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.”