in the gospel music arena.

It is the word of God that Nkasa now tries to use in order to get money from politicians.

Joseph Nkasa composed a song for former minister of agriculture, irrigation and water development George Chaponda to douse fires that threatened to burn his political career to the ground.
To keep you in the loop, Nkasa’s song intended to spruce up the image of Chaponda who had been embroidered in maize transactions that had bedevilled by claims of corruption.
In the song Nkasa equates Chaponda to Joseph, one of the 12 sons of the Biblical Isaac who became a defacto ruler in Egypt after being sold there by his brothers due to his closeness to their father.
He further claims that Chaponda is paying for his mercifulness to help the hunger-stricken and that people are trying to make him lose ‘his ministry’.
Nkasa declares in the song that the stones that have been thrown at Chaponda with will accumulate to his advantage as he will use it to build a house which will make him the landlord.
In all this the meaning is that Chaponda will use the ridicule currently peddled about his involvement in the maize saga to become the leader of this country.
It looks Nkasa is always on the lookout for any political developments to jump on the perceived opportunity and compose a song. His latest toils is a track called Absalom in which he is attacking Vice President Saulos Chilima for trying to usurp the position of President Peter Mutharika and contest for presidency using a Democratic Progressive Party ticket.

When he did Mose wa Lero for Bingu he claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But this remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.

Nkasa composed a song for the then parliamentary Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he stood for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably.

After the Chimunthu debacle he went into an agreement with PPM’s Mark Katsonga who allegedly paid K7 million for political songs, jingles and live performances all to discredit Joyce Banda government and prop up the name of PPM’s torch bearer.

While the effectiveness of this project had not even materialised, Nkasa joined the PP ranks and did a track for Joyce Banda whom he had discredited in the other tracks.

The JB track which was first heard on her Ufulu Radio and state owned MBC presents a litany of development achievements of the President and why she would be voted to retain power.

While I can neither accuse Nkasa for his lack of ethical sense nor the politicians for taking any routes to seek vain glory, one thing that is clearly standing out is that Joseph Nkasa does not believe in what he sings.

Snoop Dogg’s way of remaining relevant

Snoop Dogg is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, television personality and actor who is never short of controversy. Real name Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. the 46-year-old American has within 6 years tried to remain relevant by turning to reggae music, before going back to his rap genre. Now he has taken another leap into the Gospel fold.

He was discovered by Dr Dre in 1992 when he launched his music career and he has since sold over 23 million albums in the United States and 35 million albums worldwide. Around 2013 he was worth an estimated $110m.

For over two decades that he has been in music industry, Snoop is considered rap’s great survivor considering that he still remains successful when many of his contemporaries are dead.

All this standing did not however stop him from going to Jamaica in 2012 where he announced his conversion to Rastafari and adopted a new moniker; Snoop Lion that in early 2013, coincided with the release of his reggae album ‘Reincarnated, and a documentary film of the same name that talks of his Jamaican experience.

Many, especially Rastas, did not believe that this gun-toting gangsta-rapper has embraced the peace-and-love principle of Rastafarian livity. Reggae legend Bunny Wailer who at first welcomed Snoop to the fold later said he felt betrayed. Bunny Wailer like most Rastas felt the US Rapper was a phoney who let down the Rastafarian community.

And what with his thirteenth and fourteenth studio albums, Bush, released in May 2015 and Coolaid, released in July 2016 respectively which marked a return of the Snoop Dogg name.

The same is the distrusting feeling with his turning into a Gospel artist while trying to ride on the back of his mother Beverly Tate, an evangelist whom he is also featuring in his gospel album.

In October last year Dogg released his first Gospel song called Words are few which features gospel artist B-Slade (formerly Tonéx) before releasing a Gospel album this year "Snoop Dogg: Bible of Love."
Although the album has gospel and R&B heavy-hitters like Tye Tribett, the Clark Sisters, Faith Evans, and Rance Allen it still fails to remove doubters from the picture.
In several interviews Dogg says it’s not about money; it’s about spirit... And those that are not happy that Dogg, a secular artist has migrated to the gospel music, should realise that the Devil is a liar...

