Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Music is a Mission, not Competition

I know you have heard of Alpha Blondy, Ishmael Isaacs, Tinken Jah Fakoly and Serges Kassi all these are from Abidjan in Ivory Coast. They are the best of reggae artists that have emerged from Africa.
On 20th October 2009, I was listening to BBC Focus on Africa where it was declared that Abidjan is to Africa what Kingston is to Jamaica if we are to consider how the two cities have befriended reggae music.
BBC says Ivorians believe their main city Abidjan is one of the reggae capitals of the world.
Well, during the time I was listening to BBC radio there was an interview of another reggae artist for Abidjan called ‘Kajim’ who declared that music is a mission and not competition.
Kajim declared, "Here our music is a weapon, and it is not the same thing in other countries."
Although music is a weapon, Kajim said he has refused to be used by politicians because as a mission how can a musician be used by a politician.
He said this in contrast to his compatriots who have fallen for politicians like one reggae man, Serges Kassi, who is a fervent supporter of President Laurent Gbagbo and BBC reports that he is in fact one of the leaders of his militant supporters, the Young Patriots, who in the past have been accused of being a militia.
While it says another musician, Tiken Jah Fakoly, who is perhaps Ivory Coast's biggest reggae star after Alpha Blondy, is firmly in the other camp.
Fakoly has criticized President Gbagbo heavily, calling him "badly elected" and a "thug President".
While his songs have found fertile ground with the New Forces, rebels who control the north of the country it has made Tiken Jah live in exile in Mali, saying it would be too dangerous for him to return to Abidjan.
You might be wondering why today the pen is trying to drum strange sound from foreign land, well; the reason is that their situation can easily be identifiable to our own.
Let us start with ‘Wagwa nayo’ and ‘Mose wa Lero’ two opposing songs that dominated the campaign trail in the country’s last elections.
I do not want to dwell on which one took the centre stage of the two above, all I am trying to stress is on the declaration; ‘Music is a mission not competition’.
Lucious Banda has Paul Banda as not only a brother, according to his own words but also a father. Lucious is one talented musician who is so creative that will make you listen to a UDF song even if you have sworn never to hear anything UDF but because of its musicality, you find yourself listening to the music substituting the UDF aspect.
Lucious has Paul to thank for nurturing his talent to the levels it reached but the moment he strayed from the path Paul had charted for him he landed himself in problems.
Sir Paul Banda, as most of us would fondly call him, has always realized that music is a mission and he has stuck to this belief and this is why he is so respected. While Lucious despised this belief and found himself being used as a competition tool for politicians and ended up broken. He only has his talent to thank because it is the only thing that has bailed him out.
When music was a mission in the eyes of Lucious he used it as a weapon which fought for the people and it had a huge result as masses appreciated and this he realized and called himself ‘Soldier’. Believe you me Lucious has almost forgotten that he used to call himself ‘Soldier’ because he strayed when he mistook music mission for competition.
Whether one likes it or not Sir Paul Banda revolutionized the Malawi music, this is the reason in the beginning the Balaka beat dominated. When Lucious came on the limelight, everyone wanted to imitate him, because he had so big an influence, we found artists like Billy Kaunda, Isaac Liwotcha and the rest that followed, starting their careers using the Lucious Banda template.
To any music missionary, Lucious Banda can also be squarely blamed for having misled the very artists he had influenced into following him into the political competitive aspect when he joined the political bandwagon.
Look at how many musicians followed suit, ironically Billy Kaunda continued following the leading Lucious and perhaps MacDonald Mlaka Maliro can claim that he had been steadfast in his realization that music is a mission not a competition and this is why it was his wife Bernadette who is a politician not him. However, the mere fact that he went flat out using his music to promote her, shows that he still missed it anyway.
As a mission, not competition, music is used as a unifying factor. Before Lucious compromised his musical mission with political competition, he could take up a national debate through his music and be heard without any misgivings.
Now tell him to do one song on ‘quota system’ or whether President Bingu wa Mutharika is justified to be a patron of a tribal grouping, everyone will be saying he has been sent by former President Bakili Muluzi because people think he is Muluzi’s political puppet.

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