Tapps Bandawe – Studio Wizard
Tapiwa Bandawe is a producer who can lionise a musician none of us have ever heard of and how he does this is a subject of conjecture.
I attended a musical bash organised by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) at the Civo Stadium on New Year’s Day.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka was always calling Taps to do this and that…Meaning she understood the depth of ability in doing musical stuff that is in Tapps and how one has to sink under to reach and manage to tap the talent in Tapps.
Let me try to demonstrate here the versatility of Tapps.
In a compilation he has called ‘Sound Yovuta Volume 1’ Tapps produced ‘Nazo Malawi’ a track Lucius Banda featured NIC Gianakiss , then there is ‘Focus Africa’ and ‘2BY2’ by Tay Grin . Then there is ‘Ungodikira’ and ‘Katsepe’ by Sam Simakweli. He has also Dan Lufani’s ‘Cousin’, V2K’s ‘Ndiyadansi’, Star Marley’s ‘Death’, and believe it or not, Joyful Souls’ ‘Akonda Kosatha’ and ‘Mwana Wanga’ among others.
Internationally, not only is Tapps producer and songwriter for Sony BMG but he has also produced artists like Alexander O’Neal, Ginuwine, Jamelia, Liberty X and Blazing Squad. He has also travelled with artists like Lucky Dube and Brenda Fassie and Chicco from South Africa.
In fact, it is in South Africa that he cut his real professional teeth. Born in 1970 as a youth he listened to a lot of LL Cool J, Salt ‘n’ Pepper, Run DMC and all the artists of their time. By 1980s while break dancing was the in thing, he beat pulp all that competed against him and formed a group to do this better and called it Renegades.
Even when he travelled to South Africa when apartheid was still thick in 1988 he survived at Hilton College before going to Natal Technical School of Arts where he formed a band he called Narene. The journey from here on progressed without stopping as in Johannesburg he signed for the bigger than life ‘David Gracium Records’.
It was while hear that his wizardly at adding value to different sound and voices to make music earned him recognition; with the helping hands of Donovan Cover he produced a hip hop album called ‘Let Go’ and this was in 1990.
But the following year it first went gold then won the Best New Artist award after it had received three nominations at the South African Awards. This album was followed by another golden slot acclaiming ‘‘Young, Hip & African’.
Apartheid and its attendant cultural boycott saw him heading to the UK where he collaborated with producer John Cheatdown in coming up with a number of projects. Here he also got an award when together with Terry Macloud and Mellisa Migel their TNT Explosive Productions went on to establish Blazing Squad which was signed by Warner becoming the largest 1999 deal.
They produced an album that achieved gold as well.
Enough for the accolades that Tapps has dotted on his resume with; but if you are born in a family of four where you have also a psychologist brother in the name of Dr. Chiwoza Rutende Bandawe then obviously you ooze patriotism.
And this in 2007 forced Tapps back home where at first he collaborated with partners and started Matalala Records that eventually procreated Explosive Entertainment where he has produced all the artists that he has locally produced.
What I want to discuss today is that he has joined hands with partners; I should guess one of them is Malawi’s top Sound Connoisseur Lemekezani Phiri an equally complete producer himself– I will discuss about this dude in my subsequent write-ups – to form Nyimbo Music Company.
With Nyimbo Music Company, Tapps and friends intend to bring sanity in our music which the Malawi Copyright Society, the government as well as the so called Musicians Association of Malawi have failed to bring into our music industry.
The company will produce, distribute and promote Malawi music where the artists will not be ripped off like is the system at the moment. They will achieve this by also managing the artists through way of contracts signed on dotted lines.
The other exciting acts in the bag include the Nyimbo Music Awards, Hall of Fame, Open Air free for all events including bringing into the country the digital download age.
Nyimbo Music Company’s signature was all over the MBC New Year’s Day bash and apart from poor patronage mainly due to MBC’s own making, the sound was superb, no artist disappointed in this respect. I hope our musicians will stop dying as paupers.
