Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Musical Vibes in 2011

We have had a 2011 musical year full of mixed fortunes and misfortunes. This we hope will create a foundation for a successful 2012, musically.
Before we start this New Year, I want us to travel back 2011 and see the issues that we tackled as the pen drummed loud, loudest and somehow faintly in the year winding up.
I first start with what we tackled in the first quarter of 2011where we looked at the:
Royalty Politics Mauling COSOMA
We looked at how Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) was established in 1992 and that it operates under the 1989 Copyright Act which protects copyrights and "neighboring" 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.

At the moment, 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.

Government through the Industry and Trade Ministry is 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).

We mourned Government’s decision which, without any regard to what the 1989 Copyright Act underscores, said it wanted to privatize COSOMA.
I tried to bring the background to this where I said it all started from one broadcaster that accumulated over K8 million in royalties for musicians and was failing to honour.
I raised questions on why I thought to privatize COSOMA therefore has its attendant and serious questions that require immediate answers.
Where are the modalities of trying to achieve this? If a private person takes over COSOMA what happens to the debt that is yet to be honoured in terms of royalties?
Then we also looked at how “MAPEMBA Rescues Musician from Daylight Robbery”
We established that eight years ago, a Malawian musician needed to part ways with K12, 000 to produce an album in a studio. Now a 10 track album can cost the musician close to K50, 000.
But within this eight-year period, the musician is still getting K25 from a copy of their album from distributors.
We looked then at how the then Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) President Costen Mapemba fought with distributors to now have it adjusted.
In the year there was a “Cry for Our Beloved Alleluya Band” where I reminded all and sundry that everyone who is not aware of our modern music history, I mean history of digital music, will better be told from the beginning. The beginning therefore will be telling a different story if it does not start from Alleluya Band.
It was about the story that Foster Chimangafisi Alleluya Band Member of then was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was bedridden in a hospital bed where he was suffering financial crisis because Alleluya Band could not do enough, I thought it spoke volumes of how troubled our music industry is.
Then the pen drummed about “Giving a Salary to the Musician” where we observed that the Music industry in Malawi continues to be elusive to the main player who matters in the business. The musician is still a beggar even in the face of all the talent, effort, sacrifice and courage to bring something on the music market.
Amongst the culprits that make musicians fail to achieve anything at all is the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation – MBC which loves to play the music from the local artists although they have no money to pay back in form of royalties.
At one point, the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) complained that MBC had a debt of K8 million in royalty arrears.
I said that it is only when a musician gets a salary for his toils that we would say our industry is growing.
Then the pen drummed about our own “Malawi Cultural Centre” which came due to the closure of the French Cultural Centre which for the past 38 years was dependent on the French Embassy to Zambia and Malawi elicited a mourning that made me shudder with shame.
Unlike crying over divorce or death, the closure of the French Cultural Centre, if anything, should have made all of us celebrate.
Celebrate because, the centre’s existence was never in vain. The French’s stay in Chichiri in Blantyre should have been endearing, knowing what vast lessons had been left. With such knowledge, instead of writing mourning pieces or airing out woeful programmes for the closure we would have said:
Exit French Cultural Centre, Enter Malawi Cultural Centre, I said.
The Pen also drummed a question on why there is no “Entertainment Journalist Award”.
I wondered why Malawi Chapter’s Media Institute of Southern Africa annual awards miss out entertainment writers.
I have in mind, prolific entertainment writers like James Chavula and Kondwani Kamiyala of Nation Publications Limited (NPL), and at Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) we have Sam Banda Junior, Jack Macbrams Chirwa and Clifton Kawanga who are some grand masters in weaving out beautiful pieces on entertainment pages of the company’s titles.
What is very, very funny is that the core business of media institutions is to Educate, Inform and Entertain. Mark that … Entertain…
We will continue next week.

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