Selling Singles to Dodge Mediocrity


A single in musical parlance is when an artist has released just one track for the consumers. While in other musical industries best singles have scaled the heights and turned artists instant millionaires, in Malawi it is a different story altogether.
In the past, Ben Michael Mankhamba was so good at releasing singles which in the end he would pool into an album.
While the disadvantage is that others have become known as one-hit-stars, other clever artists have used it as a yardstick to gauge if they could be accepted in the industry.
But like it is the trend in the world of art, a masterpiece is never common; and for sure other artists have released just one song and that has been their end, no one has ever heard of them, but their one song has stood the test of time.
Other songs though, have come and achieved fame but disappeared from the musical scene together with their performers. Remember ‘Maganizo Kukoma’ done by Rudy K and Ital Man? What about Wiza Kaunda? He sang about discrimination that people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS experience. These only hit the market with these single tracks but then disappeared.
Then there is that Lilongwe based reggae star who show biz as Danie Muyaya and The Yebonaz he released a reggae track ‘Timba’ but never came on the scene again at least until now.
There is also Nameless an artist that came on the scene with ‘KC and Bobo’ and then ‘China’. Another appealing song with a powerful message and compelling voice by Alex Kamonga called ‘Chibwana Chimalanda’ only came hot as a single.
An artist called Nepman also brought his ‘Malipe Dance’ and disappeared the same with Physics and his ‘Cholapisa’, who even when he tried to come back, he is failing to reach the standards he had set with this one.
What I am saying is that it is never known whether the single tracks that, by Malawian standards, froze the musical industry when they were released, were part of album compilation or just singles.
Some consumers that I have talked to say some artists have traded them a raw deal when out of 10 or 12 even 14 tracks album there is only one that is a hit while the rest becomes mere flops.
I have in mind one by Tingo and Khemeneng’e who notched out the hit ‘Ambuye Muwapase Moyo’ like was the Balaka based Innocent Banda with his track ‘Tiyambirenso Chikondi’
Another track ‘Chimtofu’ by Ashawishe was placed in an album where the rest of the tracks are mediocre and since the artists is also a radio DJ he has ever confessed that he was forced to come up with an album to accommodate this track.
A question that artists would ask is how else do you get wasteful? Is it serious to release just a single track after making a sleeve, buying CDs and doing all the stuff? My answer is simply yes it is possible.
Provided it is well guarded against piracy, this one track can sell big time, other than watering down its finer quality just for the sake of adding quantity to the album.
The other option is to try to start exploring on-line sells; and with the age of computer where piracy is the in thing, artists must learn to patiently spend their time doing nothing but perfecting a single track that should still linger in the ears of consumers long after the musical player has been switched off. A track that is not even bubblegum; but one that is as timeless as the music industry deserve.
Malawi has reached that stage where it should rather have two quality songs produced by its artists other than trillions of tracks made by thousands of artists that are all but mediocre, and a shame to let other people from other parts of the world listen to.

