This BLOG is hosted by Gregory Gondwe who is a Malawian Journalist. He covers most of the issues unfolding in this part of Sub-Saharan Africa. Lately, his focus has been on Musical information about Malawi, most of the musical articles that appear here until March 2016 were a reproduction of Column entries since he was an entertainment Columnist for Malawi's Oldest Weekly Malawi News which was called Drumming Pen.. Now he writes a column in the Weekend Nation called Lyrical Pen.
This week as I took a
walk around Motel Blantyre I couldn’t help it but notice the numerous posters
advertising live performances by Malawi artists. They ranged from secular to
gospel artists promising scintillating performances in various venues around
Blantyre. I will say again that my
home is a stone throw away from Motel Paradise which is one haven of live
performances by artists and this gives me a front row seat to witness just how
often Malawian artists do hold live shows.
As a music critic I
sometimes wonder if the repeated and numerous performances that our artists
give are as a result of passion or a quest to earn a living bearing in mind
that music distribution is a challenge with the closure of OG Issa music
centre. I find it pleasing
that Malawians can choose to attend music shows of their favourite artists week
in week out in the major parts of the country. But as the trend is
recommendable one can’t help but notice that it is the same artists who have the
privilege of holding such shows albeit at the same venues.
If one asks around,
the reasons why certain artists can’t hold shows, the answers range from lack
of funds to poor patronage. Yet every week we see posters, newspaper adverts of
say Mablacks holding shows or The Great Angels Choir having a series of shows
where people patronize such shows.
This trend has two
faces; one is that it gives Malawians that much needed entertainment. The other
face is that the artists of bands which have resources are monopolizing stage performances
so much so that frequent patrons have gone to the extent of memorizing how
certain artists handle themselves on stage. Sentences like “Timangopita chifukwa
tinazolowela” are common. In other words the ‘wow’ factor is long gone. But is there a limit
as to how often artists can hold live shows? The answer is no. However in order
to sustain the interest of music lovers it is important for those artists who
hold live performances frequently to make sure that they put in a lot when
preparing for such shows.
dressing, choreography and the singing itself. When one put in mind the
frequency, one wonders as to whether some of these artists do have time to
properly rehearse or they just jump on stage, a microphone in hand and sing
their lungs out.
My wife is a huge fan
of US pop Diva Mariah Carey and by association, I was somehow persuaded to
watch a few episodes of Mariah Carey’s reality show called Mariah’s world. The
show basically chronicled her world tour which took her to several countries
including South Africa. One thing that I appreciated about her is the
seriousness of her preparation when going on stage. I mean the diva has a
throng of dancers, make-up artists, wardrobe managers, floor managers,
performance directors and even a hair dresser! I have not even mentioned a team
of sound engineers. And when she goes on stage and performs a song let’s say
“Hero” which was released over 20 years ago, everyone cannot help but
appreciate the artistry being displayed and the great effort put into the performance
without considering that the song has been performed on stage for years.
And as she tours the
world over and over again, Mariah Carey will still put in so much effort to make
sure her looks are on point, her voice is crystal clear, and her back-up
dancers are in sync and so on. One can argue to say maybe Mariah Carey is a
world class act that cannot be compared to our local artists.
I dare to be different
and say, if Malawian artists want to improve then maybe they should reduce the
number of shows they hold and improve on the few they can hold. If the outcome
improves, they will be appreciated more and they will make more money by
increasing the gate fees among others. Rehearsing more and improving other
aspects of a stage performance is also a sure way of giving Malawians an
experience that is different from the one that we are used to. The other day someone
was asking why The Great Angels choir seems to be popular but music critics
have always argued that they do not have the best vocal talent? My response has
always been the same; they are the most polished, most organized, most visible
choir ever and yes, they produce some great music videos. Simply put, their presentation
is attractive and therefore marketable. What am I trying to
say this week? If our artists want to up their game, they have to relook at
their game plan. Is it just a matter of holding shows and collecting gate fees?
Or it’s a matter of putting in a lot more effort, hold less but classical shows
that will improve their image, prop up their standing in society and hopefully
takes them on the world map. This is one aspect of the music business that I
think in Malawi is neglected. For an artist or a band to be respected, it takes
more than just frequent appearances at shows.
The ‘looks’ or
appearance have to be an investment, the clothes, the dancing, the vocal
arrangement and stuff like that. Otherwise this business as usual attitude
where artists give Malawians the same dance moves, same songs, same progression
code, same routines is what is delaying the growth of the industry somehow. Food for thought right there!