Let’s Talk about Waxy K


Wonderful Kapenga, otherwise known as Waxy K is a local hip-hop artist that came into the limelight when he was only 16 back in 2015. Today at 19 he is still a child star who has squeezed into the top notch on the-who-is-who-list of the current crop of urban artistes.

There are a few things that has made him stand out, his funny looking small stature; funny because it does not correlate with his talent as a rapper whose lyrical prowess has left the old scratching their heads while his peers trying to jump out of their bodies.

His signature entry ‘Ndikhonza kuyamba’ whenever he is about to start dropping bars including clever verses that follow has separated the child star from the noises that have choked the local urban music industry.

His punchlines are a typical imagination of a genius where he will use words that rhyme. Take a peek at these lines from his track Zazii:

Zazii zomveka mkazi Mphete

Kumamusiya kupita kumowa on the Payday

Zazii zomatumizilana ma nude

Zazii zomakhala kwamakolo anudi

At the moment Waxy K is hot property and with the influence that he is commanding there is no doubt that if he were a 16-year-old Justin Bieber of those days, he would be a millionaire.

His emergence also is a testimony that the old script where parents were always against their children’s calling to a music career is slowly but surely tearing away.

His emergence also is a testimony that the old script where parents were always against their children’s calling to a music career is slowly but surely tearing away.

For Waxy K the situation is even tricky when one considers that his father is a cleric in the Believers Assembly church but he accepted his son’s talent and even started financially supporting his in his secular music career.

Several interviews that I have heard the child star speak has told me that if only he were to have a manager who has a vision there is a huge chance that great things are waiting to happen for him.

In one such interviews he says he sings songs that should appeal, and benefit people which is more Gospel work to me than singing Alleluia in a church.

He is scheduled to release an EP but he has already conquered and he confidently declares that if the local music industry hold hands then they will be able to beat the international market.

He also has the spirit of protecting his talent by declaring whenever opening his compositions: ‘Zoti wina wake apemphe remix nyimboyi sindikufuna ayi’.

His reasoning is that once a composition has been made he doesn’t want any dirty hands infecting it with germs.

The excitement that comes with the little success somehow brings disaster. And for Waxy K the fame that he has earned could also be a pitfall that could stop his career in its tracks even before it has started.

His talent also requires a special nourishment that should provide it with a kind of growth that should allow him flourish and become a big star that he desires to become.

It will be a mockery to compare Waxy K with former child stars Millera Nkhoma and late Israel Chatama. For Millera there was no vision on how she wanted to carry on with her career. For Chatama it looks like with fame there was too much adult influence which led to his quick demise.

With such lessons all over, it would be disheartening for Waxy K to be a shinning star that never was when he fails before he achieves. With what he has achieved so far, he is an attraction to many things which are unfortunately both positive and negative.

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Lyrical Pen’s top 2017 Stars


So much happened in the music cycles in 2017 and the pen was really busy. Along the way the Pen angered local Hip-Hop star Fredokiss for what it felt was his unprofessional and childish conduct but the fact remained that he stole the limelight in the year.

Much as everyone else did their best, there can always be one winner with the pen as is the case with any other awards and recognitions. I might not be in agreement with several people but according the Lyrical Pen, these were its 2017 stars. Anybody can come up with their list.

TOP ENTERTAINMENT ACT – Patience Namadingo

Unlike other musical awards organisers who struck off initial awardees from the list because they had disagreed, it is not the case with the Lyrical Pen. At the moment the pen has issues with Namandingo for painting the whole media fraternity on Facebook with one brush of condemnation for a mix-up of his mother’s picture in one daily.

Regardless of this fact this has been Patience’s year. We saw a different brand of the all new Namadingo that performed to mammoth crowds in Blantyre and Lilongwe venues. He also worked wonders singing in different places to raise money for the Queen Elizabeth Children Cancer Ward. He also showed the world the comedian in him. For all this he is the pen’s top entertainer for 2017.

TOP MALAWIAN MUSICIAN – Atoht Manje

The pen concluded that Ellias Missi known in showbiz cycles as Atoht Manje shot himself to the top of the game.

Not many really considered Atoht as one to make a mark amongst the youthful musical group of Lilongwe where he emerged from until he started dropping tracks like Majelasi, Lululu, Tizipepese, and etcetera.

Atoht is endowed with a crackly voice which is suitable for dancehall or ragga genre. The tracks like Majelasi and Lululu really came riding this genre until Tizipepese, which his fans call Mabvuto came in. It’s fast pace bordering on something that can best be equalled to a Congo beat or merely a local hurried up beat like fast paced Manganje as he would love to call it.

When one listens to Atoht’s productions with a trained ear, you would easily notice that his lyrical structure is messed up. He literally follows his heart, the result of which is a general appeal to his fans but an immediate shock to music teachers.

The same applies with Che Patuma, the track that he made to grab the top musician for Malawi in 2017 according to the pen.

TOP URBAN MUSICIAN – Fredokiss

The pen settles for Fredokiss not to appease him for getting angry at its ‘venomous’ ink, but because he proved that the local hip-hop genre is so influential that it would be foolish for anyone to pay it a blind eye.

He held three free shows in Ndirande, Masintha and Mzuzu where he parked the venues in a way that no meeting, be it political or religious could achieve. With politics and religion you know their manipulative power where they will try to profess popularity by parking vehicles with people that they ferry to such spots for obvious reasons. For Fredokiss it was just consumers of his niche products walking by foot to the venue.

 

In the year, Fredokiss who is also known as Ghetto King Kong released hit song “Njira Zawo” which features Lucius Banda. This is the rendition of Lucius’ “Ali ndi njira Zawo”. An additional to Dear Jah Jah, another hit.

 

TOP LOCAL ALBUM – Sunset in the Sky

Lawi’s second musical toil in ‘Sunset in the Sky’ is the pen’s pick for the best local album of the year slot. The album launched at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) on 2nd December in Lilongwe is a show of artistic progress of one talented artiste.