drummingpen@columnist.com

Advertisements

Malawi takes up the ESAAMLG leadership mantle


By Gregory Gondwe
Malawi has taken up the presidency of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) effective September 8, 2010 and will hold on to the mantle up to a year.
Finance Minister Ken Kandodo Banda is the President of the Council of Ministers of ESAAMLG which is the highest policy making organ, by the virtue of being the current incumbent of the cabinet post in Malawi.
The Secretary to the Treasury is the Chairperson of the Task Force of Senior Officials over the same period.
At the opening on the meeting in Lilongwe Malawi President, Bingu wa Mutharika called on African countries to find a common ground in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing at all levels of society.
Even when the newly appointed Essamalg President Kandodo promised to steer the grouping as its new leader in fighting against money laundering and corruption, President Mutharika nevertheless challenged cabinet ministers that were attending the meeting to not only fight the rot by word of mouth.
“Formulate and implement administrative measures that can eradicate money laundering on the continent,” advised Mutharika.
Mutharika said this is a white collar corruption which he described as the one of the worst forms of graft.
Deputy Director of a government instrument set up by parliament to among other things fight money laundering and terrorist financing the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Tom Malikebu said by holding the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of ESAAMLG Malawi is set to benefit tremendously.
“The profile of the country’s anti-money laundering initiatives and progress will be raised,” said Malikebu in an exclusive interview with Bizcommunity.
He said as the head of the Council, the Minister of Finance will represent the Group in international and regional meetings dealing with anti-money laundering issues.
“While representing the Group, he will also take advantage of this to brief the world on what the country has achieved in this area. For instance, the Malawi FIU has managed to become a member of EGMONT Group of FIUs, being the third (after South Africa and Mauritius) to qualify for membership out of the 14 countries of ESAAMLG,” he explained.
Malikebu said they have numerous challenges as a body set to curb money laundering and their experience over the period in which they have been in operation, they have noted a number of challenges that the anti-money laundering drive faces which they now hope to take up, now that Malawi is at the helm.
“For instance, prevalence of cash-based transactions in our country and most countries of the region makes the fight against money laundering difficult since cash transactions do not leave a paper trail. We need to come up with mechanisms that can effectively curb money laundering in such an environment,” he said.
Malikebu said the other challenge is to ensure that foreign exchange liberalization, trade liberalization and promotion of foreign investment through simplified vetting processes do not create breeding grounds for money laundering.
“International bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank encourage countries to implement these initiatives,” said Malikebu before adding, “However, we have observed that unscrupulous people are abusing these positive initiatives and as a result, the country is losing a lot of foreign exchange through these channels.”
He said even in the face of this, the same international bodies require implementation of anti-money laundering requirements.
The anti-money laundering expert then explained that in order to comply with some of the anti-money laundering requirements, they have to ensure that they have systems for identification of prospective foreign investors, their source of capital – as some of the capital may emanate from illicit proceeds – and that international funds transfers are not related to money laundering.
“This requires careful scrutiny of transactions, which inevitably may be seen as countering the spirit of liberalization and promotion of foreign investment…” he said.
As FIU of Malawi Malikebu said their impression is that departments within the international bodies that deal with these matters do not compare notes to ensure that they do not pursue conflicting objectives.
“The Minister of Finance will bring these matters high on the agenda and discuss them with relevant bodies in order to find a solution that will facilitate implementation of these policy initiatives and this will help the country tremendously,” he said.
With the Minister of Finance at the helm FIU believes ESAAMLG will secure technical assistance in various areas, with the needs of the country in mind which will strengthen the country’s anti-money laundering systems.
It is also hoped that the Malawi presidency will also help raise the public awareness of money laundering issues in the country, starting from their hosting of the ESAAMLG meetings throughout the period that the country will hold the presidency.

ICT Body Set to Transform Malawi


By Gregory Gondwe
The ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) has set up five thematic areas within which it wants to spur development in the country as it will support and complement government effort to turn Malawi into utilizing a fully transparent, sustainable and reliable Information Communication Technology.

The body’s chairperson Maxwell Kwame Phiri disclosed this on Friday at the re-launch of the association in Capital City Lilongwe.
ICT Infrastructures, ICT Services, ICT Knowledge, ICT Financing, ICT Policy and regulatory framework are the five areas the body is set to use as its launch pad to make Malawi an ICT revolutionized nation.
“[While we have] these five [as] priority areas we however have three which are supposed to be our FOCUS to turn this country into China or Malaysia, or Japan overnight,” he said pointing out at ICT Infrastructures, ICT Services and ICT Knowledge as the three.
“In between infrastructure and knowledge we have services,” he said.
At the launch, the body settled for a theme called “Priority areas of ICT for Economic Development and empowerment” and Phiri said in a time when human life is increasingly dependent on technologies, it is important to take the time to consider the impact of technology on human life.
“And the importance of ensuring technology isn’t used to limit us, but rather to take us further along a path of opportunity, innovation and freedom for all people,” he said.
He further stated at the launch that as chairperson of the association, is not his task here to explain which infrastructures or services the body should adopt.
“As an association, an umbrella of ICT community we would like to solicit ideas on the above priorities in support of President Bingu Wa Mutharika of making Malawian ICT literate hence to avoid been used as a dumping zone of second hand technology or testing ground,” he said.

