Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Musical Competitions - No defined future

 On Valentine’s Day this year Mibawa Entertainment Limited TV announced what they called a ‘grassroots music competition for the youth’. The Prize for winners: A DVD and audio recording deal.

From the onset I have to disabuse any hostile critics of any preconceived ill intentions – that I hold against this initiative – as I know I am allowed to have misgivings of its effectiveness.

I have high respect for John Nthakomwa one investor that the Malawi music industry has immensely benefited from ever since he came up with Mibawa.

My biggest problem is that these competitions are mere marketing gimmicks that are staged to hoodwink unsuspecting youthful prospective musical artists.They 'gullibly' think time is nigh for them to command the stage once such competitions are announced, which proves to the contrary.

Competitions that I remember to have ever took place in the country include Kuche Kuche/Malawi Gin Music Award, Chibuku Road to Fame competition, Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’ and Airtel Music Competition, to mention but a few.

Going by what actually happened to those that won such competitions one is left with a bad aftertaste as the face of exploitation is more prominent where the end justifies the means. None can point me to one that has graduated from these competitions and are now riding high, musically.

In September 2014 Airtel mobile company started its Music Competition where the winner carted home a whopping K14 million by our musical standards.

From the onset, what I discovered was that the devil was in the methodology used, as for subscribers to join all they did was to call the Airtel Trace Stars number and sing through the phone while the machine at the other end will be recording.

Once done, voila! The winner emerges and takes home the opportunities as stated above.

Around the same period that Airtel was launching their competition I was privileged to be one of the judges at Chibuku Road to Fame competition where twelve bands from the Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern regions competed for the grand prize of K1 million, plus a K400, 000 recording deal, as well as a trip to the regional Chibuku Road to Fame in Botswana.


There used to be E-Wallet as well, aimed at searching for music stars, around 2013-was called Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’ and aped the South African and US Pop Idols, although without being a complete replica when it came to what accrues for the competitors.


Look, the American Idols, for example, since it began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, has not only become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television, but has also spawned 345 Billboard chart-toppers besides producing what have become top international stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks.

Of course, the South African idols has its fair share of controversies through the television show on the South African television network, M-Net, as until its eighth season the contest only determined the white competitors as best young singers in South Africa until KhayaMthethwa became its first black winner, ending the dominance of racial minorities.
The good news is that Mthethwa took home a prize package worth almost R1m, including a recording contract with Universal Music, South Africa.
The Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’, other than the marketing ploy that it is, was but a mockery of the ‘stars’.
Adrian Kwelepeta fast comes to mind. He won the 2013 season and it took forever to release an album because he was looking for resources.
Apart from promoting the Sunbird brand, the country’s search for a star really also needed to ensure that the stars are not just fading.
The initiative for competitions is commendable because it is the best when it comes to isolating the talented from the crowd. My opinion however is that there is need to take a mile further by finding the winners institutions that should train them to become professional musicians as a form of perpetuating their careers.
At the current trend, it is all clear that these youths, who are hungry for fame and swayed by the belief that what their vocal cords can project is sweet sound that can stand the musical test, will remain being used as pawns in this marketing promotion game.
The flowing of benefits in the end create a disharmony of sorts as it is one-sided, flowing at the promotion of the corporate firms without trickling down to those players that make the whole event matter.    
Adrian pocketed a K500, 000 prize money but where did it take him to if for a year he had to hunt for resources to record an album?
But where is the talent that E-wallet unveiled? Where are the Sunbird ‘stars’ that were ‘searched’ and ‘found’ through the events and what will happen to the Mibawa winners if it is not only meant to popularize it?
My fear is that such competitions only make business sense but nothing for the music industry and its players.


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