Have you ever imagined why people keep on killing musicians before their actual death? You are wondering but I am saying the same things into which you have ever participated.
Long before the South African anti-apartheid reggae icon, Lucky Dube passed away or as Rastafarian Reggae musicians would put it ‘passed on’, people killed him a number of times. I remember people used to pop questions like, is it true that Lucky Dube is dead.
Sometimes you are in a bus, you will hear someone telling a story to a group of fellow passengers on how one famous musician passed away, and yet, you who have the opportune access to information know better that this mortar is belching out a blue lie.
I always like referring to the past either to opine better on any issue under discussion or because we just cannot do without history.
Michael Mukhitho Phiri or commonly known as Michael Yekha disputed on our one and only radio at that time that he was alive and kicking; the same was the case with Alan Namoko.
However, when Daniel Kachamba was interviewed on the same, he did not only dispute…come on! can one dispute that he is not dead? Well Daniel Kachamba did and he labelled all those peddling this bush telegraph as liars.
“Anthu abodza eeeh! Akuti Kachamba wafa eeeh!” so Daniel Kachamba sung…
Is it not surprise therefore that we used to kill many of our famous musicians then? Why is it that now we do not kill lots of them as it were…
I posed this question to two best friends whose interest in music is more profound than mine going by a litany of historical issues they can stitch together once you enquire anything musical from them.
The first thing the first friend talked about was that slow communication used to drive many into rumour mongering.
People would gather to guzzle some beer and one would just start from the blues telling stories that … ouch! Whom can I mention? Death!? Well, like Prof. Zungwala is dead, and everyone will believe it for lack of reference source.
These days, people would get rumours like, ‘Lucky Dube is dead’ and they will either call someone they think will know or go on the internet to verify.
Perhaps the verification aspect is irrelevant but the question should be why we kill them before their time.
While other factors could come because of a big ego by those spreading the rumours, whereby they want to get attention from whoever is listening to them, others do so just to post a sense of loss in others.
Some musicians have done so much, they have composed songs that will never be matched, through their music, people love them so much, and therefore there is a general fear hovering over their longevity.
While other artists in America have ever feigned death to gauge their popularity others have done so to make huge sales.
Do you remember how music CDs by Evison Matafale used to be scarce soon after his death, when everyone else wanted to buy his music? I should not even go very far in history, recently when Pop King Michael Jackson died even here in Malawi people wanted to buy his DVDs or music CDs in large quantities, with little success.
Well, I still get back to the question why should anyone start the bush telegraph that one particular musician is no more.
The main reason is to create a sense of loss amongst followers. Where people are left with a feeling that they will never again listen to new compositions of their loved musicians, is the same conclusion I am coming to.
At the peak of Dr. Daniel Kachamba’s musical journey, a rumour that he is no more was whipped into a hurricane force.
In no time, Nsanje to Chitipa was aware that Kachamba is dead.
Unfortunately, at the time this was announced he was conducting a European tour and mind you, internet was a myth at this time, so it only awaited the return of Kachamba himself to dispute his death.
But you know what happens, once people have heard that Prof. Zungwala is dead, even those who never attended the funeral will believe that the Prof. really kicked the bucket and believe you me, the time we will run into each will send you scampering for safety, as I will no longer be me, but a ghost.
So Kachamba was embarrassed that some people even thought he was his apparition, so he composed a song merely to dispute his death, because mere rebuttal on radio alone was not enough.
Have I answered why people will kill musicians before their time?
On December 29, 2009, Lawrence Mbenjere set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.
Whether this is the vote of approval of what he is churning out by the consumers or there are other factors that did not pan out truly, is not for me to contend. Based on this, whatever musician radio stations come up with as the best of 2009, but the royalties spoke more with emphasis and at that, Lawrence Mbenjere is the man!
What was also historical was the fact that since the establishment of the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) 15 or 17 years ago, K2, 523, 459.16 is the biggest money it has dished out to a single musician.
For interest’s sake Lucious Banda carted home K1, 094, 579.10, Thomas Chibade K712, 742.48. Joseph Nkasa who in 2003 got a million got K597, 942.27 this time round.
Explanation by COSOMA Public Relations Officer Rosario Kamanga was that for Mbenjere to get this kind of money, accumulatively he amassed K2.35 million from Mechanical Royalties that an artist receives after they record with a record company.
On the other hand, K103, 000 Mbenjere earned from broadcasting royalties that comes from air play of an artist’s music by a radio or TV station. He also amassed a meagre K66, 000 from Public Performance Royalties unbelievably, this is the money that is earned when the artist’s music is played in public places like bars, hotels etc.