He said it is imperative that the development of national Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) infrastructure be considered as one of the national strategic components to make change and improve the determinants in socio-economic performance.
“The national development of ICTs primarily enables the government to be proactive, among other things, to introduce efficiency and transparency in its governance,” he stated.
Thus, in order to hasten capacity building in the domain of ICTs and thereby appropriately exploit the untapped national and international information resources he said a coherent national policy and strategy on ICTs becomes imperative.

Explaining why the body organized a re-launch he said they had to re-set the association goals which required therefore that they re-launch as it the first posture the body took, there were areas that were left out.
The association says currently it intends to design and maintain appropriate systems to capture indigenous knowledge and local content development.
The second goal is to establish information infrastructure comprising broadband communication backbone and access network supporting integrated and multimedia services, and also distributed data warehouses and services to cater the needs of trade, commerce, industry and tourism and enhance the delivery of government services.
The other goal is to sufficiently address ICTs human resource requirements through aggressive ICTs education and training programs in the national education system and increase use of ICTs in educational institutes; Start ICTAM in all colleges and secondary schools.
The association also wants the internet to be connected schools and higher education institutions as this will speed up mass ICTs literacy.
It also desires to establish and strengthen information systems and technology that responds to the need for facilitating agricultural and rural development while establishing and strengthening information systems and technology that support to improve the coverage and quality of health services.
The body will also automate all public service delivery systems, on network platform, to maintain and deliver basic information as well as establishing public information gateways or portals to harness, develop and integrate public information resources and services;
It also intends transform the traditional public library systems into a network of electronic libraries, and establish new ones; exploit the use of ICTs as a lever for entrepreneurial development, especially in small and medium business and well as apply ICTs for the capacity development and empowerment of women.
The association will also develop the capacity of the private sector to deliver products and services required in the ICTs business opportunities as well as attain smooth operations in electronic business and standardize data collection, processing and exchange procedures.
Developing educational standards, practices and guidelines for the deployment and exploitation of ICTs in schools, colleges and universities will be its other goal which will be complemented with encouraging utilization of internet technology as a medium of communication and content development infrastructure.
It will also establish appropriate systems and technologies for the handicapped.
Taking his turn during the launch director of information in the Ministry of Information and technology Chikumbutso Mtumodzi who was sitting in for the minister said it was more encouraging to see women and students involved with Information Communication Technology, both as knowledgeable users and as professionals in the field.
“Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have proven to be a key enabler of socio economic progress and development, enhancing productivity and therefore economic growth, reducing poverty and improving living standards in many ways,” he said.
He said the Malawi government has put in place strategic goals to ensure that Malawi is on the road to have a sound ICT infrastructure and to develop a competitive industrial and service sector.
“We are very lucky in Malawi having a leader [like] Bingu Wa Mutharika who has passion and commitment to promote ICT penetration in Malawi,” he said.
Mtumodzi told the gathering that at recent Namibia SADC head of states summit on 16th August in, Mutharika emphasised the importance of ICT in Africa.
“ICT is increasingly revolutionizing production processes in Malawi, access to markets, and information sources together with social interactions,” he said.
He said ICT also has an impact on government efficiency, fostering transparency and better communication and services with and to citizens.
“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all ICT professionals, entrepreneurs, and academics in the country for coming together as one community,” he said.
Mtumodzi said this is very important in promoting knowledge and understanding of information technology to development of our country.
“It is very important for the nation to have an active body like ICT association that can help the nation keep up with technology changes,” said Mtumodzi.
The vision of Malawi government he said was to have ICT penetrate the rural areas and that it is important that ICT association has programs like ICT awareness campaign and civic education.
While saluting the association, he nevertheless he pointed out that the biggest challenge the world is facing at the moment is effects of climate change.
“We know ICT on its part contributes to carbon emission in so many ways. And we also know that ICT can effectively be used to combat climate changes like using energy saving technologies,” he said.
Mtumodzi therefore pleaded with the industry not to allow Malawi becoming a dumping ground for inefficient, second hand technologies
“It is important that ICT association also promotes professionalism in the industry among members,” he said.