 

The Afro-Soul musician and producer has in the album tracks like Timalira, Dance with me, Therere and Yalira Ng’oma to mention but a few. The album has 25 tracks in total that touch on spirituality, life and wide range of issues.

The album has taken a good four years to put together and the proof of well thought composition is evident, making Lawi a top brand.

Jah Prayzah’s Pleasant Christmas Present


The Blantyre Sports Club performance by Zimbabwe’s Jah Prayzah’s was a perfect Christmas gift to music lovers in Blantyre. The fans had to brave the initial downpour just to make sure that they watch the Zimbabwean son.

His electrifying performance was a perfect gift as it took the fans from Christmas Eve across into Christmas Day without them knowing how time had flown past with such speed.

His bellowing voice thundered off the greens of the Golf course where the stage was mounted but still shook into life some of the patrons who had taken one too many and had dozed off.

Jah Prayzah showed why he has shared time in recording studios with Africa’s current greats, Yemi Alade, Diamond Platnumz, Davido, Mafikizolo, Oliver Mtukudzi etc…

The Zimbabwean contemporary musician, with his Third Generation Band, with their signature band uniform of military regalia, went to work and as professionals. And as professionals they never relented neither did they gave out anything half-baked.

One thing decidedly noticeable is that Jah Prayzah is not just a contemporary African musician but he equally and perfectly holds on to a true African roots by not only word of mouth but he sings this African identity. He sings in no any other language but Shona. He promotes the Zimbabwe Mbira genre without stint or limit. In Blantyre he did just that. Occasionally he would play on Mbira, a traditional instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe which is the main stay for the Mbira genre.

Everything about his music, in terms of lyrics, the African beat and presentation is undoubtedly African the only freestanding aspect that can safely not be linked to his huge African theme is his performance name Jah Prayzah which sounds Jamaican. Of course his band name is also strangely English – Third Generation Band.

 

 

Godwin Muzari Arts Editor for The Herald wrote that it is hard to ignore Jah Prayzah’s music in the era of Zimbabwe’s political transition and that his songs, especially “Kutonga Kwaro” which means “How a leader rules”, are being played everywhere.

 

Muzari further wrote that since every revolution is oiled by music that resonates with winds of change, Jah Prayzah’s album “Kutonga Kwaro”, which was released 43 days before Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president, has dovetailed with the greatest political development since the country’s independence which he said was the resignation of Robert Mugabe.

Just to emphasize how he wants his music to strictly hold on to African signature, Jah Prayzah did a collaboration which features in his sixth studio  album “Jerusarema” with the Jamaican reggae great Luciano but all his contributions in this track are in Shona.

Looking at how things are flowing for him, one would expect Jah Prayzah to be contented with his rich vein of form and therefore going into his head by way of his actions.

On the stage at the Blantyre Sports Club, the fans witnessed the performance of a down to earth artiste whose humility was unbelievable especially looking at the sizeable crowd, by the Blantyre Sports Club standard – that had come to see and dance to his tunes.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces gave Jah Prayzah an ambassadorial role which compels him to demystify the army and destroy the fear that is generally associated with them.

Through his music and energy filled live performances, Jah Prayzah aims to deliver this message and in Blantyre in the wee hours of the Christmas night he perfectly did this by performing a fusion of military brass band marching sound that sat well with his Mbira genre for the joy of the fans that came for his performance.

It was a performance so unique that the earlier glitches witnessed at the beginning of the show were all erased and people will give their attention again to Agulugufe 1200 Limited when they will bring another top notch musician to Malawi.

 

Setting up benchmarks for Malawi Music


In Malawi scenario or the rest of the world quality control in this case refers to letting our music pass some form of litmus test…

Most radio and TV stations complain that they receive an uncountable music compact disks or sometimes tapes brought by every Jack and Jill who say are musicians or singers in need of airplay.

Without trying to play a condescending card to the owners of music outlets, meaning those that have radio, TV stations or entertainment joints or public spaces like buses that play music, I think if we are to have quality music, then we need to set up standards.

Once singers and musicians bring their music, it must be passed through a rigorous due process where it has to pass all or 90 percent of the prerequisites drawn on the checklist.

The purpose of all this is to certify quality; some hints could be to look at the quality of sound i.e. is it filling the whole eardrum? On the other hand, is it trying to pull off the ear? Is it going to ‘infect’ the eardrum or just use it as a passage as it soothes the soul?

When listening to it are you feeling ashamed that the so called musician or singer only exposed their mediocrity?

Are the vocals showing that the one behind it was gasping for air? What about vocal variations, is it blending with the instrumentation? Is the music some common organised noise?

I know there could be many areas to look into before venturing into unknown terrain. At the end of the day standard and quality enforcement should be the order.

There are some operatives in the radio and TV stations, and even entertainment joints that, at the expense of their jobs, let gluttony scarlet red in the teeth.

Those that can be easily caught; you find every time this unexceptional artist comes to the premises they always demand to hand in their stuff to the very particular radio or TV presenter or the people who play music in entertainment joints.

This kind of greed is not motivational in the would be musician and it encourages them to go to a person who has a mixer placed in his dining room on his dining table linked with a ‘scraggy’ boom microphone.

Within two hours the so called musician will gurgle out noise, which the man owning the dining table and the mixer placed on it, will mix the panting sound with some computer programmes that will give it a drumbeat, accompanied by sounds of guitars and percussions.

All this will be happening on the back of an outcry that Malawi music has and still is struggling to get a place on the international market.

Some have been attributing this failure to lack of establishment of a unique music genre but this earns my disagreement because this happens because artists do not know what they want to achieve.

Our artists will rarely exercise measured patience when producing their music, even those that are nationally acclaimed, as our top musicians have no patience to take time before releasing anything and there for quality is always compromised.

Radio stations will always have no problems with this, as they will establish several programme specifically designed to ‘promote’ this kind of local music. If what is meant is to be achieved is really to promote, then I have a problem with the mediocrity they are championing.

