Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Monday, 13 June 2011

Can MBC Band Change Music Terrain?

The music terrain in Malawi has been slippery. To an extent it has been like such places where angels fear to tread, for fear of breaking their backs and become vegetables.
Those that have survived it have had but short-lived glory. Those that felt were enjoying the limelight have been shocked when they realized that they could not pay for their aspirin was illness struck. Despite worth that they left behind, they have ended up dying paupers.
It is for this reason that I find the coming back of the MBC band, which first appeared on the scene in 1973 with the all greats Mjura Mkandawire and Wyndham Chechamba with hands on the deck, not so welcome.
When you would think that Dan Sibale Lawrence ‘Lulu’ Khwisa, Collen Ali and Peter Likhomo can still not stand on their own feet musically, then this is so worrisome.
Let me start with, Dan Sibale, Peter Likhomo and Collen Ali. When Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire started Manyasa was it in 2002, these made part of the cream.
There are at the moment two known Malawians currently playing Saxophone. Apart from Dan Sibale there is one Sidney Banda who plays the sax in America. This explains volumes of how talented he is.
Peter Likhomo and Collen Ali are the most complete and consistent players of instruments Malawi has ever had.
They remind me of one Country that has thrived economically through her music industry. Jamaica is that country. You have artists say guitarist that are itinerant and ready for hiring.
Because they are so complete and know what they do they are not attached to any band. There is Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare for example.
I remember in 1978, Gregory Isaacs; the fallen Prince of Chancery Lane, went around Jamaica and coaxed the best in all instruments playing and assembled one of the best reggae bands in Roots Radics.
There were players like Rhythm Guitarist Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont, in Lead Guitarist they had Noel "Sowell" Bailey who was later replaced by Dwight "Brother Dee" Pickney, Gladstone "Gladdy" Anderson was playing Piano and was later replaced by Wycliffe "Steelie" Johnson who added Keyboards while Errol "Flabba" Holt played the Bass Guitar and Lincoln "Style or Rotterdam" Scott was on Drum set.
Later vocal groups like Culture or Solo Artists like Prince Farai would hire them for studio recordings or live performances.
At least this is the direction towards which Dan Sibale, Peter Likhomo and Collen Ali should have been moving. It is retrogressive for them to be joining bands like MBC which should posture itself at making the young and budding artist find their feet.
Lulu had (or is it still there?) Mathumera Band and with his joining of MBC what becomes of it? What does it say about his stability and desire to strike gold in the industry?
My fear is that, this is an apparent show of lack of drive to achieve greatness.
MBC Band that started 38 years ago and disbanded in 2001 when I think Brian Sita was now at the helm had different aspirations to the ones being championed by the institution’s CEO.
The CEO Bright Malopa says he wants to transform MBC Band to become a international Group. Whatever this means, it will only be possible unless the industry in Malawi has started making sense.
At the moment a musician cannot produce a single and become an instant millionaire. A musician like Stonard Lungu died in penury and miserably so; all because the system that moves the industry has so many holes.
If all the cream will cram in the government owned MBC Band what messages are we sending out there? My take would be that these would have been standing there alone, and the budding musicians looking up to them for inspiration. I might be wrong.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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