Finding a Theme for our Musicians


William Shakespeare, the British Author became known with his love Poetry which he usually embedded in his passages as a playwright.
The poems that he used to write were known as sonnets – which are strictly poems worded in a regular rhyming style; have 14 lines and whose theme is love.
For example look at this sonnet done by the Prof.
Hen protecting chick
A spell for survival
Safety in good nick
Trumpeting a revival

A clear indication of glamour
Comfort in the presence of the protector
Inhibiting the would be clamour
Love has found the effective projector

Sores and wounds of the heart soothed
Giving it room to mend
Making sure the landscape is smoothed
To ably fend

It’s the only thread to which the soul hangs
Threatened umbilical cord portending pangs

If the stanzas of the poem above, which when turned into musical lyrics will become verses, are to be checked, one discovery will be that the first three stanzas are four lined and are generally called quatrains but have words that rhyme by following a certain pattern.
Take the first one for example, line one ends with a word chick which rhymes with the third line which has nick, likewise second line rhymes with the fourth. But the last stanza which is a couplet because it only has two lines also rhymes and this whole piece of poetry is called a sonnet which has strictly fourteen lines.
This is the pattern through which an artist has to build his theme. The theme cannot be poetic but can be musical which has to fulfil the general notion that music is a mission. Since a mission seeks to achieve something, then it goes without saying that when a musician launches into the industry he or she should have a purpose for setting off in the first place.
Musicians have to learn to plan how they intend to travel their musical journey. They need to ask themselves questions like, was it because others were singing so they just joined the group or because monies were available and the studio was just not busy, so they decided to record something?
Fascination with what one has produced can lead to a misleading self belief that makes someone start looking at themselves as musicians when factors that can enable such are just nonexistent.
One’s musical life must be a theme for the artist; Bob Marley’s theme was to deal with religious, political social and human repression that the humankind used to suffer and this he channelled into music to force authorities change. Did Bob Marley achieve it?
If I were to ask Lucious Banda, his vision as presented by the theme that is contained in his musicianship, he would not say extempore, that hey Prof. my theme is serving the poor, where I am ‘Soldier for the Poor’. Joseph Nkasa will equate the theme in his music to that of a Member of Parliament where he would call himself ‘Phungu’.
Now if I am to ask you that have listened to the two musicians that I have named above, would you say if their theme were to serve the voiceless as they would claim, have they achieved this?
Now the argument is that; are the themes well presented in the music of our musicians and how do they approach their lyrical compositions, do the lyrics carry anything linked to poetic styles? The themes also need to chart the way forward for the musician as it gives them a leeway of what else they will be singing in their future productions?
drummingpen@columnist.com

Billy Kaunda – The Fading Musician


Comparisons of personalities on who could be better than the other in different fields are abounding in this country. Usually a conclusion is never reached since such assertions are always paraded without any backing research efforts.
Ever since music ‘revolutionalised’ from the era of Robert Fumulani to that of Paul Banda in the early 1990s, the coming on the scene by Lucious Banda followed shortly after by Billy Kaunda left tongues wagging as who was the best of the two.
‘Mwapindulanji’, an album by Billy Kaunda, used to be compared to ‘Son of a Poor Man’, a South African recorded album by Lucious Banda. This was the case as the euphoria of having kissed goodbye the dictatorial rule ushering in the multiparty democratic rule was sinking in.
Eventually, everyone either accepted Lucious as he is and loved him as such or accepted Billy as he stirred up his songs and followed him without stint; others dismissed and fell for the other while a large section was of the view that both needed to be taken on board.
Since the lyrics in songs of Lucious Banda and Billy Kaunda were all but political, it is of little surprise that the two ended up doubling as politicians.
Again Lucious stepped on the political terrain earlier and from this time he started experiencing a divided following; others that followed his music thought the United Democratic Front, a party he had vilified in his songs but later joined, showed that, in principle, he is more worst than the politicians he musically castigated.
When Billy followed, the public swipe he faced was not as bad as the one Lucious had politically, perhaps disputing the assertions that used to trade points just to prove who was better than the other.
While both entered parliament and pursued political careers alongside the musical profession, Lucious had to be brought down politically and his music managed to clean up the political egg that smeared his face.
Love him or hate him, Lucious managed to survive because regardless of his political involvement he still had time for his music and every time he entered the studio to do a piece or two he brought out that which keep people debating.
Unfortunately for Billy Kaunda, ever since he joined the political fray, it looks like he does not give the seriousness that his musical career deserves and therefore while Lucious suffered political backlash it is Billy’s musical career that has to contend with some hostility due to the raw deal the industry says it is getting from him.
The result is that without even arguing or debating, his latest songs have robbed him political marks the first albums gained him. In the days past, every other album Billy would release was a new born child to the music industry that would be cherished and cared for…Now it is like he is not even caring, in the past he would find a woman whom he would impregnate and throughout the nine months he would ensure that the pregnancy is well taken care of, eventually the child that would come from it was robust.
Now he is very cosmetic; he would try to visit the toy shops, let the woman carry some rags for less than nine months and then present to all a baby toy, at first glance people would think it is a real baby, but few seconds later realise it is just a toy.
This is Billy Kaunda whose political life has robbed the musical industry their star studded musician; his videos are a monotonous repetitions that clearly show he has run out of ideas…The men and women in the videos will be the same ones that will dance in the same styles, and Billy will seat in the same places, gesticulating familiarly; of course the only change would be the lyrics or the song, but the rest would be the usual boring monotony.
Cry the beloved musician, Billy Kaunda is fading.