The only time the country has ever tried to connect tourism and music is when some Britons decided to start the Lake of Stars.
However, the structural, technical and organisational arrangement of the event has benefited the organisers more than it has exploited the local music and its artists.
The government, through all its departments that are concerned with ensuring that art- music inclusive – is getting the promotion it requires to shape out the country’s cultural identity has no deliberate policy to enforce anything like this.
Now, all the pen desires to drum out is in line with what is not strange to us all…Resident Band for hospitality facilities.
For fear of missing out on thoroughness, I will not mention the actual bands, but I know either currently or in the past hotels like Mount Soche, Ryalls Etc used to have a band that was contracted to be playing at these respective venues.
I know some where towards the end of last year, Sun Bird Mzuzu Hotel tried to enter into a deal with The Northern Region musical giants; The Body, Mind and Soul to be playing on some days at the facility as a resident band.
Apparently, the deal fell through because the idea the hotel had, was that the band be a ‘magnet’ that should be attracting more customers to its Choma Bar. The patronage on the first two-trial-separate-days did not encourage them enough to continue with the deal.
I hear the newly established joint ‘The Key Lounge’ which is housed in the Mzuzu’s newly set up Shopping Mall now intends to hire them instead.
There is a closeness that can be exploited between local music and tourism which can not only bring the much needed forex to the country but uplifting the lives of artists as well.
Imagine if Agollosso was the resident artists for Mount Soche and purely there to sing the Shire Valley Genre that he plays; If Ben Michael Mankhamba with his band that comprise the Zig-Zaggers alongside the Jena Sisters, was a resident band at Capital Hotel, where he would be promoting his Chingaipe genre [by the way he is Group Village Headman Chikaipe of Lilongwe].
And by extension Sunbird Mzuzu Hotel had stuck to the agreement with The Body Mind and Soul, a band that says it plays a fusion of foreign genres and local beat to create what they call voodjazz.
Say Hippo View Lodge had a band dishing out the Balaka beat that we all know.
Taking advantage of the fact that music pulls and attracts people and their world the tourism industry which sells our places out there would intensify promotion of the varieties at their places.
The need to have resident music in hospitality facilities that would be identified with a particular traditional genre would drive someone from Australia to a specific hospitality place to listen to that kind of music and also buy the music.
The tourism industry could then go home and promote the music designated for what facility by producing MP3 samples of such tracks and post them with their background through you tube on the web or taking advantage of any social networking pages like the facebook and twitter accounts.
With the digital demand in this era there is needed to create an internet presence and even create MySpace music page.
Locally, there could also be promotion of such linkages where everyone else visiting Hippo View Lodge will know they will sample Balaka beat, likewise those that are visiting Capital Hotel will know it is time to discover what Chingaipe music genre has to offer.
Tourism which has worked elsewhere as a forex earner is still trying to get its feet in this country even with the vigorous promotions which to an extent I think has not explored all the avenues.
With a government backed policy on the same, hospitality facilities that are currently undergoing star grading system could be told that if you are promoting one of the local music genres by having a specific band that play such a specific genre, believe you me we can achieve something both our struggling industries of music and tourism.
The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which organised music bash, equally succeeded with this feat as much as it goofed.
It succeeded because Dan Lufani, Ben Michael, Tygrin, Edgar & Davids, Black Missionaries and then Yvonne Chakachaka never disappointed.
The performance was not only weighty but it was captivating as well. The few that patronised the show were indeed sent spell bound by unstopping link of music that transcended the genre boundaries.
It left everyone an aftertaste that makes the desire yearning for more and let you helplessly salivate because the curtains have fallen and the show cannot go on.
MBC goofed because; it was like those that had organised it at the corporation were strangers from elsewhere; considering the restriction that went with the patronage of the bash one was left totally amazed.