If by accident or chance a member of an international music-promoting firm is visiting the country or any of the websites that have some of the local radios that are streaming online and catches the hurriedly prepared musical stuff, will they really be encouraged to come and promote it for the international market?

If we are to achieve quality as a country and promote local music, then local radio and TV stations and entertainment joints in collaboration with organisations dealing in and with music and musical artists have to set up benchmarks, which have to be used if music produced has to gain airplay.

These outlets need to critically look at the music videos produced other than broadcasting or playing anything they lay their hands on.

Even the news producers for all media platforms should not always carry stories for mediocre performers who just visit newsrooms, declare they are musicians, and get story space.

Entertainment writers have to listen to the music of an artist before they can start glorifying mediocrity. We can do better with quality control in the music Industry.

 

Learners and Bluetooth Speakers


I stay closer to Motel Paradise where recently a new private secondary school has opened its doors. It has given me an opportunity to observe ill-disciplined learners doing all sorts of naughty stuff.

What attracted my attention is a group of these learners who would bring to school wireless and Bluetooth operated speakers that produce booming sound either sourced from their mobile phones or memory sticks and cards.

These learners will therefore play the music from these gadgetries and sing along while dancing. Meanwhile, their classroom lessons are in session which now casts bleakness on what becomes of the national future if the learners are showing no interest to acquire this all important knowledge with such impunity.

In the early to mid 1980s when the legendary fallen music icon Mjura Mkandawire was a tutor at Blantyre Teachers College, the fruits of his toils were evident in the student teachers.

We used to learn more about the basic music theories from the student teachers than we were able to acquire from our traditional teachers.

The sad part is that Malawi is a poor country. The poverty is not only stinking but it is palpable as well. Not surprising, where the authorities cannot provide the basic necessities like classrooms, chalk and enough teachers, to mention but a few you can’t expect them to provide musical instruments to help in the practical aspect.

At least the absence of such requirements was understandable during the reign of the government of Kamuzu Banda. He is considered to have been one with top standards and class and therefore wouldn’t have expected anything less, but there was none because no future was cut out for music.

But then even when we were learning music there was nothing to show for it because those that made a name were rote musicians and artists like Allan Namoko, Mzalawayingwe Jazz Band etc

Today music is required almost in every aspect of our socio-economic and socio-religious day to day lives. Proliferation of churches that are bent at attracting more following that would equally provide more Sunday offerings for example, use live musical bands a lot. Then talk of artists and musicians that are appearing in each and every household these days

I believe had we made music a compulsory and practical examinable subject from primary through secondary schools we would perhaps have benefitted a lot as a country.

Surely we would also not have had learners staying out of classrooms and choose to entertain themselves with some loud music. Thanks to the sophistication of technology which has allowed tiny gadgetry to produce unbelievable sound and the availability of digitally stored music in memory cards and sticks, the learners have all they need, not only at their disposal but easily solar powered.

Lately, music as a subject is not as serious as was the case in the old curriculum where it was given a higher recognition. Music can be interesting sometimes because it can act like fire which can be both a good servant and a bad master.

Writing for Times in December 2014 Melissa Locker observed there’s little doubt that learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains.

 

Melissa further wrote that science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn’t otherwise hear. This helps them develop “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

 

A good environment which provides both theoretical and practical atmosphere for learning would be conducive to the learners which in turn would not allowing them to abscond classes and entertain themselves outside the classroom and during learning period. In this case music would be considered a bad effect to learning and schools need to discipline such learners in order to save the good name of music.

 

Dan Lu’s publicity stunts overdose


Sometimes the restraint to talk about ‘below the belt’ actions or howlers by music artists engulf me so much that I let it pass at the risk of either glorifying it by any mention on this space or ultimately missing out an opportunity to speak my mind.

But Lyrical Pen is there for these musicians and any wayward traits observed in the artists’ conduct need to be stopped in its track by opining on its merits and demerits.

Dan Lufani, the urban Afro-pop star is a talented artiste. No contest over this fact. He has proven through and through that he is one artist endowed with flair to dish songs that massage the auditory wits of the most hard-to-please music lovers.

It has become so difficult to ignore him; this is why every time he posts a picture kissing a ‘bared’ belly of his pregnant wife on Facebook; tongues engage a top gear and start wagging.

While entertainment experts lately consider posts of this shocking nature as a true ploy to draw attention and plop up their following and presence as part of publicity stunts, Dan Lufani’s latest exploits in Ireland clearly showed that he lacks guidance in order to only court beneficial controversy or publicity.

When you look at what Lufani’s PR team tried to come up with in order to palliate the controversy he courted while in Ireland, it is clear that it was a shoddy work because those doing it lacked skills and the dirt that Dan sprinkled on his professional fabric was just too much to be washed.

Some titbits that make up the subsequent statement says Dan Lufani tried to avoid meeting or being photographed with his ex. There is a half-naked woman that did not only pose with Dan Lu but they also hugged each other and yet the statement says he never touched her.

My take is that all this is a botched up job. To begin with, there are artists like Tay Grin who are an attraction to a bevy of beautiful girls but he will tactfully stay away from his female fans without being rude. He will either pose with the female fans in a group without being too touchy or he will pose with one fan but in a manner that clearly shows the boundaries. In other words he does not pose with fans in a compromising manner. This is called being smart and a sign of restrain which is a virtue eluding most artistes.

We can be all what we want as entertainers but the moment we decide to commit to a matrimonial acquaintance we need to behave like it because we stop only living for us.

Many talented artists have ‘strangulated’ their careers before it blossomed to beneficial levels because of the way they behave both in private and public life.

Somehow the actions of some of these artists have a bearing on their parents, siblings and not to mention spouses. Much as the artist would therefore desire to behave in a certain way that will make them enjoy all the trappings that go with this life, there are those people that wear this shame that should make artists cautious before they act.

There is always a limit to how much controversy one can use to get attention and publicity. If one is so careless that he becomes the topic of discussion on social media but in an all negative manner and a reference of ridicule to his spouse and family then it’s time to sit down and reflect.