When your Prophets Shine in Foreign Lands


At the 2010Music Crossroads Inter-regional Festival held between 16th and 17th July 2010 at Tasuba Theatre, in Bagamoyo, in the folds of Makumbusho Centre of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, as a country, Malawi came out with a bruised ego.
Our two representatives, the OMAFADAR a Blantyre based band that came on the musical scene in May 2009, bursting speakers with Afro-Jazz fusion and Mzuzu based band born in 2008 came back with their tails between their legs.
In the first place, this is not in any way indicative that these bands from Malawi were weak or mediocre, on the contrary; look at their resume for example:
OMAFADAR is a band whose name bears the initials of band members. As a new kid on the block they surprised many when they emerged third in the Chibuku Road to Fame Competition, not to mention the right road they chose in the thick of Music Crossroads and ably travelled to find themselves in Tanzania.
Kula needs no introduction, as the name suggests, it is still growing strong; it fuses African traditional music with Jazz, Blues, Rock and Reggae and this is what has seen them grabbing two national competitions: MAM Music Award 2009 and Chibuku Road to Fame Competition.
Although we can insinuate all sorts of how bad Malawi performed through her two bands, there was something Malawi won at the festival.
The Mzuzu based band, Body, Mind and Soul was this year’s Music Crossroads Interregional Festival 2010 symbol of success; this was besides being one of the guest bands
Everyone that attended the function, from organisers to participating musicians put on clothes that included T-shirts and Golf shirts that had the face of Body Mind and Soul’s band leader.
Even the badges, the Ids, the flyers, banners and the Special Festival magazines had the face of this distinguished Malawian.
Body mind and soul is described in the festival magazine as a 6-piece band from Mzuzu, Northern Malawi led by Davie Luhanga commonly known as Street Rat, the man whose face graced all covers and faces of stuff described above.
After starting like the rest, like a reggae band, Body, Mind & Soul is said to have reflected on the importance of sharing Malawi ancient culture in Modern time and after much thought and experimentation it created a new music concept it calls ‘Voodjaz’, a subtle mix of traditional rhythms with a jazzy feel.
With it, they conquered the Music Cross Roads Southern Africa Inter-regional Festival in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 to emerge winners that went on the road to their European Tour in Summer of 2008 where they performed at different big stages including the world famous Coyleur Café.
For starters it cannot hurt much to repeat that Music Crossroads is touted by those that started it as a unique program that empowers youth through music initiated in 1995 by Jeunesses Musicales International.
The program operates in five countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe where through 40 festivals, workshops and daily activities; it has transformed the lives of many previously unknown young bands in the five countries.
Now with such decoration, one would still ask questions like, why is Body, Mind and Soul not known as much as our so called famous groups? Is something wrong with them or the country?
The music they play makes people from West drool for more; talk of a prophet who is never honoured in his homeland.
Nonetheless, when your prophets are shining in foreign land, it makes you produce goose bumps evoked by emotions of pride.

