Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Friday, 7 December 2012

When music can feed you no more


OG Issa is the name that is synonymous with music in Malawi.
When music that was produced and marketed in Malawi started coming out, soon after multiparty democracy had taken roots in this country, this is also the time that this name made headlines all over.
If it was not in the newspapers then it was on radio stations, if not newspapers, in minibuses, churches and even in songs that musicians used to sing about OG Issa.
Both good and bad stories came through with OG Issa running as the sole music distributor.
Some musicians said OG Issa was an exploitative element in the Malawi music industry albeit with no grounds to substantiate such claims. Others said OG Issa needs to get a sky-scraping recognition for making Malawi music what it has become.
Around 1993-94 when they started operating to now 2012 when they have closed their biggest outlet in Limbe we are roughly talking of about 17 to 18 years in assisting musicians in the country on one hand and boosting his business on the other.
Over the years I have discussed about ‘Greedy and Exploitation in the Music Industry’ on these pages as well as how ‘Distributors Steal from Musicians’.
My argument then as is the case now is that Music is supposed to be the most sellable commodity in Malawi but in the case of the local industry those that are reaping the fruits are not musicians themselves.
Distributors and marketers are the only beneficiaries in the industry, enjoying the fruits which they play little or no part at all to produce.
They take advantage of the talented and poverty stricken musicians who would bring hot music but have no idea how they can profit out of it and instead what musicians have profited out of such venture is a mere fleeting fame.
Based on my assessment, the 95 % lion’s share the distributor gets out of an artist’s music and since there are devoid of bargaining power, they just accept to be milked without protest.
Now if you look at this kind of share and how much music marketing dealers flock to OG Issa you can tell how much money one can make in a period of 18 years.
Unlike government, investors have a time frame within which they are going to operate by investing, market the investment, make profits and head elsewhere, perforated and hissing out smell of money.
If government which has tried to hand over some such businesses can put in place regulatory means, there is no way someone would just come from their use a bait and throw in a line and once he catches the kind of fish desired, he leaves and goes.
OG Issa used to be a major music distributor in the country especially at its Limbe shop, which used to carter for the rural areas where local dealers would come and buy music in large numbers.
The reasons that owner Salim Sattar is giving in necessitating closure is not making sense. This is perhaps the case because out of music, Sattar has created many business ventures and because he cares less about where the industry will go from here, what he has reaped has satisfied him and what happens to the musician out there bears no interest in his world of profit making.
This is why along the way it became to be known as ‘OG Issa Group of Companies' and the music section was now referred to as ‘Afri Music Distributors’.
Music gurus are saying distributors are now failing to make obscene profits they have enjoyed over the years because artists have resorted to selling their own music as they are desperately trying to deal with issues piracy which has robbed of their would have been wealth.
O.G Issa has had a share of controversies, remember two years ago Lawrence Mbenjere stopped selling his music through Afri Music after being tipped that the company was allegedly swindling local artists' money through the selling of more tape covers than those initially agreed upon.
This was also the case with late Evison Matafale who was so angry that he broke the counter at the Limbe Shop.
The company acknowledged of bad blood with Mbenjere and at the height of their bitter working relationship it returned to Mbenjere stock of tape covers for his 11 albums amounting to 25 485 copies, a figure that translated to a sum of K637 125.
This only changed when the two signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOC) to resume distributing and selling of his music.
Afri Music's manager Staneck Kulemero told the media at the time that everything will be conducted in a very transparent manner where every detail of their deals will be perfectly documented using a high-tech computer system called system that will be tallying the tape covers he brings to the distributor against those that are sold before they can order more from him.
Now, is the way it has been presented, I mean the reason for closing shop, making sense at all?
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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