I know many artists in Malawi adore Diamond Platnumz for his musical exploits as well as off stage stunts with beautiful women. But believe you me; lately he has started losing track and focus because he went off the rail.

It is crucial for artists to always play it smart and avoid being in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.

 

Lucius Banda’s Free Shows loathing


On 14 October, 2017 Lucius Banda decided to use his Facebook wall to detest what he called a common practice in Malawi where people seek free entry into musical shows.

He went on to deduce that this is not due to poverty because people who do this come by car which has obviously been fuelled and upon getting into the show they buy a lot of beer.

What he abhors is that it is clear to such a person that only paying to the artist to gain entrance is what they hate. Sometimes where positions are reversed where the patrons might have a grocery shop, they cannot give free loaf of bread to that artist whatever the case and it would even sound funny if they were to ask for free bread.

He goes on to pour his heart out by wondering why people feel comfortable to enter shows for free despite knowing the artists have loads of overheads to take care of. He then marvels at Malawians’ lack of spirit to support arts.

In his wisdom Lucius believes if all the fans were paying at the door during such shows then Malawi will have her own export quality musicians like is the case in other countries around Malawi.

He goes on to cite Nigerians, Tanzanians and Zimbabweans where he says musicians grow because people are ready to support.

Lucius made this Facebook post barely hours after rapper Fredokiss had held a free show at Masintha which made the venue bulge at the seams.

Rightly so, his post attracted a comment from Mchiteni Nthala II who urges Lucius to organise a free shows sometimes; his argument is that music is not meant to be sold always as there are a lot of people out there who are his loyal fans but cannot afford the gate entrance fee.

Repay them by holding a free show by borrowing a leaf from Fredokiss, who according to him does not have money but has managed to hold a free show in Ndirande as well as at Masintha, he argues.

He then further says Lucius can also do the same by holding free shows in Mhuju – Rumphi, Kabudula- Lilongwe, and Mayaka – Zomba.

 

Lucius however is still adamant by inviting the contributor to his constituency in Balaka to see for himself what happens on his ‘gate’ [the entrance to his residence, I presume] where what he will see will make him cry for him. Lucius argues that he doesn’t give back to people using shows.

There were several subsequent comments

 

One Charles Percy Gama says it’s indeed a matter of concern that after investing a lot in advertising, getting supporting artists, venue hiring and organizing a show, somebody comes with all family members and friends to enter for free. When the artists get poorer and stop performing and switch to vegetable farming or bicycle tax business the same people will snide at them for lack of vision. He says it’s high time we supported our artists.

Another comment from my namesake Gregory Chisomo Likalamu argues that Lucius needs to ask Gwamba or Fredokiss to establish who pays for the venue because at the end of the day music is not only for money, but for fun too.

He further states that since Lucius is a politician it’s not surprising that he is egotistical and therefore will only hold free show that will be to his own benefit or when someone pays for it. He argues that Fredokiss is paid with love and not with money.

As a journalist, one would expect me to enjoy free entry which I don’t. I have never been to a show for free even when I will write an article for such artists. However Lucius response is mixed up. He serves two constituencies; a political and a musical constituency and whatever corporate social responsibility activities he does as an MP cannot tick on his check list as an artist.

Several reasons have been offered on his post. But I still believe whether Malawians love free shows or not, he owes it to them and one day it cannot hurt to pay them back as an artist and not a politician of Balaka North.

 

Why Diamond Platnumz and Morgan Heritage?


These past months have seen the internet and the east African media most especially, awash with stories of Tanzanian top artiste Diamond Platnumz who has been in the news for marital issues concerning his cheating on Ugandan wife Zari Hassan. Apparently Diamond’s alleged infidelity has resulted in revelations that he has impregnated his ex, Tanzanian model Hamisa Mobeto.

I will leave this story at that and turn to his musical exploits which apparently has not been lying docile due to the trouble brewing over his social life.

Around this same time, Diamond Platnumz real name Naseeb Abdul Juma who has done collaborations with international musical acts that I can’t count with my fingers and toes decided to collaborate with the Jamaican royal family of reggae, The Morgan Heritage, to do a love song called Hallelujah.

To begin with, when groups collaborate usually it is because there is something common in their musical exploits. The coming together of Diamond Platnumz and Morgan Heritage therefore was something that was unprecedented.

This is why; Morgan Heritage is a reggae band that has the best reggae album Grammy award for their album ‘Strictly Roots’. On the other hand, Diamond Platnumz is an afro-pop artist whose collaborations with other such African artistes like Zimbabwean Jah Prayzah and Nigerians Davido and P Square, Mr flavour to mention but a few.

On the international scene he has also collaborated with US Ne-Yo doing a track Marry and this well understood as African pop borrows a lot from the R&B genre of the US.

Listening and watching the results of Diamond Platnumz and Morgan Heritage’s collaboration one would agree that they both came down to meet at a convenient level.

There is a track called Nana done by Diamond featuring Mr Flavour which clearly shows how the Nigerian and Tanzanian beat can easily fuse.

Now when one looks at Culture – the Jamaican reggae outfit – for example would we say this is the band that can collaborate with Diamond Platnumz. I think there is no such chance.

In 1990 Morgan Heritage’s debut album called Growing Up was an R&B album it was only in 1994 when the band was officially formed and the group moved to Jamaica, the home of their musician father Denroy Morgan that they settled for reggae in earnest.

Over this period they have released some of the reggae’s greatest hits like Down by the River, Reggae Bring Back Love, Let’s make it up, Protect Us Jah, She is still loving me, Tell Me How come

Peetah, Morgan Heritage’s lead vocalist has still the R&B influenced vocals which when you come to think of it made sense to collaborate with Diamond Platnumz.

When you watch the Hallelujah video more appreciation of this departure from the reggae discipline from the Heritage’s part will be appreciated while for Diamonds this is his turf.