In an interview Snoop is convincingly arguing that he thought the church is supposed welcome sinners. Because if the church was full of saints it wouldn't be right. So if one finds somebody trying to find their way home the natural thing to do is provide warm welcome.

We have several examples in the country where the movement has always been one way; from secular to gospel music. Remember San B, Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Evance Meleka etcetera. It was only Geoffrey Zigoma who on several occasions went back and forth.

Much as these would stick to their story that there was indeed a religious conviction for the switch, for Snoop Dogg, with what transpired before when he briefly became Snoop Lion, there will be a need of serious convincing that he has made a genuine transformation.

After over 20 years of doing rap music that was propagating the other side of what Gospel music preach, it will be a matter of time to establish whether or not Snoop Dogg is for real or is trying to stay relevant. If one reads between the lines they might be tempted to see it as the same as Snoop’s holding of the dubious distinction of having 17 Grammy nominations without a win.

Unwarranted attacks on Kuimba 11

There seems to be people in this country who just love to hate. And if there is one grouping that has grown thick skin because of endless attacks on their works then it is the reggae outfit from Chileka, the Black Missionaries.

The past few weeks we have seen people from all callings including some from the media and even from the music industry picking on the four tracks that the Black Missionaries, fondly called Mablacks, has released in readiness of their ultimate issuing of Kuimba 11 album.

The tracks released on Friday April 20, 2018 include Zofuna Mtima Wanga, Umboni, Special Lover and Mbusa and like is the case every time they are about to release an album the noise is always deafening.

Several reasons could explain the source of such noise. One is because people in this country are always envious of those that they think are doing well. Be it in politics, business, religion, soccer and even witchcraft those that excel will be called names.

Come to think of it, before everyone has been trying to compare the current Black Missionaries of Anjiru, Chizondi and Peter to the one led by Evison, and Musamude. The comparison has always favoured the fallen band members.

And yet what is funny is that even when Evison Matafale and Musamude Fumulani were there, the three were around as well. In fact most of the tracks that we think were the best then, were composed by the very same people we now vilify.

If you ask me, even when Evison or Musamude were to be around, the same people who claim that the current Mablacks is failing, would still have faulted them.

You know why I know so? It is happening to Lucius Banda who has been there long before the Black Missionaries. Every other time Lucius releases an album people condemn it saying Son of the Poor Man was the best.

Our challenge as a people is always to think that what we are familiar with from our past is the best. You can just hear old ones boasting that they had the best childhood unlike the current youth who are corrupted by the video games and smart phones.

What is funny though is that how could they compare themselves to the current youth when all their playtime was dominated by imitating a hyena or creating cray car toys?

The same is happening to music. These old-cray-toy-car-making-youths cannot like the same kind of music that the present smartphone youth root for.

People ought to live with the fact that times are changing and therefore even music won’t remain static; it will keep being transform to suit the modern ear.

I am saying all this if the argument is that Mablacks are no longer sounding like before. I however strongly believe that this would be a lie because Mablacks have not changed their mission. Their music would still make Matafale and Musamude proud, knowing that they are indeed perpetuating the mission.

Hello! Please give it to the Blacks. We are talking of eleventh album. May be you are not aware, Matafale only managed Kuimba 2 with the Black Missionaries having done Kuimba 1 with the Wailing Brothers. Mablacks have then gone ahead to release nine more albums on their own.

When Musamude was passing on, he had just finished recording Kuimba 6 with his younger brothers and they are now doing a fifth album after his demise.

How many bands have died for various reasons? The question should be what has made the Black Missionaries tick and continue releasing one album after the other not to mention their hard work on the road when others have fallen by the wayside?

There are many factors before one has to consider before attacking the band.

They have selflessly tried their best to serve this country musically.