Why I am saying unbelievable is because I doubt COSOMA’s capacity to ably manage the collection of money from all public places where music is played. I remember to have argued on these very pages that no COSOMA official ever visited most bars on how this is done and therefore music played there is never profiting the artists who performed them.
There is no way; a bill for institutions like radio can beat that of public places. This is what I find sticky with the management of the Public Performance Royalties.
Now on Broadcasting Royalties, while acting Executive Director for COSOMA Dora Makwinja decries shameless tendency by MBC, Star Radio and TVM that love to eat their cakes and have them as they play the music free, the pen wants to drum out its disgust as well without stint or limit…
As rightly put by Minister of Tourism and Culture Anna Kachikho, the musicians would have received more money had these institutions paid what is due to Ceaser. For example MBC has around K8 million it owes COSOMA in royalties, imagine if this money had been handed over to who it is due.
Underline the word diligent…This is how COSOMA described Zodiak Broadcasting Station in as far as paying these royalties is concerned which COSOMA acknowledges has offered great support to artists.
It beats all forms of imagination, that big institutions like MBC and TVM which are state owned, meaning they operate using my tax and have room where they make a lot of money through advertising, can play second fiddle to Zodiak…they are not even second fiddle because they do not pay anything.
Going by what Kachikho and Makwinja had said it is clear that there are no measures that can be taken to punish these institutions for their desire to operate at the expense of our local musicians who struggle to make ends meet.
Imagine if the body that represents the musicians bans playing of local music on the radio stations that are defaulting paying their royalties. Would they draw any attention at all?
What this utter disregard for local effort by our musicians as demonstrated by TVM, MBC and Star Radio means is that those at the helm of managing these institutions do not appreciate what is involved to produce music.
While I am to believe if the good man of God at Star Radio or Bright Malopa or Chimwemwe Banda at TVM would tell me they thought the musicians lose nothing to come up with whatever their institutions broadcast [some of which even put in musical chart programmes] I will not hear out Patrick Khoza at MBC.
Patrick Khoza is one of the first people we have to respect highly for establishing a recording studio called Studio K, before Yimbirani Yahweh studio in Balaka. Khoza knows what is involved to have a final product from the musician. It is a surprise therefore that instead of championing the promotion of musicians by honouring their royalties, he is in the forefront destroying them.
Please I thought it is so easy, if you do not have lemons do not desire lemonade, the same with MBC, TVM and Star radio, if you do not have money for royalties please do not play the music!
Greetings in the name of a new musical year, 2010!
While we reflect upon where we stumbled and succeeded in the gone by 2009, 2010 offers us an opportunity to [as Peter Tosh would put it] pick and dust ourselves up and start all over again as we prepare for another 12-month-long gruelling musical journey.
Amongst the many facets that summed up the decade was the new form of music that we adopted as our political system charted a new way for our music trail. We found our people freer than they were since independence from the British; this freedom was ably reflected in our music albeit with huge failures.
The major failure was how out of the multitudes of those that produced music; only few managed what was considered original while the industry was littered with imitators.
What was so confusing was that those that are in the forefront imitating genres from elsewhere like Anne Matumbi could not see.
Matumbi who not out of his volition, says he is not a musician, because the Jamaicans he tries to imitate also say are not musicians but DJs, should have been the last person to complain.
Instead of realising what might have been the reason our radios’ airplay is filled with low quality music he describes as chaff, Matumbi thinks the musicians are to blame for bribing radio presenters.
The controversial DJ almost echoed what the pen has always been drumming out as he was quoted in the media right on the dot of 2009-year end that ‘musicians bribe DJs and presenters with money a system known in musical cycles as ‘Payola’ to get airplay.
Matumbi underlined the fact that Malawi music is hurried and this made him lament that they are failing to compete with Zambian musicians who invest heavily in their music and this translates on how valuable the stage work has to cost for hire, which also goes with high quality sound.
Well, I have to start by saying, ‘Good wine need no bush’ and therefore good music will not take the singer to have a DJ or a presenter bribed before it can gain airplay.
Because most artists have been lacking in the area of creativity where they have imitated everything from reggae to Kwasakwasa, others have even imitated our Zambian brothers and sisters. You tend to wonder why our own boys and girls bred and raised up in Kawale, Nkhorongo and Chitawira will start singing with lyrics full of ‘manje so’.
Ada Manda, Overtone Chimombo, the late Patrick Tembo, the late Tepu Ndiche and Bright Mkanda as well as many old timers most of them fallen heroes were original and this should have been the foundation where in the last decade we were to build our music industry.
But instead what did we get, Anne Matumbi and crew started imitating Jamaican DJs like Yellow Man, U Roy, Sizzla Kalanje and the list is long…They went home building their music using templates created by these Jamaican artists, forgetting that they will be judged using the Jamaican standard because they were imitating Jamaica genre.