For the lovers of traditional roots reggae the collaboration has been dismissed as a disgrace while for the liberals this is making not only a marketing sense but it brings the members of Morgan Heritage closer to their home continent of Africa.

Without being trapped in some rigid posture, the decision by the reggae outfit only shows their versatility. The elements of not being a pure reggae is also clearly seen and observed in their latest album released on May 19 this year called Avrakedabra which follows their acclaimed Grammy Award-winning Strictly Roots.

Much as the album title poses many questions so is the 15-track album which if you have the history of Morgan Heritage you will not be surprised with its cross breeding of genres.

And therefore their collaboration with Diamond Platnumz is not a total surprise and if any Malawian musical outfit of artiste were n doubt when Morgan Heritage offered for collaboration when they were twice in the country, there goes your answer.

Atoht inspires Patience Namadingo & Faith Mussa


Like I said before right here Ellias Missi known in showbiz cycles as Atoht Manje is a self-made artiste who started his career by toying around with dancehall before discovering what more agree is closer to a Malawian beat.

He craftily used his crackly voice for dancehall in tracks like Majelasi and Lululu until he did Tizipepese, mistakenly called by his fans as Mabvuto.

My description of this beat then will not change now as I still think it’s a fast paced beat or merely hurried up beat sounding like a fast paced traditional Manganje beat. What is strikingly noticeable is that he is self-taught in the aspect of producing tunes that have come to be liked by music lovers.

It is ChePatuma built in the Sikiri tempo that captivated many including fellow artist Patience Namadingo.

Immediately after seeing how this track performed on the music scene Namadingo came up with his and called it Goliyati which took after Atoht’s ChePatuma style.

Recently Faith Mussa has also released Selofoni which others still believe it is pointing at Atoht Manje’s influence.

While for Namandingo it is unmistaken that it’s a copied style, honestly for Faith I cannot say with certainty that it indeed is. There are several differing elements that has made me doubt if indeed there was an inspiration from Atoht.

What I like about this whole scenario though is the fact that at least for once the inspiration is coming from within. We have complained before that there is just too much copying from international musicians.

I have always wondered if we have a Malawian genre.

I was once tempted to believe that the 2012 hit by Fikisa called ‘Ademwiche’ which is commonly but wrongly (or rightly?) known to the public as ‘Akamwile’ was going towards charting the way for Malawi.
It has however proven that our quest for a fixed and well established Malawian genre, has been tedious at times and it will not end any time soon.

The other day Lucius Banda told us that we were there with his ‘Zulu Woman’ beat while Edgar and Davis thought a beat like ‘Kale-Kale’ was it; so were the sounds that emerged from the Lhomwe belt of the likes of Alan Namoko and Chimvu River Jazz Band and Michael Mukhito Phiri.

But it is the people that thought this was it, because as you can see, even Namoko had no idea what he was churning out, and this is the reason he thought his backing band was a Jazz set piece.

Robert Fumulani, likewise, had no distinct genre for Malawi and in one of his tracks he did what he thought was a fusion of reggae and Khunju traditional dance and called it Khunju Reggae.

Peter Mawanga and a certain sector of the industry believe he has cracked the elusive code to establish the much sort after Malawian genre with his type of music; but the response has only fascinated the ear of those that can read music.

Ever heard of Honjo? It is a sound that emerged from the folds of Ndirande and this was Sunny B proclaiming the discovery of Malawian beat with what he was panning out.

Up in the north, Body Mind and Soul has what it calls ‘Voodjaz’.
Body, Mind & Soul started like a reggae band, but band leader ‘Street Rat’ claim that after reflecting on the importance of sharing Malawi ancient culture in modern time and after much thought and experimentation they created a new music concept they call ‘Voodjaz’, a subtle mix of traditional rhythms with a jazzy feel.

Now when all is weighed and measured may be the attraction of Atoht beat by the other artists will mean something, of course not the Malawi genre yet but something considering the elements that Faith has put is his Selofoni track.

 

Frank Kaunda imitating Skeffa Chimoto


Mangochi based musician Frank Kaunda has a deep obsession with Skeffa Chimoto. He mimics him a lot in his compositions especially in his track ‘Sipuni’.

I am not sure if both of them are aware of my observations but like I have said here before I will say it again: Budding artists should only use the talent of the established for learning purposes and not take it as their own.

There are times when budding musicians copy from established ones in order to get a career foothold as they ascent towards glory. But there is always need to cut out one’s own identity when unveiling self.

There is a reggae musician called Siddy Ranks. The first time I listened to his music I realised his futile attempt to be the great Gregory Isaacs’ copycat. For me this was a complete put-off!

The one person that I have also discussed on these pages is Evance Meleka. When Evance collaborated with controversial gospel artist George Mkandawire to release tracks ‘Mwalawo’ and ‘Manga Patanthwe’ he realized how sweet it sounds to do tracks that are gospel.

A short while since this attempt, he declared himself a ‘Gospel Artist’ and I have no reservations with his decision because the effort he showed in the tracks, cuts him above the average acts that are polluting the gospel music arena.

My problem with Evance came when he decided to become an Oliver Mtukudzi copycat which instead turned him into an impressionist shame.

Evance is blessed. His voice is unexploited gold which only he can take care of and nurture as time goes by.

Meleka ‘debuted’ his gospel music career with tracks where he imitated Oliver Mtukudzi unashamedly.

I am glad he stopped and got back his senses and ever since he has done a few tracks like ‘Yanokola’ and ‘Baraba’ which has made him gain back his respect.

On the question of good voice, I would not hesitate to say the same for Frank who calls himself Ankhoswe. Besides his very good voice, his compositions are lyrically compelling.

Of course a track like ‘Masewera chabe’ is more of a story telling marathon that sometimes becomes something else. The likes of long-drawn-out compositions of Thoko Katimba which would make you stick around a radio set long enough until it finishes as it is like listening to a short story.

I digressed, but my point is that there is need for our budding musicians to create their own identities. There are many artists who have tried to imitate Skeffa Chimoto, Lucius Banda, Billy Kaunda etcetera but they did not achieve music greatness.

