Wednesday, 15 April 2015
Not every musician should own a studio
One other reason why Malawi music industry will remain stagnant is the lack of vision of those in the system.
Every musician in Malawi hopes one day s/he will own a studio. Every music producer, every studio sound technician hopes to become a musician one day.
Every ‘bouncer’ at a drinking joint where music is played with‘chest-cavity fracturing’ intensity hopes to be a musician one day. Everyone who has an elder brother, a cousin, a father, a sister or a mother who is a musician desire to follow the same footpath; and while others have managed to stand out by making the same footfalls as they trod along, others have terribly tumbled.
Every musician in Malawi, once s/he releases an album wants to become a band owner, forget the fact that they are yet to own a mere guitar string.
But look here, the reason musical calling is called an industry is because one cannot be a musician, a producer, a studio engineer/sound technician, a videographer, choreographer, a promoter, a music sales and marketing executive and a musical event manager.
Unless the industry learns how to divide labour, forget ever hogging the international music limelight.
There are just too much ‘jungle’ approaches in as far as the undertakings of the players in the country’s music industry are concerned. Of course I know of some few who have earned fame as musicians in the country like Lulu, having started as studio sound technicians and producers, but it does not mean all can be the same or endowed with the same gift.
Do you know what is compromised at the end? It is talent and quality.
You look at a music maestro like Wambali Mkandawire; because he understands how the industry operates, he has never established his own studio because as a believer of good music quality he knows what is at stake. He knows where he is best. It’s like in a football match; you cannot be coach, technical director, defender, midfielder, winger and attacker at the same time.
You look at artists, too numerous to mention, who upon recording a single album or track fetched a run-down computer and started recording their music as well as of others of like mind in a shack that has no sound proof or anything closer to elements required to create a music recording studio environment.
One has to think deep to come up with lyrics and its accompanying melodies and if this is your calling don’t be greedy to force your way into other areas.
The sketchy journey is that one has to go into the studio after the first stage explained above where they need to arrange how, for example, the drum beat will be thumping out, besides the backing vocals not to mention the guitars, synthesizers etc. Afterwards they have to design the sleeve covers of the album or single, that’s if they are ambitious, and later take it to radio stations and newspapers for publicity.
If that is not already overwhelming, they have to borrow their in-law’s car, friend’s speakers and go on the street to start selling their music by playing it using the improvised PA system.
Meanwhile, they will also be positioning a non-professional video camera somewhere in their living room and ask their sisters and cousins to start mimicking their compositions with an aim of recording a music video and once with this low quality video in their hands the process re-starts.
How does that explain the aspect of managing of the artists’ creative skills, to begin with? What about nurturing talent through the passage of time. It’s not every day that one chalks envious accolades as someone that produces a musician who has managed to hit platinum. It’s not every Jim and Jill that can be Robert Kelly.
If you look at all this messy way of conducting business, how do you expect the Malawi music industry to progress?
Then there is the question of the guiding law on how the Malawi music industry can ‘live’ and ‘survive’. What guiding principles can it follow? How do we divide labour? What is the industry’s road map and who draws it? Unless we answer these and many more relevant questions, we are doomed to exist as a shameful music industry.