It’s also our choice as consumers to go for those that we think are doing the best music that pleases us. The least we can do if we do not like the Black Missionaries is to keep quiet and let them be.

Whither Malawi’s Royalty Collection

The Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) was established in 1992 and it operates under the 1989 Copyright Act which protects copyrights and "neighbouring" rights in Malawi.
Although the Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act, which protects industrial intellectual property rights in Malawi, Cosoma has a very central role in this aspect.
In April of 2015 I wrote that the rules that govern the World Trade Organisation (WTO) allow Malawi because it is only a less developed country to delay full implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement until 2016, which is two years ago.
Government through the Industry and Trade Ministry was also working with Cosoma and the Registrar General to align relevant domestic legislation with the WTO Trips agreement with technical assistance from the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (Aripo).
Under this arrangement Cosoma partnered with privately owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) to be using an electronic system that has been able to capture all musical works performed or played on the radio for the purposes of collecting royalties. At the moment I am not sure where we are now.
I also explained that there are three ways that musicians in Malawi can earn through royalty collections. Cosoma collects mechanical royalties that it gives to an artist after they record with a record company; broadcasting royalties that comes from air play of an artist’s music by a radio or TV station as well as; public performance royalties which is the money that the artist earns when his or her music is played in public places like bars, public transport system, hotels etc.
At the time Dora Makwinja, Executive Director of Cosoma explained that in the past they used to keep data on sales of music by authorized distributors especially those that they had given licenses.
She said when Afri Music Company was in the business of producing and distributing music they used to have a good database of record sales and even for others who were also in the same business because there was some kind of control.
Now, with parallel markets where musicians are also selling their own musical works, it is difficult to have a complete data of the record sales and therefore there is a huge loss of royalty collection.
Before, she said the system was beneficial to musicians like in 2009 when one musician Lawrence Mbenjere set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.
There were also challenges in collection especially in broadcasting royalties, where some radio station including the state owned broadcaster the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) would fail to remit the royalties and at one time in 2013 MBC owed Cosoma K8 million.
The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (Macra) announced that it has acquired a machine called Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System (CIRMS).
Cosoma Senior Licensing Officer Rosario Kamanga had indicated at the time that CIRMS, otherwise also known as the Spy Machine would help them manage broadcasting royalties because other broadcasting institutions were neither logging the number of times they had played music of artists nor indicating at all whether they had played it or not.
With the Spy Machine in full gear it remains to be seen how these is now helping musicians in terms of royalties.
By the end of the day what is paramount is ensuring that the musicians get sweets out of their sweat. I just hope Cosoma has the answers.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Following up on BEAM’s musical equipment

A couple of months ago, Malawi First Lady Gertrude Mutharika donated sets of musical instruments to University of Malawi's Chancellor College and five secondary schools in the country, namely; St Mary’s, Mary Mount, Marist, St Patricks Academy and Lilongwe Girls’.

The reason the China Africa Business Council (CABC) donated musical equipment worth $10m (K7.2billion) was to support young Malawian musicians to develop and nurture their talents.

This is according to CABC general secretary Erick Wang who made the announcement at a New York event on 25 September last year where Malawi’s first lady was present.

The other details are that the donation was made through the first lady’s Beautify Malawi Trust (BEAM) via Chinese youth initiative called Public Benefit International Challenge (PBIC) where young Chinese students mobilised resources for the acquisition of the equipment.

Where my contention is coming in is the choice made by BEAM on the recipients of these musical instruments. This is so when one considers observations made by the Malawi first lady that the donation will make a huge impact on young musicians.

I want us to look at the take of the two officials thus Mr Wang and Mrs Mutharika. Both said these instruments would go a long way to help young Malawian musicians.

Now, who in their right minds thought these young musicians can be found in these places? I think this was a misallocation.