The reason we are today talking about Frank Kaunda is because despite imitating Skeffa Chimoto he has shown us all that he is naturally talented and he has a very bright (in Malawian context of course) future.

Frank ought to realise that Skeffa Chimoto started with imitating and doing covers for Mlaka Maliro but he only used him as a learning passage.

Today, we cannot say that Skeffa imitates Mlaka because that is not what it is as he has now created his own identity which has attracted both local and international admirers including the current Zambian President Edgar Lungu.

There is need to have a cut-off point when an artists who is new in the game is using the works of the established ones.

I will end this entry in the exact way that I ended the one I did for Evance Meleka.

Musicians in this country should not only help each other financially, they also need to guide one another on career direction, surely those that have veered off the road need someone to help them get him back on the track if they have to achieve anything…

This is my message to Frank!

 

 

 

The Jupiters Renaissance


Very few modern youth know about the Jupiters Band, a Ndirande born reggae outfit that started in 1983. The Jupiters Band was the music entity of the moment when Malawi was transiting into multiparty politics in 1993, 10 years after its creation.Jupiters Ready to rock Malawi again

The Jupiters, which is an abbreviation of Junior People Trying to Emphasize Reggae, Rasta, Religious Sound, is now set for a renaissance having prepared for it after experiencing how the music industry has transformed in the last 35 years that it has been in existence.

The two of its surviving members of its six pioneering cast, John ‘Nizye’ Namalima and Chicco Nyirenda told this blogger that having s

tudied the music industry they have realised that the only way for a band to survive is to be on the road and continuously perform.

 

“The 2018 is challenging us as a new season where we now need to start afresh,” said Nizye. “We are establishing recording studio and what it means is we are to start recording a new album in February before getting on the road in April.”

The band which has two albums to its credit Jupiters Burning which Nyirenda claims was Malawi’s first commercial album recorded at Studio K in 1991 and Nkhondo ndi Anansi recorded in 2000 but released in 2003 also plans to shoot videos for these previous tracks.

The 2018 in Jupiters’ Perspective

Chicco says they are diving in back, cognizant of the numerous challenges that await them.Chicco in Rasta colours and Nizye - The Original members of Jupiters Band

“Chief among these is the issue of piracy,” he said before claiming that at the moment there is no music industry in Malawi.

“There is nothing that we can point at as Malawi music industry when there is no marketing structure,” he says.

He says most music groups are being forced to follow the only way to survive which is to hold live performances.

“We know live shows are capital intensive and we have heavily invested in this area so that once we start, we have a smooth going,” he added.

Chicco who accumulated a lot of musical equipment during his stay in the UK also said regulators have not helped the music industry.

 

“Royalties are not trickling down to musicians and yet Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) and Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) are there to do something about but are unfortunately sleeping on their jobs,” claims Nyirenda.

Copyright is a law which Chicco says should ordinarily have enforcers and yet musicians are left to carry out the enforcement themselves which is already destined to fail.

“These music institutions are part of the system that is contributing to the dwindling of the music industry in Malawi,” he says.

 

Chicco says a music industry without a substantive marketing system is a mockery to the artists.

“We need to have an outlet where we can sell our products,” he insists.

Nyirenda says politicians are also busy fighting each other without looking at the welfare of a lot of hard working Malawians including musicians.

They needed to check bodies like Cosoma to see if they are indeed doing their job. Otherwise if Cosoma was following what it ought to do, musicians in this country would be reaping fruits of their toils and become rich as is the case worldwide.

“Musically everything is rotten, and not even parliament can summon these public bodies to find out what is happening” says Chicco who was once Southern Region vice Chair for the then Musicians Association of Malawi and Southern Regional Treasurer for MUM.

Genesis of the Jupiters

Nizye says the other four pioneer members of the Jupiters who are unfortunately all dead are Black Mandiwa, who together with him, was the lead vocalist; Gusto ‘Pablo’ Zuze, the bassist; Gulamu ‘Aston’ Nathu, the drummer; and William ‘Bunny Widz’ who was the rhythm guitarist.A Copy of the Jupiters Second Album

“On this day in 1983 I was walking on the road in Ndirande with William who was carrying a guitar when we bumped into Black who had come from Zingwangwa to see his parents at the Newlines in Ndirande,” recalls Nizye.

He said Black enquired if they were into music and when they said yes he promised to come the following day. He kept his promise as he turned up with Aston and from there on they agreed to form a band although at that time he was a member of a Zingwangwa based band ‘Rising Power’.

Nizye evokes that their first outing was at the French Cultural Centre in Blantyre where together with another old time local band The Gas Machine Head curtain raised a French music outfit called Cyclop.

“At that time we were only doing cover versions for Ivorian reggae stars Ishmael Isaacs and Alpha Blondy,” he said.

Nizye recalls that Jupiters only started playing their own tracks after Chicco joined them and started composing songs that made their name including the famous Jupiters Burning.

In 1986 Nizye recollects that they met up with Jai Banda, Mr. Entertainer, who was compelled by their skills to start what was to be called Reggae-By-Foot shows.

“We used to hold these shows at the BAT ground and had other reggae bands like Young Generation, Flashers Band of Steve Ndiche, Burning Youth of Caleb Munthali and many others,” remembers Nizye.

He said it was at such shows that they interested one Robert Gondwe who had just arrived back home from Zimbabwe and took them to Studio K where they impressed with just one audition session and started recording under the production tutelage of Patrick Khoza.

He said things would have remained rosy but along the way that’s when they underwent the most difficult times. They lost Black Mandiwa who place was taken by Niccodemus Njolomole. Unfortunately he also died immediately after the death of another member William.

Nizye said then Gusto also died and was briefly replaced by the current Black Missionaries bassist Peter Amidu.

The Jupiters future was bleak when Nizye left for the United Kingdom in 2002. There was some hope when he sent money to Chicco and Aston while there to help in releasing the second album which had already been recorded. However, after Aston also died soon after the release of the album Chicco also left for the United Kingdom in September 2005.

