When the Pen Drummed Wrongly

Ever since the pen started drumming out sound that challenged, appreciated, encouraged, critiqued, reasoned and hero-worshipped the Malawi music, there has been a large following looking at endless comments that come through the email address below as well as the facebook page.

When the pen drummed more about the reggae aspect where it checked the religious dilemma faced by local reggae artists and hinted that Malawi has its reggae history as well, there was an international interest that was shown through the comments that poured forth.

Below are two comments that I have picked on the write-up that said Reggae has a Malawian Story.
Frank Kaiya

“Well searched and analyzed. It just reminded me of the days when we knew no disc men or iPods but walk men. I love it!”
Jamaican calling himself Buffalo Soldier

Keep telling that history…
Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge …where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier. A great story of black military history…the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers…
On the story that looked at “Greedy and Exploitation in the Industry” a number of artists totally agreed but their comments had also offered different dimension to the issue…But I have chosen one comment from a listener…

Frank Kaiya

“The truth hurts but this is the situation of our music “celebrities” who never rip their hard earned fruits due to greed”

One that had many comments was when I challenged the musicality in the popular song ‘Mbewa Zanga’ there was a long chain or reaction and I will produce few…

Frank Kaiya

“That’s true about many Malawian over night celebrities. They don’t appreciate the need for art in their music. mbewa zanga… CRAP!”

PrintWorld Malawi”:

“The majority of Malawians like the song and I don’t think they owe anybody an explanation why they do. It isn’t always easy to explain why you like something.

On our part we don’t like the song, not the lyrics and not the beat. But we
don’t blame those that like it. It’s their personal taste.”

Maurice Khuvave

I disagree with you. Look deep and you will realize that mbewa zanga is not just good lyrics but also nice beat. This song doesn’t need musical codes. What you are doing is same as asking if [it has to sound like] hip hop music because one thing I feel hip hop is just recital of words over an instrument but still music pundits credit it. Go beyond eyes of critic and look into the composition, how the story is told and is the singer able to follow the beat. Mbewa zanga is the incarnation of maiko Yekha[Michael Mukhitho Phiri], madolo[Kennedy Ndoya], alani namoko [Alan Namomo] music

Vincent Gondwe:

“Oyimba n’goma akulu amati ndi ochenjera ndipo ovina ndi opusa. Keep on dancing to rubbish!”

Maurice Khuvave
Then every music is rubbish because you tend to wonder why we call nyimbo zaku Zambia music, if carefully observed you will find that Zambian music [is] much hurried and half-baked music; what we call bubblegum and not ever better than Mbewa Zanga. Only the advantage [is that ] the Zambians have [better] instruments which are touchy and danceable as well as their story line, they sing about love and sex which are hot topics in every society. What of jazz and blues? If you can’t like Mbewa Zanga then you are liking Tygrin’s 2by2 and other songs he called traditionally fused because in one guess you will find that there is no better message in his song than the one you will find in Mbewa Zanga . Listen to Soul, ballad and Salsa or Pasada and learn something……………

Gresham Ng’ambi

“Bola kuvina amwene!!!!”

The comments are helping building the quality of sound the pen has to drum out and please keep them coming, the ones that have not published here were equally valuable but space would not have accommodated all.


Is Malawi Reggae a Match of Jamaican Reggae?