What comes out with such imitation is exactly what Matumbi himself describes as chaff or husks.
Literally, husks is a by-product of goodies, so the question would be if our musicians are producing chaff as Matumbi suggests, then where are the intended products.
The thing is, to call such products chaff is being so respectful that because we are like saying there is room provided for what could be the best creativity toils, which is not the case.
Mind you, I am not saying we should not imitate. We can, but it does not have to be done with precision like plagiarizing, but it has to be an imitation that is loaded with innovative charm. Take for example the way Evison Matafale played reggae. Many a Jamaican that came into the country like the great Everton Blender let Matafale wear the cap because it was able to fit on his head.
However, if you take DJs like Capleton or Tony Rebel and compare them with Matumbi, would you say the two would match?
The only thing that makes Matumbi appeal to local audience is the Chichewa language that he uses. However, he so lacks ingenuity because the lilt that he uses for his songs is all the same.
I want a different story once we reach 2011 where we would have established a musical academy within this year, where we will be able to inculcate in the minds of budding musicians, the innovative spirit that will eventually create a Malawian music genre built on top of what was founded by our musical forebears.
In soccer, it is very common; once talent has been identified, it is either taken to a soccer academy where it nourished through the passage of time until it is ripe for consumption or it is used instantly, guardedly though, after some bit of perfection.
In music, especially in my beloved Malawi, we do not care. We can see talent and just think well, this one is talented and one day he or she will make a good musician. I know there have been times when some pop Idol copycats in the country had popped up and tried to come up with a similar venture.
The only drawback is that these were just copycats, so if you know what I mean, copycats or imitators look at something with their eyes and start imitating and sooner than later they fumble and stumble before a big crumble. Well, innovators look at something with the eyes of their brains and they carve a project that becomes beneficial to themselves and those they want to help.
There was a man who used to be Mr. Felix Njawala, now he is Honourable Felix Njawala who was leading a pack of these copycats. Now that he has a viable and feasible stage to promote talent identification in parliament, no single day has he come up with something in this regard through his innovations, based on what he showed us he wanted to do in the past.
Why should anyone think the Drumming Pen will get the wrath of the honourable friend Felix, it is because it beats all reasons of having institutions around that have set up objectives and fail to make any movement towards achieving them at all.
We always say Malawian musicians are art nincompoops because they do not know anything musical and therefore as one controversial Limbani Banda would declare they play trash and cannot therefore break into the international market mainly because they concentrate of foreign genres etc.
A number of talented young boys and girls lack support that could come from the society. While others have come in the open with their toils, which we have condemned as half-baked, others have coiled and disappeared into submission and we will never have a chance ever, to listen to their half-baked stuff.
There is a tall, slender, black complexioned small boy going by the name of Katelele Ching’oma. He says he comes from Lower Shire; Mbuya Gwanda Chakuamba advocates that we call it Shire highlands.
You just have to appreciate how the boy realised that God has given him a voice that is hard to come by.
However, critically listening to him, and even watching his videos, one wonders what this boy would have become had he been passed through a deliberately instituted milling machine.
One thing God has gifted Malawians with, or generally, African musicians with, is the thought that singing is synonymous with song writing. This in turn has made them good composers.
The same could therefore be said about young Katelele. Listening and watching this Katelele boy, you will have the impression that assures you that indeed the chap is also a gifted composer and even wonder further that there are some hands working behind the scenes because the youthful age of the boy and the lyrics seems to be at war.
Personally, I have never met him, neither have I ever talked to him, but when I first listened to his music on Zodiak, I think it was a track called ‘Mutithandize’ which is part of ‘Ali Music Collections’ I was left thinking.
The first thing that came to mind was how one person has decided to be exposing talent in form of the ‘Ali Music Collections’. You just have to go back and see how many artists have had their music see the limelight through the Ali initiative.
Drumming Pen will always whip out sounds like the Musicians Association of Malawi, Copy Right Society of Malawi and a number of promoters that are within the industry. This is the case because no one has shown any interest to initiate something that could spark the hidden musician in the young ones.
In the first place, what Ali Collection does is to listen to the toils of the young ones first, and then he supports them with studio work and marketing the product thereafter. How the music is marketed and how much Ali Collections gets from the proceeds and even how much the exposed artist benefit is not a subject for today.
Imagine if Malawi had an institution that would discover talent or embrace the already identified talent and nourish it through trainings in both how the voice and instruments is managed and the musical business as well.
Now take the talent like that of Katelele where the training helps him to significantly make use of his voice to produce music that should not be bubblegum like stuff which you spat out after the sweetness is gone.
If the system would be able to clean the gem that is Katelele Ching’oma, how many such gems would we have discovered for cleaning?