Is being a Musician Hereditary?


Names of musical stars have had their legendary and legacy perpetuated by their off-springs courting the question, ‘is being a musician hereditary?’
The other discovery is that this seems to be very common with reggae artists than it is with the other genres.
Starting with the King of Reggae himself, Robert Nesta Marley shortened to Bob Marley started singing with three youthful friends in the name of Peter Herbert Macintosh, shortened to Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone Wailer. He sang alongside his wife Rita Anderson Marley and after his death in 1981 his wife has accomplished so much that in 1996 the Jamaican government awarded her the Order of Distinction for her outstanding works and accomplishments.
Bob’s children have done what no musical family has achieved in the world. Sharon Marley born on November 23, 1964, the big sister of the family also became the eldest of the Melody Makers. Karen Marley, second daughter of Bob Marley, although not directly into music besides being a property developer also works as an assistant designer for Catch a Fire Clothing and Tuff Gong Clothing, firms owned by her siblings that provide for the musicians nonetheless. Rohan Marley, a son of Bob Marley, runs the Tuff Gong Clothing Company.
By the way, Bob Marley, whose nickname was “the Gong”, founded Tuff Gong International in 1965. He gave it its colorful name because he claimed that one had to be “Tuff” to survive in music in Jamaica.”
Stephen Marley is one of Rita’s two sons regarded as one of the most talented of Bob’s children.
Of course he started as a member of the celebrated Marley sibling group ‘The Melody Makers’ since the age of seven. But he is the Grammy winning producer, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He is regarded as ‘the driving creative force behind the music of his siblings. Stephen’s production, performance and writing credits has already earned him two Grammys, giving him a total of five, more than any other reggae artist in history.

Hunkered down in the studio he has served as the secret weapon behind both of younger brother Damian Junior Gong Marley’s past two Grammy winners as well as behind the Ghetto Youths International and Tuff Gong imprints.

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley is the most experimental Marley and with his Brother Stephen’s influence he has showcased a unique gift for blending hard-hitting reality rhymes and an uncommonly eclectic musicality with a classic reggae sensibility at its core and run through with streams of hip-hop, r&b and dancehall.
Ziggy Marley the leading Marley in the wake of his 2006 album Love Is My Religion earned his fourth Grammy Award. He founded U.R.G.E. (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment), a non-profit organization that benefits a wide range of charitable children’s causes in Jamaica and other developing nations.
Stephanie Marley one of the most educated of the Marley girls successfully completing her A ‘Levels in Social Studies and Psychology in London before her studies in Psychology, at The University of Western Ontario, Canada. She is now the Managing Director of the Bob Marley Foundation, Bob Marley Museum, Tuff Gong International, Tuff Gong Recording, URGE and the Rita Marley Foundation.

Ky-mani Marley with an East African name meaning Adventurous Traveler started with soccer before getting musical while Julian Marley thought music is life, life is music and both are blessings from above. He owns Uprising Band.
The other one Cedella Marley has had a life always rooted in music and was a Melody Maker. She is now the C.E.O. of Tuff Gong International.
Peter Tosh’s son Andrew has also taken over from the fallen legendary father.

Then there is Morgan Heritage a reggae band formed by five children of reggae artist Denroy Morgan that include Una Morgan, Roy “Gramps” Morgan, Peter Morgan, Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan and Memo “Mr. Mojo” Morgan.

Then there is Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill who suddenly became ill while on tour in Europe and passed away in Berlin Germany on August 19, 2006. His son Kenyatta who at that time was his audio engineer sang lead vocals as a tribute to his father completing the tour in the process.

Back home in Malawi we have legendary Patrick Simakweli whose son Sam Simakweli is the band leader of Lucious Banda’s Zembani Band.
Robert Fumulani’s sons Msamude the late, Anjiru, and Chizondi and Robert’s young brother Arnold Fumulani’s sons Gift the late and Moda are carrying on the legacy.
Now, is being a musician something that descends by inheritance?