Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Musicians Charge Exorbitant Gate Price?

Today, I will honour you with the right of entry into some very protected discussions that a group of very intelligent and wizened colleagues of mine discuss and see if you share what they think about our music or not.
One such colleague completely failed to understand how some big and well organised musical shows, and at very expensive venues, only demand pea nuts from prospective patrons.
One example is a show that was staged at the Blantyre Sports Club which has an uptown price tag and only wanted anyone entering into the show to part with a meagre K800.
He wondered a further when Makhirikhiri from Botswana lined up against Lucius Banda and Zembani but only charged K500? The question is, ‘are our musicians this cheap?’
Many responses then started pouring from all and sundry one was that the charges that our musicians place against their shows is equal to the kind of songs they play, the equipment they use, the frequency of the shows which have since had their value watered down because it has fatigued its patronage.
The argument is that our musicians release albums on yearly basis besides holding shows weekly and therefore all they do has no form uniqueness.
While discussing the issue, some wise man shot out this conclusion that “Malawian music isn't growing. It’s increasing.”
Because according to another old hand in these matters Billy Ocean, had a big album called ‘Suddenly’ released in 1984. He came back in 1986 with ‘Love Zone’ before the 1988 album ‘Tear Down These Walls’.
The there is late Michael Jackson who first emerged with an album ‘Off the Wall’ that enjoyed centre stage until another one emerged four years later in 1983 which became a chart bursting ‘Thriller’. Jackson waited for another four years to bring to the fore albums: ‘BAD’ and ‘Dangerous’ that were also separated by four years later.
The name of Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire was also discussed where it was observed that he has had a sell out with MK3, 000 charge per head. The argument is that even if he can today up the stakes to as high as MK5, 000 he will still pull many ‘a crowd’.
But another school of thought is that K800 per head is a decent pay day for a musician in Malawi. This according to a contribution from an equally accomplished musician is so, considering that Malawians paid around K3 when South African musicians like Lucky Dube, PJ Powers, and Brenda Fassie performed in Malawi in the early nineties. This was the time that our musicians were charging between K25 and K30 per head if one had to join their performances.
In South Africa, where the musical market is way ahead of Malawi in terms of organisation, talent, management and technical aspect in terms of recording and all its attendant requirements, charges between R100 (MK2,200) and R150 (MK3,300) to watch their artists.
Then there is a question of why Lucious Banda will not attract as many people as Black Missionaries would do?
A lady of immense knowledge observed intelligently though that ‘The Blacks’ [as Black Missionaries are fondly called] are performers while Lucius is a musician.
The Blacks can play ten songs back to back with no break while after four songs; Lucius would be seen struggling to complete a live show and therefore she would rather have ‘The Blacks’ performing but just listen to Lucius' music as they both are masters at their own speciality.
As you can see, Michael Bolton’s March 19, 2010 concert was pegged at €25 per person an equivalent of close to K6, 000.
What is unique about these shows is that they are prepared months before the actual performance date and by the time such performances are hours away, artists do not spend sleepless nights on whether their shows will be patronised or not.
Then there is the tendency of watering down of the musician or his or her band’s stature because of over performing where with a month a musician would have performed ten times. What is funny again is that while musicians of international repute have several shows during a single tour, they ensure that each venue has its own musical instrument set that has undergone testing for weeks before the actual date.
Here in Malawi an artist travels from Nsanje to Chitipa performing in all the places using the very tattered instruments that do not even fit in a hiace minibus...Do the musicians in Malawi therefore deserve the money they charge on entrance into the venues they are performing?
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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