First, they lied that, the bash will start at 8 in the morning and that advance ticket sales demanded that an individual part ways with a ‘whooping’ K1, 500; while if the same person wanted to buy it at the Stadium on the day of the show then it would be K2, 000.
This is unrealistic. Had MBC pegged a price to watch Dan Lufani, Ben Michael, Tygrin, Edgar & Davids, Black Missionaries and then Yvonne Chakachaka at below K500, the turnout would have been great. But instead, a handful patronised the event.
The time I made my entrance past the gates was around noon. At first, I reached the VIP side and produced my K2, 000 but I was told these ‘sacred gates’ were left for ‘special people’ and that I was supposed to cough up to K3, 000 if I am special as well.
I said in this case then show me the gate where all the commoners like me were gaining entrance; meanwhile thousands youthful would-have-been-patrons were crammed outside pleading with the personnel manning the gates to lower it a little bit; I overheard some saying they only had a K1000, others said they had K800 while others said they had literary K500.
None of the personnel manning the gates was close to fathom any language that these people were using to plead for their entrance. Late in the show though after seeing that only a handful of us had made it in, did they start getting the smaller kwacha bills which was already late though. And even the usage of the media they operate to communicate the same yielded nothing.
In the first place, organisers should by now have realised that most of those that will attend such shows will have to ask for such money from their guardians who would not be convinced that a show, a musical show at that, had to demand that much.
I have ever discussed the issue of gate collections, or is it gate charges where I wondered why some big and well organised musical shows, and at very expensive venues, only demand peanuts from prospective patrons.
We looked at a show at the Blantyre Sports Club which has an uptown price tag only wanted anyone entering into the show to part with a meagre K800; and that when Makhirikhiri from Botswana lined up against Lucius Banda and Zembani they only charged K500?
The people that organised the MBC bash would argue that Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire has had ticket sell out when he had charged around this range. But I still believe it also goes down to the choice of the venue. In this case at Civo Stadium you would not charge this much.
Now some poor chicken mathematics; let’s say 100 of us entered the show and on average each paid K2, 000 what it means is that MBC managed K200, 000 in total.
But say if the gate charge was pegged at K500 may be 5000 people would have turned up and the money MBC would have carted to Mema Studios would have been K2.5 million if my mathematics is perfect.
Do we understand the audience that we work for in this case?
The Musicians association of Malawi (MAM), announced that it has established its Digital Music Recording Studio.
This is a courtesy of the Royal Norwegian Embassy that is assisting Malawi’s Support Scheme through the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA).
To borrow words of MAM’s treasurer San Msokera alias San B the-K1 million-Studio has sophisticated equipment.
He says the studio is going to make musicians move away from dependence. I will get back to this fact.
But before I do, I want to totally agree with San B who says the Studio is not different from any other studio, only that it draws its strength the professional hands that will be managing it.
It is these hands that produce high music quality.
San B says a studio may have sophisticated equipment but what matters in the end is the final product.
Now this is where I want to disagree.
High quality final product alone cannot make the musicians move away from dependence syndrome.
Only when a musician in Malawi can manage to release a single track and still manage to accumulate wealth as is the case would we say the MAM studio is worth it.
You will bear with me, but I like looking at artists like the Late Stonard Lungu. Would one take the music that he did as mediocre? I do not think so…I still believe that by our cultural, musical and quality standard, Stonard Lungu should not have died a pauper…He should not have gone on stage to sing for money that he would use for his cancer therapy.
Therefore, merely having of a studio is not ‘ENOUGH’ in itself MAM. Musicians are supposed to be protected from all abuse.
I can agree that I am jumping the gun…Perhaps the question would be how the studio will operate. How will the membership benefit from the venture? Who will be eligible to utilise the facility?
I have known how the association squabble over a number of things including gate collections.
The association does not even agree on how to utilise musical equipment that they have, what modalities would they lay down therefore to ensure that the facility really start doing what a normal studio, for a normal musical organisation should achieve.