I have argued before, and I am going to argue now that most of the young musicians that are really struggling to achieve something out of music are in our localities. Most of them completed their secondary school education  and are now making an effort to try their hands on music because they have talent but with no provisions of a place where they can nurture it.

Last time my argument was to include music in the programmes being offered under the technical entrepreneurial and vocational education training system.
I once argued that there has never been one single trade that has generated youthful interest in Malawi at any given time than what music has done. 

Unfortunately this interest is not at Chanco neither is it at those five secondary schools.

A lot of Bachelor of Arts students majoring in music from Chancellor College have nothing to show for it. They have taken a totally different route. Those that have made it big musically are self-taught and have no Chanco connection whatsoever.

Now upon realising that there is a musical donation coming from China, targeting young Malawi musicians, BEAM should have looked around and ensure that those that would really make something big out of this donation really do get them.

Yes, Chanco has students studying music but they are not musicians and they have proven to us over time that they do not become musicians. If you ask me, the effective music institution right now is the Karonga based Lusubilo Music school.

Yes, secondary schools have music as a subject which is not even examinable and it will be total fallacious to take learners there as young musicians of this country.

BEAM should not have gone further than enquiring who young musicians in this country are and how best they could be reached out by merely reaching out to the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM).

Not sure if the status quo remains, but long time ago MUM – when it was an association – used to have regional offices with special spaces that had musical equipment where young musicians would go practice or learn.

Better still if BEAM was of the view that in following it up with MUM they won’t score any political point, then Mrs. Mutharika would sure have taken advantage of her husband’s rural community colleges concept.

It is in these communities where one would easily find young musicians. Like I have argued before, this is where an arrangement with those in the administration of courses being offered in these community colleges would be asked to come up with a course in music and made use of this donation.

With a huge hunger in the young musicians to perfect their acts, you will be surprised how beneficial this donation would have been.

But with what BEAM has decided to do with it, then it is as good as not having received any donation at all; it only massages our political egos without necessarily bringing out any positive musical results.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Is Joe Gwaladi music for real?

Most people will listen to music done by Joe Gwaladi and ask out loudly or silently if the dude is for real.

I know two people that I highly respect that listen to Joe Gwaladi music with some seriousness – for lack of a better word.

Associate Professor Edge Kanyongolo and Mangochi District Information Officer Kondwani Ziggy Magombo talk highly about Gwaladi’s music. If you ask me these two gurus have been exposed enough to a plethora of good music – again good is subjective, others might argue, but still find something worthwhile in Gwaladi music.

There is always an argument if Joe Gwaladi really matters at all to warrant a place among the local musicians who matter or even this space. I don’t want to make that declaration but I have some few pointers that will, at the end of the day, inform our position in as far as Joe Gwaladi music is concerned.

When one considers itinerant artists like Madolo (deceased) and at one time Njati Njedede, you will be compelled to dismiss Joe Gwaladi as one of those itinerant street performers whose ambitions for progress is unappealing.

I want to equate the behavior of Joe Gwaladi to one fallen reggae great Peter Tosh. Not in terms of their capabilities to make good music but their temperament in as far as their music persons is concerned. They both come across as very arrogant and unapologetic. This trait is also well presented in their music.

Locally, I don’t think there is anyone that I can compare Joe Gwaladi with. He is on his own. In his class he is the pioneer and I hope more of his ilk will eventually join him. But if all the years that he has been around no one has joined him yet then perhaps he is a musical genius in his own right.

The highs of Gwaladi music that separate him from the rest is his no-pull-back-punches attitude. The biggest main stay of Gwaladi music is his somewhat crazy lyrical punch that is dovetailed into a beat of choice that ranges from what would be our local beat or Afro beat.
Gwaladi tackles sex and sexuality with no apologies. He talks about HIV and Aids without mincing words. He talks about exploitation in view of poor social status with authority of a self-appointed in-charge of the victims of societal, financial, cultural and religious exploitation.
If you ask media practitioners in the arts and entertainment industry, they will tell you Joe Gwaladi does to entertain interview from anyone, unless money exchange hands. He thinks they are out to exploit and enjoy a windfall out of such dialogs when packaged into stories or any other media products.

