Getting Musically Worked Up


‘Music is life’ so, the saying goes. While definition of life comes in very complex form, definition of music has also failed the most accomplished sages of the trade from both an academic and practical perspective, to really expound what it entails.
In academic corridors theoretical base that has been built about music has been whiplashed with rote artists like Elvis Presley who stormed the world to an extent of being accorded deity veneration, even when he emerged from a musical wilderness.
Upon his death or ‘disappearance’ as his ardent followers will tell you, he was filthily rich. Three quarters of our musical artist almost followed the same path, but they died in pauperism and relatives never managed to get them proper coffins.
While music is hard to describe, it still has managed to smile more to others while making others mere instruments of elation without helping them butter their bread.
This is the purpose of this column, where we, together as Malawians want to start a musical journey which will go a little bit back, to appreciate our musical history, move to the present and then chart the future so that we are able to find a suitable definition of our music.
In this new stage where I intend to create a relationship with you, readers, I intend to rock with you and blaze our airwaves using whatever medium with music.
From the onset the intention is not to restrict ourselves to what we have known as our music local genres. The question raised here would perhaps be; do we at all have our own kind of music, a music that once it is within anyone’s ear shot, would be recognised as Malawian.
The intention of this ‘musical podium’ will be full of musical showcase, where we will trace the history of music and its influence on the world scale, we will then come down to Malawi music; where it is coming from, what impact it has left on Malawians, Africans and the World.
We will then look at our rote musicians and those musicologists who laugh at our artists’ lack of ability to read music.
We will then look at how much efforts our organisations put in place to help our musicians and our music grow and glow have left any impact at all on the industry.
Then we will go right inside our studios to see the appreciation of music as a form of art which uses sound as its medium to tickle the ear. Together we will examine whether or not our producers know what pitch to employ into the music they are generating, in relation to the pitch that has to, at the same time, be in line with the needed melody and harmony. We will also try to establish if we have the right rhythmic tempo or meter and articulation imposed by our artists. Or find out what sells in our music; is it the dynamics or the timbre or texture sonic characters that makes the songs?
We will try to ascertain whether our success in selling our music or lack of it is because we have or have not considered all this; or whether we know what this is all about or whether our producers or musicians achieve this by intuition, talent or knowledge?
Do we have the qualities that can enable one to formulate all this into one beautiful song but cannot pick out its harmonic sense neither will they acknowledge if someone is appreciating its melodically interweaved potency.
Together, I want us to appreciate the coming in of the internet and its influence on music.
We complain that our old time musicians like Robert Fumulani, Daniel Kachamba and just recently Stonard Lungu died poor men when they had left too much wealth of musical art.
Robert Nesta Marley, the Jamaican reggae icon famed as Bob Marley, died on May 11, 1981 but he is more wealthier now than he was alive, his 12 children fathered from seven women are millionaires in all currencies, so are the members of his band, The Wailers; all this wealth is coming as a result of his music legacy. His music is still leading in the world platinum spot 28 years after his demise.
But the legacy left by our own artists is nothing but laughable, and this was then, before the computer age and the internet came into use where it was possible to sell music in its physical format.
Music now is suffering amid an industry-wide malaise because consumers resort to “free” music online and that revenue is hard to get by.
Musicians outside the country have started using alternative sources, such as advertising just to produce enough for the sweating artists.
This has been possible with the help of music labels, like Warner Music Group which is the world’s third-largest music label. But the question now would be have we ever heard of any label in Malawi?
So, this is the purpose of this column, to help us be where the rest of the world is, in terms of music.
We also intend to look at how best we can do it better than now.
All musicians, producers, promoters, music officials and the multitude that listens to music; I mean music, not secular or gospel – because this is a different terrain we will also explore together – this will be an exciting forum which if better used will be the biggest of the promoter, the larger than life teacher and the hub of our networking, so keep your ears open as the pen is about to start drumming sound.

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