Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Monday, 17 September 2012

Maskal’s Way to test the Waters

By December this year, music collectors will have in their ‘music stable’ a Maskal album ‘Umunthu’.
It is not up to me to say, whether the timing of this production is a blessing in disguise or a harbinger of tough times ahead considering that this is coming at a time when his Nde’feyo Entertainment record label decided to cut short their three-year long agreement.
Before I turn back to the end of the agreement with the record label, I want, in a different way, to look at the two promotional tracks from the forthcoming ‘Umunthu’ album which have been distributed and already seem to have been stricken a cord with most entertainment joints and radio stations.
‘Usatope’ a track featuring poetry maestro Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwa and ‘Zili ndi iwe’ which has become a common signature tune for most radio station’s musical programmes are a typically Maskal, born Masiye Kalso Kasaru, kind of music.
Respected entertainment writers have already done a critiquing justice to the two tracks and I would not want to bring here unnecessary repetitions.
Only that there has been a testimony to a Shakespearean maxim ‘Good wine needs no bush’ with his two album promotional tracks; but perhaps the best would be ‘Good wine comes with age’.
The longer that Maskal has stayed in the local R’n’B career – although some says he is an Afro Pop artist – has proven that he has come out matured with these tracks.
His debut album ‘Nthawi’ with hit track ‘Udalire’ fortified his position in the local R’n’B Hall of Fame but with promise of the forthcoming album as seen from the unleashed two tracks, there seems to ensure that his being found in the musical business is not accidental.
The exhibition of the ‘Pasada’ genre in the ‘Zili ndi iwe’ track has a heart throbbing lyrical punch while the ‘Usatope’ track is truly a fusion of an R’n’B like resonance that is however reverberating in a ‘Manganje’ like thrash; it kind of fit in the frame of most of the traditional tracks that take after the ‘Champweteka chimanga’ lilt.
The tracks are a sign that Malawi music is slowly and surely observing a departure from a cacophonous and fleetness beat that characterized it in the past.
The gentleness of this music is able to permeate through the skin and when it gets where in the body the musical factor tickles, then you see craze-induced dancing on the dancehall floors. A contrast of how fast the undercurrent is rampaging as compared to the coolness of the surface movement.
The two tracks, of course reinforces the fact that Maskal is talented as proven when he was nominated in two categories at the Malawian Music Awards (MMA) 2011- "Best Male" and "Best R&B". He won Best Male Vocal for the MMA 2011.
Although such developments are a one off initiatives that lack continuity but the fact of the matter is that they recognize perfect ability of an artist.
Perchance one other way to gauge how the two tracks from Maskal have received recognition is logging unto a website that promotes Malawi music where according to this week’s ratings over 2711 people have listened to these tracks on the website followed by 2131 for Nthumwi Piksy and of course 2038 for Sir. Lucius Banda.
As is the case with good music, it looks like with the parting with Nde’feyo Entertainment might mean more loss to piracy fight and therefore losing out in terms of income.
But if you check what Maskal says about the music label, and then you are left wondering how best Malawians artists can market, distribute and sell their music.
You see, although Nde’feyo Entertainment rushed to the media to announce termination of contract with Maskal but it is the artist who in fact terminated the contract upon breach of contractual agreement.
We read, hear and know that music labels will be transparent with copies that have been sold because this determines the weight of an artist and the ‘wealthiness’ accrued thereof. This is the common trend in advanced music industries.
Imagine since December last year Nde’feyo Entertainment could not explain how many copies Maskal’s Nthawi album and the accompanying DVD had sold.
Since the same period, Nde’feyo Entertainment failed to pay Maskal his due allowances and they still owe him some money for the shows he already did.
The challenge now was every time he raises his concerns then an argument would ensue.
In one of the local media Maskal was quoted as saying: “There are many times I have been paying the band, Madziko, which we use for performances instead of the record label doing that. And up to now I don’t know how many copies I have sold. How do you expect me to continue working with them when they could not explain how my album faired on the market?”
At the time of separation Nde’feyo Entertainment only issued a statement which announced that it had parted ways with musician Maskal by mutual agreement.
Without trying to dash Maskal’s glimmering hopes with his forthcoming album, the question of releasing of good music and how it is marketed, distributed and sold still needs to be answered matter of fact.
Otherwise, it will be wrong to bring the unceremonious end to Nde’feyo Entertainment/Maskal contract as something that takes away whatever kudos his two promotional tracks deserves.

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