Whether one likes it or not he will sing about women who are bleaching their skins and without mincing words he will cut deep to the bone by describing how they have turned out to be; “to achieve beauty, they are using bleaching chemicals and are now looking like tomatoes, they appear as if they have been burnt by electricity” sings Gwaladi. He is also controversial where he argues people who goes in and out of marriages are not wrong because they are experimental.

His unorthodox approach is uncommon amongst our musical artists.  He sings to effect behavioral change in his own unique style which is rare and unique.

He discourages people to waste time taking other drugs when they do not feel okay when they can as well just go for an HIV test. “Musalimbane ndi Thumbocid mungopita mukayedzetse,” sings Gwaladi.

Michael Yekha was another itinerant musician but just like Gwaladi, his perceived illiteracy took precedent when people were passing judgement on their person and works. For Gwaladi, I think he has perfectly used this little exposure to diplomacy, decorum and modesty to appeal to the heart when he composes and sings.

He also talks of that social scourge where people pour in a lot of money to assist during funeral of the dead. Gwaladi sings that he needs all that which will get to him as condolences when he dies now; “Mundipatsiretu chipepeso ndidyeretu”.

Using homemade instruments has been his trademark since a tender age. But lately Joe Gwaladi has been approaching his performances differently in order to be able to sell his music in his own way.
In 2012 I wrote about how Joe Gwaladi employed marketing techniques by mounting a big speaker, music player and a car battery on a bicycle and he used to go at marketing places, especially within Limbe, where he would be playing his music and easily attract curious by passers to buy his music.
Who can just be Joe Gwaladi if not Joe Gwaladi himself?

International tours for local artists

Fellow music lovers, I have observed that our local musicians are trying hard to make it not only on the local scene but also on the international scene.
Granted, being ambitious is a good thing. But I feel the way some of our musicians are going about their ambitions is wrong. Why am I saying this? Because some of our musicians are rushing things. Many are rushing to have ‘international shows’ or exposure before they have even earned respect of local fans.
Local fans are crucial in helping local artists adjudge if their music is tasteful or not. If an artist fails to command a following locally, his/her music does not sell and his/her shows do not attract impressive crowds. To say without beating about the bush what it means here is something about that particular artist’s music is not right. At times it can be about the artist branding, how his team (if any at all) is managing and selling him to the music consumers.
But of late we have seen a number of our local artists rushing to stage international shows where they are least known. Most of the times it is at the invitation of a handful Malawians who are, say, staying in Ireland and have missed home music. They make collections of some monies that can be used to organise the artist’s travelling and upkeep while there. As you can see here, the musical aspect is already defeated.
If it were that these are musical tours I would say there is nothing wrong with trying to expand one’s fan base. But I believe before doing it, an artist need to do their ground work so that they do not embarrass themselves or the nation.
And when one studies the venues where the so called international shows take place in the foreign land, one can agree with me that it is usually small rooms filled with Malawians living in those countries that attend the shows!
If one can call this an international show then I am afraid, our local artists have a long way to go. Last year one of the country’s local stars Patience Namadingo told The Nation newspaper that he is in no rush to start tackling international market because there is a lot that he has to explore locally.
Namadingo reasoned that he felt Malawi still has a lot to offer him in terms of a bigger fan base before he ventures outside. “I want to conquer Malawi first,” Namadingo said. So if an artist of Namadingo’s calibre who is one of the top artists can take his time preparing for the giant leap, what more of other artists who fail to even attract impressive crowds locally?
What I am trying to say is local artists should borrow a leaf from international artists who come here to perform.
Before they come here, they make sure that they are popular enough and book venues that are big enough for a large crowd. On top of it all, these international artists come here with pomp and well prepared so that when they jump on stage we feel their presence and special skills. Artists like Jah Prayzah, Luciano and Morgan Heritage come to mind. This is what we call international shows.
But what do we get when our artists go outside the country? Performances in small bars and eateries with Malawians living in that country! I think this is what rushing things is all about. Malawian artists need to take their time to grow, make the right moves to link up with proper promoters, get prepared artistically and then make the giant move.
So far Faith Mussa and Zathu Band have impressed by being part of the artists that performed at the London Lake of stars. For the majority who tell us about their ‘international shows’ I feel it is not only an embarrassment but also a waste of energy......unless if the main aim is ‘kukawona kunja’       