Last time on these pages I discussed about the proliferation of reggae with the Malawian music.
Since reggae music originated from the West Indies Island of Jamaica, the question everyone has been asking is that is Malawi reggae a match of Jamaican reggae?
I will base my discussion on the matter on what a number of Jamaican music artiste who visited Power 101 Fm said about our reggae.
Malawian reggae is rated far much lower that the Jamaican Reggae, when Jamaican DJ Management visited the country he just described it as just African music, despite giving a description of pure reggae as being any music that liberates people from mental slavery, a sort he described as a revolutionary liberating music.
Jesse Jenda thought Malawians reggae was improving. He compared it from his first visit of 1999 to that of 2000, and said that he had observed some tremendous improvements.
Shalom quipped that it was not easy to play reggae. He said one has to listen and learn a lot about it, and charted hardworking, practice, continuous learning and exposure as the rightful rooms of improvement for a Malawian artist.
However, Jenda believed that in few years time Malawi will have high standard reggae artists.
Malawians, thought that time had come though. When, liked a bolt from the blues, Evison Matafale, a self-confessed Rasta Reggae maestro appeared on the arena and left it before the prime of his time.
Before him though a youthful Rasta Reggae Musician Sally Nyundo had stormed the local charts with a lovers Rock album ‘Namwali’ (woman) which surprised Ibo Cooper and he rated it so highly, especially the title track. He did the album with a youthful friend Diwa Khwiliro.
Sally said in an interview, when I run into him on the Sunday night of April 28 2002 while on a country wide tour, that Malawian Reggae emerges from a background of its traditional music setting, much of a fact that it hence influences its characteristic make up and picks itself out of the authentic and original reggae music character.
Nyundo formerly of images Band, had just released a solo album he called ‘Zinyimbo’ (SONGS) where he made an effort to clear Rasta misconceptions and misrepresentations, especially in the title track called ‘Dreadlocks’.
Sally Nyundo who once played bass for visiting Jamaican artists Ibo Cooper, Sholom and Jesse Jenda, hoped to storm the international charts with his reggae as he had said ‘most Malawian reggae artists mix reggae with traditional because they target local audience.
Sally thinks he can do better as he craves to produce Reggae stuff of International Standard no matter the language.
“I want to impress” he declared, “like Alpha Blondie I want those who can understand the language enjoy both the message and the instrumentation but for those who love reggae have to fall in love with my reggae rhythm, better still instrumentation is language on its own.
Then, he thought he has an idea to mix reggae with a traditional dance called ‘Mwinoghe’ practiced by people from Northern Malawi. The dance involves rat-tat-tat hands clapping and expert drumming.
Sally had said at the time that to his dismay, though, he has discovered it won’t sound so original for the crossed blend will just be the very same reggae, internationally played, “If you remove everything except the percussion lines in Black Uhuru songs then you remain with purely an African beat.
True to his one song that can standout tall as purely African projecting a Malawian Mwinoghe, is DUB JUDAS ‘STAND TALL’ from the album “Better to be good”. In this track the drum beating extractions just needs some local afro-lingo Lyrics to sum up one good afternoon of African ancestor commemoration in a ‘Mwinoghe’ set piece.
Whatever the case, Sally said at the time that reggae owes it all to the African music, a reason he believes it is why it is now easily accepted in African societies like in Malawi.
If one had any doubts about how he viewed reggae then, his successful exploits with the International tours he has made and sharing stage with reggae greats at the Reunion Island, the you would think we are there.