Upon his return in 2008, Chicco founded another band which he called Natural Rites which was only doing live shows.

“We revived Jupiters in 2012 when Nizye came back from the UK where got other members,” said Chicco and Nizye chipped in saying at this point they teamed up with Jai Banda again.

The New look Jupiters

Nizye says they have now opened a new chapter with new members that include Yamikani Makate on the bass who is ironically a nephew to the original bassist Gusto.

The others are drummer Ellard Chiwaya, Keyboard player Mwai while Chicco is playing the rhythm guitar and Nizye is both leading guitarist and vocalist.

Jupiters’ Reggae Genre

Chicco recalls that when they recorded an all reggae album, the genre was not as popular but they had a vision that it will be accepted in future.

“We however vowed to ensure that we give people genuine reggae music of the Jamaican type not the local Khunju reggae,” he says.

He says to date the reggae genre has taken over as everyone including gospel artists are now settling for it.

“Now three-quarters of Malawi music is reggae, we are a reggae nation!” declared Chicco.

The two Jupiters founding members said the 2018 continuation of their journey will therefore perpetuate the reggae genre.

Implications of HS Winehouse Closure


There was a time back in 2004, when indeed a building structure designed to serve as a warehouse closer to the Railway station in Blantyre was transformed to become a soundproof indoor theatre that would become an entertainment haven.

The Warehouse Cultural Centre however disappeared in 2012 or thereabout as mysteriously as it appeared eight years earlier.

The Warehouse, if you must know, is the place that stood shoulder to shoulder with The French Cultural Centre in bringing all sorts of arts, be it drama, musical performances, poetry festivals and the list is endless.

It is however music that I want to talk about. It is at the Warehouse where we first enjoyed acoustic music in earnest. Edgar and Davis, Agorosso came to be popularised at this spot. This is also the place where Mablacks, Lucius Banda and Zembani Band used to play.

When around 2014 or thereabout HS Wine House opened its doors down in Namiwawa in Blantyre not many understood what it was meant to become, let alone why the fuss when it was just another bottle store that will specialise in selling wines.

However, it was never to be as it was almost like an ambiguous response to the question of a befitting replacement of Warehouse, of course not in real terms considering that this was right in the middle of residential area where already complaints of noise pollution would become one of the blockades.

But nevertheless this became the home of acoustic as well as jazz music performances. All the established names and budding artists would go there and perform to a middle class clientele with the possibility of turning out to become bigger since this was a decision making congregation.

The other big thing is that the venue was being offered for free and this was therefore availing opportunities to both the budding – to gain exposure and the established ones – to get more visibility.

And for the entertainment media practitioners, this was almost like a package full of all what their pages and broadcasting time yearned for.

For the entertainment starved patrons this was a perfect spot that offered them a variety of artistic performances in a mild measure; not the Chez Ntemba kind of booming music or the Motel Paradise kind of Phungwee, but that artistic feel that gives you both musical entertainment and an artistic purview.

Of course after the exist of the French from their cultural centre which was sold to Malawi Government, our efforts as a country to carry on where the French left off has proven to be a total disaster.

At first it was all left to vandals before Government renamed it Blantyre Cultural Centre and started renovating it but is still failing to make it what it used to be. Now it is not as an attractive spot as it used to be as entertainment activities there are sporadic.

Seeing the gap, with the influence of the French, another place called Jacaranda Cultural Centre opened its doors and in has brought with it, its unique way of hosting a number of entertainment activities.

This was complementing HS Winehouse which like I said earlier was hosting entertainment activities differently, with every Fridays being special days full of all artistic happenings.

It is therefore very sad to learn that all what HS Winehouse was offering has come to a halt following the announcement of the owners that they have closed down the place and are relocating to Mangochi.

Of course we cannot force them to hang around if it is not making business sense but we can still mourn the place’s passing knowing too well how the entertainment industry used to benefit from them and how they will become an orphan again.

 

 

Entertainment from nothing


I was unreservedly impressed with the spirit of Ndirande youth who last Sunday organised what they called Reggae Summer Jam. This was a free musical show that took place at the Ndirande Hall, right in the heart of Ndirande’s trading expanse within the premises of the area’s health facility.

Of course the whole arrangement could not be described as flawless. There were challenges with punctuality as well as the sound quality which kept on bogging down progress.

For long we have always thought we need a great deal of money to package and deliver entertainment. But last Sunday it showed us that many factors that are usually struck out as not important can sometimes make things happen.

I know that when bands or musicians are about to stage some musical performances the talk always revolves around money – money in and money out.

This could be the case as there are different levels of class and standard that also tell a story about the kind of organisation we are talking about.

It goes down to the issue of quality which means heavy investment or vigorous marketing that should involve many corporate firms. This in the past has shown that it helps things to happen and avoids the maxim ‘garbage in, garbage out!’

There is something that also happens with free shows. One would say quality is always compromised as at the back of the minds of the organisers, the word ‘free’ rings piercingly loud.

However with the Ndirande youth, the sound output was okay on larger scale save for misbehaving cords and microphones that had to be replaced time and again.

Now the reason I was impressed with the will to achieve something by the young ones is something that lacks and consequently comes short to achieving greatness in the industry.

With this spirit, the music industry can manage to put together the structures that that have eluded it for long. The reason has always been that there is no money.

The Ndirande Youth showed that where there is a will there is a way. At the moment the music industry is stagnating because the players are expecting a miracle to happen.

No one is pushing so that things can take a motion towards somewhere that will become profitable for all the players.

At the moment, there is no market for the Malawi music. There is no royalty system that should put something in the pocket of musicians even at a time when they are down and the flow of income has stopped.

There is no music label of meaningful effect that can be able to translate the sweat of musicians into sweet. Those that are running the show at the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) and the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) will pat themselves at their backs that they are doing a great deal for the arts and music industry in the country.

On the other hand musicians keep on crying that there is nothing that is happening on the ground. To drive their point home, they will show you how they are being stripped off the little they hoped to gain from their toils in form of piracy.