Crimes of Lucius Banda

The 19th Album of Lucius Banda is reminiscent of an artist who genuinely stood for the people and ended up branding himself the soldier of the poor until Bakili Muluzi happened.

Rightly called ‘Crimes’ this is where he is taking Government to task exactly the same way he used to do with the Government of the first multiparty President Bakili Muluzi. While everyone was clapping hands for Lucius for speaking on their behalf, like a bolt from the blues, he made a U-turn and befriended Muluzi after a special invitation to the kingly walls.

From there onwards, the masses never recognized their soldier anymore. He was reduced to a hand clapper for Muluzi and even went ahead to compose a track Yellow which helped to usher in Muluzi’s successor Bingu wa Mutharika.

As Mutharika dumped Muluzi so Lucius showed his loyalty by standing beside him, something that led to his imprisonment.

As things are at the moment, while his political party, the United Democratic Front decided to become the ruling Democratic Progressive Party bed fellow, Lucius never joined the band wagon and has realized the true colour of politicians, although he is a politician himself.

At the risk of causing debate I would argue that Crimes is an album packed with Lucius Banda’s undertones and frustrations over what has not become of his political career.

And listening to Crimes, it is a typical Lucius Banda album which has a predictable structure. The title tracks for his albums are always a Jamaican modelled dub-reggae poetry beat which he transforms into spoken word production over a Nyambinghi rhythm.

Kulila kwa amphawi just like Chako is a political outcry indeed speaking for the people as was the case then. And there is also Zithumwa which he presents in form of a letter to his uncle which is a sequel to the last two letters the other one collaborated with Thomas Chibade.

Then there are always wedding songs these days. People hire him to produce songs for their weddings and these ones lately find their way into his albums. In this particular project there are two; Andimvetsa Sugar and Tiye.

Whereas in the last albums which he produced when Muluzi was his hero the tracks carried messages of hero worship, now in Crimes, just like the Lucius of the old, there are tracks with implicit messages like Chida cha mtendere.

He however clearly direct his attacks on the leadership in the track Chako where he equates the current national scenario to a Biblical story of King Solomon.

This is when two women were fighting over a living child after one had lost hers and wanted King Solomon to decide the real mother. As the story goes the king proposed to cut the baby in halves where the real mother protested while the one who apparently had lost her child wanted the baby to indeed be cut into two.

In reflection Lucius thinks the leadership is not patriotic enough because they do not belong to Malawi and are behaving like that bad woman. They are on the course to destroy the country because they are set to leave to their respective countries once everything has been damaged since some have green cards.

Remember his promise to be producing tracks like Zulu woman I think in Kuyenda ngati nkhunda, which is a traditional Champweteka chimanga beat which is produced by an expert of such beat Sonyezo, Lucius has ably just killed it.

Like has been the norm Limbikila mwanawe is a piece of advice to his child and this and the rest of the tracks in Crimes have been complement by two Gospel tracks Nkokoma  and Siliva ndi golide to complete a model of Lucius Banda’s album.

The only difference in this album’s structure is the track Touch Me which is a sexual track that would require parental guidance if played within the earshot of those below 18.

At the end of the day, it’s not up to me to judge Crimes as holding a genuine sway over the followers of Lucius as was the case before. I am talking about this in terms of Lucius’ sincerity. But if you ask me I would only say: Once bitten, twice shy!