Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

How MAM Kissed 2011 Goodbye

The finesse with which musicians in the Northern region displayed their skills on December 31, 2011, left me wondering what is wrong with the region.
Of all the country’s three regions, the north seems to be in full display of a self pitying buffoon.
Take this occasion, for example, only a handful patrons, I mean less than ten patrons turned up for the Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) award competition that was showcased at Katoto Secondary School Hall.
And yet when you walk the streets of the region, you hear complaints like, the region is neglected in everything including being starved of entertainment.
But what best entertainment can one have if it was not for what MAM gave the city dwellers on the-said-day where six bands competed; and added to that the region’s own Tiwonge Hango performed with some brilliancy.
Of course Kula Band triumphed over the regions legendary Body Mind and Soul and went away with 70 thousand kwacha and an opportunity to record an album at the MAM Studio.
Body Mind and Soul carted home K50, 000 while the third band had K35, 000 for their toils.
The Pen heard Chris Phiri MAM Regional President saying the aim of the competition is to promote talent. Then MAM National Vice-President Lanzi Nkhata quipped in saying they did not just dream about the competition but it is part of their plans considering that this is its second year now.
Nkhata says the aim of the competition is to prepare artists before they can go into a recording studio. Initially, what used to happen was that a man or a woman or is it a boy or a girl would just wake up one morning and knock on the doors a recording studio to record his or her music without prior knowledge what it entails.
Now they need to undergo training which his regional colleague Phiri says is nurturing talent.
But look at the winner at the competition, Kula Band.
It is a band that fuses African traditional music with some Jazzy feel with sprinkles of Blues, Rock and Reggae.   
On their apparel of honour there are three awards that are stuck; they are the winners of MAM Music Award 2009, Chibuku Road to Fame Competition as well as the MAM Gospel Music Award.
The Chibuku Road to fame won them K150, 000 prize money and also landed them a lucrative recording deal worth 200,000 Malawi Kwacha. They now have that album in their bag titled ‘Sudziwa kuti Sudziwa’.
Now let’s look at the Body, Mind and Soul which was last year’s Music Crossroads Interregional Festival 2010 symbol of success in Tanzania besides being one of the guest bands
Body Mind and Soul is a 5-piece band, which started like the rest, thus playing reggae but after much thought and experimentation it created a new music concept it calls ‘Voodjaz’, a subtle mix of traditional rhythms with a jazzy feel.
With it, they conquered the Music Cross Roads Southern Africa Inter-regional Festival in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 to emerge winners that went on the road to their European Tour in Summer of 2008 where they performed at different big stages including the world famous Coyleur CafĂ©.  
Now what talent was MAM trying to expose with bands with such high accolade.
There is a band called Pamlonga which emerged third with its band Leader dishing out vocals while playing stuff on his drum set; strange combination. The youthful members of the band seem so innovative but could not stand the force that is Kula and Body Mind and Soul.
I doubt if these have ever recorded an album, but they are good.
You would expect MAM to jack up and stop living in the past when it comes to these issues. How did Kula Band and Body Mind and Soul find their way in a competition organised to discover and promote talent?
I hear the same competition was also held in the South as well as the Centre. I bet the scenario was the same where the old timers arrogated places that were not meant for them.
I hear MAM has now a strategic plan that spells how it wants to carry out its functions today, tomorrow and in years to come.
This will not be the first time that I lament the criteria used to determine entrants to MAM organised competition.
I have ever laughed off the description that MAM has of exposing talent that was once explained to me by the former MAM President Costen Mapemba.
According to MAM of Mr. Mapemba, exposing hidden talent is where a drummer should now leave his or her set or a guitarist should now go on the leading microphone and lead in the singing. To MAM this is talent identification.
Now that Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango and Lanz Nkhata have taken over the leadership mantle at MAM I pray that they should not perpetuate Mapemba’s school of thought which pocks fun at the industry.
I hope in MAM’s strategic plan there is a mechanism of monitoring and evaluation, which should leave us pointers to be able to see that indeed talent in the budding musicians is improving.
Yes the idea to kiss 2011 goodbye for the north by MAM was first-rate, but the methods adopted in doing it threw us back to 2001.

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