Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Monday, 24 September 2012

Malawi’s Busy Musical Signal

When you travel the breadth and width of the country, there seem to appear like we have a new artist in town who perhaps conducted live shows from Nsanje to Chitipa and from Nkhotakota to Mchinji promoting his music.
And with such promotion the people across the country have stuck up with his music, so much so that a day never passes without picking up one of the many tracks in play.
What is more enthusing is that even when you are in any of the minibuses around, let alone listening to the radio stations, you will find that if they are playing music, the list will not complete before playing music of the same artist.
More wonder is the discovery that in fact the artist who has kept every music player busy is not even Malawian, not even Zambian; he is a Jamaican dancehall reggae artist.
His showbiz name is Busy Signal and he has invaded Malawi and little wonder school children are mimicking his music as if it were done in local language.
The most common tracks that are dominating space in the airwave include ‘Come over – Missing You’, ‘One More Night’ and ‘Gambler’ which is a cover for Kenny Rogers.
Of course Kenny Rogers did it in ‘Country and Western’ genre but Busy Signal has expertly crafted it in a soft reggae vibe that keeps you restless on your seat.  
Before I discuss how foreign music is illegally distributed in this country let me perhaps give readership an insight of who Busy Signal is.  
Busy Signal’s real name is Glendale Goshia Gordon and was born on January 24, 1979 in Saint Ann Parish but later lived in areas in West and East Kingston.
Busy Signal remains one of the headline artists in the contemporary dancehall movement since 2003.
The Jamaican came on the scene with debut single, "Step Out", which became a hit and a popular dancehall beat in 2005.
He became Busy Signal after his friends could not get hold of him as he was always busy. His being busy work rate was proven fruitful when several tracks that he released between 2007 and 2008 like "Nah Go A Jail Again", "Smoke Some High Grade", "Tic Toc" and "Unknown Number" became big hits and tremendously enjoyed airplay and dancehall reviews especially in the Caribbean and the US.
Now back to the question of how his music has found its way in all the corners of the country.
Piracy and internet are two elements that are helping to spread music like Bush Fire. We have had artists in the country that have made names overnight due to their music’s availability, but remain hit by penury.
This is the case because their music is easily found and each and every flash disk has them. There are too much backstreet operations where people have personal computers solely used to upload music in flash and compact disks as well as mobile phone memories.
These backstreet operators are helping in impoverishing the very people who have created such pieces of art.
There are institutions like Copyright Society of Malawi which are unfortunately not doing enough to ensure that the tendency is not denying artists an opportunity to get their wealth.
The good thing with the international music industry where artists like Busy Signal belongs to are that there distribution and marketing portfolio is well structured that monies keep flowing back to them if patronage is such great.
The only consolation that Busy Signal has for the Malawian case is that he has registered such fame that if he were to hold live performance in the country, I bet Malawians and nationals of neigbouring countries would flock in large numbers to patronize it because his music has become household asset.
But it would not be said in the same breath that this is what our local artists would benefit from such illegal transactions behind their backs.
I have seen Joe Gwaladi and Thocco Katimba selling their own music which is still a futile attempt because their music is still a piracy subject.
Some quarters have claimed that it is difficult to control piracy because of the advent of the ICT convention, but I would still argue that our musicians have suffered from it long before ICT gadgetry found its feet in the country.
So, while Busy Signal is enjoying airtime, as a country this has to be a constant lesson to ensure that we have put in place a proper mechanism to deal with piracy once and for all.
The bad thing is that our industry is unlike the well-established music industries where even when Busy Signal is illegally playing in Ntchisi or Likoma he still will enjoy some earnings; as for Malawi artists, once their music has found its way to such destinations illegally, know that the artist is left with nothing to savour.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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