Fruits of Our Musical Imitation


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.

Feedback: drummingpen@columinist.com

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