Without creating any work plan on how best to utilise this facility, i can declare here without fear or favour that this studio is not going to last.
The association also does not have a vibrant secretariat which has to mind administrative affairs of the association which is another problem that enforces my declaration that it’s not going to last.
At the moment, the association goes to an Annual general Meeting where it elects its office bearers. What happens in this case is that when the terms of office holders expire they would still cling to their positions and then fighting rocks the body.
Now with the studio, it is clear that those the facility has found while holding positions at the moment, will never allow going. Just wait!
Skeffa’s Dirge for Mother-in-Law
I met Skeffa Chimoto at Mzuzu Central Hospital Grounds where he was with the Health Ministry Band where he plies his trade.
The reason we met was to talk about an album that had just followed his chart busting ‘Nabola Moyo’. The album in question ‘Tisawanyoze’ was what everyone at the time was saying was a flop.
It is not as if Chimoto had never graced the corridors where musicians strut; long before the famous ‘Nabola Moyo’, Skeffa had tried his hands on an album called ‘Wekha’, which did not make any mark at all. The fame that ‘Nabola Moyo’ had spawned provided the first album form of visibility although it never took any enlightening that dimmed the rest the way Nabola Moyo did.
I took Skeffa to task. Why did he produce an album ‘Nabola Moyo’ that is a household name and only to release another one ‘Tisawanyodze’ which was getting discredited due to his previous decorated work?
I remember he philosophised: “…These are some of the realities of life.”
Skeffa told me that when an album is called a flop; usually it has nothing to do with lowering standards of the production but it sometimes could be a matter of tastes.
“What happens is that when you are recording an album without any previous work, there is nowhere or nothing to compare you with, no one is expecting you and know what you can offer, so you record without any problems,” he had told me.
Now this aside I wanted to find out how he was also managing his time effectively because he is a member of the Ministry of Health band besides owning his own band called ‘Real Sounds’. And that time he had also just gotten married; meaning – his presence at home was not negotiable.
But he said since in the Health Band they work in weekdays, it is easy for him to work with his band over the weekends.
He conceded that time spent with his wife is not necessarily enough but was suitable to both.
“Marriages do not come by accident; you take your time before you engage into a married life, I believe my wife is aware that this is my job and I started doing this long before we fell in love. She has a better understanding which is far ahead of anyone else; she knows where we get our daily bread,” he had told me.
Now, Skeffa has done two things. He has produced an album that by all standards will surpass the hurricane that ‘Nabola Moyo’ caused when it terrorized the music fans.
His latest album ‘Ndife Amodzi’ has one of the best tracks, the kind that the music industry has been craving for in ‘Ndakusowa’, ‘Sungamchose’, title track ‘Ndife Amodzi’ and ‘Ulendo’ the track I intend to dwell on today.
This is a track Skeffa has made as an honour to his mother-in-law. God, the lyrics in the track are so emotive. The sequence of reasoning and the picture of dying made so vivid.
Skeffa starts by creating a scenario where a child is waking a mother up from her bed, because of hunger and the need for the ‘mum’ to get on her feet and prepare food.
Strangely, the mother is not waking up; added to this, she is surrounded by mourners who are still surprising the child with sobbing and wailing; the child is even wondering that they are taking her somewhere.
When the answers start pouring, it is established that the mother is dead, and they are taking her to a grave yard and that she never bid the child farewell because the journey was not of her own making.
What powerful music. The vocals are so upper class. Although the only dent is the reggae instrumentation which is one of the common beats.
When an artist comes up with such unique creativeness in the lyrical content and the vocal output, there is also need to cudgel the brains further so that it ushers it the best instrumental line.
Many will disagree with me because the lacking common reggae used in the song has been palliated by the strength of its lyrics and vocal presentation.
Mrs. Skeffa Chimoto, ‘Ulendo’ is enough a condolence that should indeed let you give Skeffa the Visa to go out there and let you suffer loneliness.