When Matafale Confronted Distributors

As I started last week, the trend where musicians are ripped off by distributors was another complete continuum until it confounded the late Malawian reggae maestro Evison Matafale one day.
Remember he had Bob Marley’s consciousness but Peter Tosh’s iron clad militancy, cynic doctrines and an indigestible sense of fury especially in the face of what he found to be an act of injustice.
The day he chose to confront one distributor to demur his objections was purely by providence. While Matafale was in the shop, the distributor’s chore boy brought into the shop cartonfuls of pirated cassette albums of Evison Matafale.
To the shock of the Indian distributor, Matafale broke the counter and the cassettes right at that time, amidst shouting in rage at the Indian trader and right there and then withdrew all his albums from the market and warned the distributor never to sell them again.
Like all magnates, the Asian sent policemen, whom later on Matafale described as being under the distributor’s ‘payroll’ to hunt and charge him upon his arrest.
Some artists agree, his death has opened horizons of potential wealth that was pouched by exploitation, and misery. His efforts to confront the malpractice, was met with other forces within the music stable itself where other musicians started fighting him.
Right before his death, some musicians though, felt jealous of Matafale’s telling, successful songs, and its popularity hence they perpetually talked ill of him. Something, which affected the industry as people, started taking sides.
However, to a just observer, Matafale’s virtuosity did not only meet the politicians’ wrath, but also that of his fellow musicians.
A notable case was when Rastas reacted angrily and demonstrated when presidential commission instituted inquest for the truth to establish what really killed Matafale included one artist Lucius Banda who they claimed was always confrontational towards Matafale using the press and other media, even when Matafale never retaliated in any single day or way.
It took a sudden twist, as change of hearts, after his death, was the order in the musicians who both talked ills of him with vilification and good of him with admiration, in the process taking over all front Newspaper pages, a development that boosted all artists’ sells.
At that time Sally Nyundo said the death of Matafale had opened the Malawi reggae markets while his fellow musician Ben Michael was quoted as saying Matafale used reggae to get to people and when he succeeded, people fanned out to get his message, something that opened up the markets.
The bad part of it is the tricky and rascal distribution system which has seen Malawian music flooding the markets of all neighbouring countries, rendering the musicians helplessness.
The only effort to stop the trend was attempted a couple of years ago by Lucious Banda, who with the help of Zambian government invaded the Zambian markets and confiscated his pirated cassette albums and burnt them right there.
However, despite whatever efforts still bad marketing system, lack of recording companies or their agents, greed, are the forces that are pulling down the success of Malawi music industry deep into minus horizon.
To put it in Matafale words, “Jah will conquer” and surely, as legendary Robert Nesta Marley of the West Indies rightly said “The Sun will shine.”

Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

Distributors Steal from Musicians

Under the headline of ‘Greedy and Exploitation in the Industry’ some two weeks ago, I started discussing how these elements are undermining our music industry in Malawi.
I ended up by discussing that the control of a musician over the distributor is only single lane. It is in as far as multi-copying or duplicating the master copy is concerned, where the musician holds on to the face covers or sleeves.
The logic line used is, if the artist say – takes 500 sleeves to the distributor then what it means is that from the master copy, only 500 copies are to be produced; which usually is not what the distributor does.
Now to the financial deal, if the financial agreement between the distributor and the artists is anything short of funny but piteous continuum, then the industry is urgently in-need of divine intervention to bring it to an eventual halt.
The unfairness ratio of the yield distribution can distinctively be viewed from this contradistinction of how much both sides contribute to the album development up to the time it reaches a sellable stage.
The distributor/marketer, copies the master copy using his copying machines. Perhaps the major contribution he feels justifies his shares is the provision of blank audio tapes, before putting the final product on the market.
Now without being very exact with the statistics I will depict how the musician becomes the victim of greed in music industry in Malawi.
Now, per the sale of each copy, the distributor gets 95% while the remainder is split into 3:2 ratio between the musician and Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) respectively. COSOMA’s existence begs answers on what its duties and use is as definition of piracy, one aspect it exists for goes without bringing to light in the industry.
Since gluttony rules supreme, the 95 % lion’s share the distributor gets seems far from being enough; and woe betide the world of technology for bringing to the world a sophisticated colour photocopier with it. The distributor finds solace in the machine and uses it to his gormandising advantage, but then to the detriment of the artists.
By way of making copies of the musicians’ ‘erstwhile protected’ album cover, the distributor now frees himself from the realms of a musician’s grip over the control of the sleeves and he is now at liberty to sell extra copies of the album and maintains the figure the artists knows, begging him to believe sells are bad.
Well if the distributor does not do it, there is also a third player waiting on the sidelines to pounce on the product and multiply it as much as he can and sell it to consumers, this is one is the worst because the musician does not get any penny from this shoddy deal.
The confusion of this horrible exploitation then faces its challenger in the name of such a particular album’s popularity and scattered presence in the households begging another answer from the question; “How did it get there if it is not selling?”
Do you now understand why Ian ‘Madende’ Lizi treks between Blantyre and Mzuzu via Zomba and Lilongwe selling his cassette and CD albums in the streets?
Next week I will discuss how one late Evison Matafale caught the distributors in the act of their evasiveness in the trading of music in Malawi.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com