Now my point is, the Ndirande youths that I am talking about, did not wait for someone to tell them to organise a kind of show that they put out last Sunday.

Their will drove them to take those gigantic steps and it happened. Performances went on up to around to 7PM.

Now the disgruntlement that is being expressed all the time by the local musicians that things are continuously going south when they should have been at par with some markets on the international stage where musicians are respected due to what their output accrues, should stop.

Musicians in Malawi have to put together the structure by themselves only if they will to do so.

 

Another Dosage of Kenyatta Hill


Kenyatta Hill and Culture were in Malawi in June last year where they performed in Blantyre and Lilongwe. I attended the Blantyre show at Mibawa. Given an opportunity I can get to their show again and again. In fact everything being equal, I won’t miss their Sand Festival show for anything.

And as an icing of the cake this time round Andrew Tosh is going to be part of the festival this year and for a reggae fanatic this is more than one can ask for.

However, my excitement cannot fail me to look and question the pattern when it comes to inviting the international acts. Of course I know of same music stars that perform in Amsterdam year in, year out as an annual fixture.

However for Malawi at least we have had Fanton Mojah, Luciano, and twice Morgan Heritage brought by Born African Productions. While Sand Festival has brought Busy Signal twice and of course through Impakt Events, Lucius Banda’s company that organises the festival, also brought into the country Kenyatta and Culture.

Now the announcement that has come to light is that Kenyatta Hill and Culture alongside Andrew Tosh will headline the musical face of the festival this year.

What I could not fail to notice is that Impakt Events is fond of inviting artist severally. I don’t know the business of bringing these guys into the country and I will therefore base my opinions from the heart.

Which is that we have numerous artists of reggae out there who can as well be invited into the country so that we have an opportunity to appreciate them the way we did last time Kenyatta and Culture came.

If we will go to Kenyatta’s performance again, it will be for the fact that he is a great entertainer, there are others though who will not be very excited because they already watched his performance last year.

It surely would be double exciting to have new big names. Of course there is Andrew Tosh. The similarity between Andrew and Kenyatta is that they are both sons of the greatest reggae icons, Peter Tosh and Joseph Hill respectively.

Having died in 1987, Peter Tosh does not resonate so well with today’s youthful audience whose attraction is a different genre altogether. Joseph Hill died in 2006 and because he was one artist no world music lover would ignore, he managed to interest the modern youth even though they are into some other funny genres.

Now with this when Kenyatta who is now 39, stepped in it was all easy for him unlike Andrew who has rode more on the songs left behind by his fallen legendary father. Of course Kenyatta too has fully adopted the sharp social commentary and catchy rhythms characteristic of his father’s music.

While Kenyatta’s debut single, “Daddy,” backed by a masterful roster of musicians including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser spelt the way for him and helped him to make own name, for 51-year-old Andrew who first release a single in 1985 two years before the demise of his father, not much has happened.

The other good thing with Andrew is that he has had it all, having been exposed to the music of his father’s group The Wailers from an early age. Andrew also performed two songs at his funeral, “Jah Guide” and “Equal Rights”. Imagine! He is also nephew to living reggae legend Bunny Wailer.

His work with producer Winston Holness on his debut album, Original Man was followed in 1989 by a second album, Make Place For The Youth, which was recorded in the United States and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.

Andrew Tosh also toured with The Wailers Band in 1991. But if you ask many, not one will know Andrew Tosh’s own tracks. This is unlike the Marley children who have managed to popularise their songs.

Well, while I am looking forward to their performance I just could not help it, but point out a few things.

Are Malawi Musicians selling digitally?


The biggest challenge facing Malawi music at the moment is selling their music. The catchword to describe their disappointment is ‘piracy’. Making this challenge worse is the fact that there is no powerful music outlet in this country that can enter any forms of contracts with musicians.

Over the years musicians in Malawi decided to abandon the conventional ways of selling music by adopting the online market not necessarily by design but because they have no choice. We have such platforms like Malawi Music, iTunes, YouTube, Sound, Cloud, Audiomack, Spiritunez, Spotify, Amazon and Tidal among others where local musicians claim are their market spots.

While most of these websites claim to be legal platforms that offer digital sales of music to a global audience through credit cards using Google’s wallet, others really do not have the straight forward way of doing business.

We also have other such online markets like Maluso Music, which says its primary mode of payment is through mobile money which is common in Africa compared to other continents.

The feeling is that many Malawians do not have access to other sites, users will have to use their international credit cards like Visa, American Card and Master Card amongst others which are used for the purchase of music.

In this case at one time Malawi Music was only selling in UK, USA and Germany thereby denying Malawians to buy online.

There has however been other arrangements where local music consumers can now locally access the music through TNM Mpamba, Airtel Money, National Bank of Malawi mobile phone transaction, PayPal and PayGo.

Not many Malawians can still be able to buy music through these means. When Malawians were buying music through OG Issah then, the means was buying from the counter using hard cash. This is the time we saw that our local musicians were able to be transformed through their sweats.

Now, while there is this problem to contend with, my huge and biggest concern is with the musicians who are supposed to be the sellers of these music products.

Like I said there benefits accrued during this time were obvious, this time round apart from reading in news outlets that so and so has had the biggest hits in downloads, such reports fall short to explain how this in translated into actual benefits for the musicians.

It is sad that in these days of many likes and following on social media platforms you find that our musicians will feel contented with these. There is however no wealth associated with their efforts.

I am waiting for the day that I will be able to see progress in careers of the local musicians based on what their products is bringing forth through online sales. It is useless to have musicians toil their whole lives without having to have more valuable following than Facebook likes.

As is the case elsewhere, we still need an orthodox music marketing system which should be complemented by the digital markets. We cannot continue with this laissez faire approach which can and will not right things.

Music is an evergreen product which knows no season to attract its consumers, however for Malawi it is the non-existent of the selling and marketing system which will continue to hurt its makers.