Malawi Cultural Centre


The closure of the French Cultural Centre which for the past 38 years was dependent on the French Embassy to Zambia and Malawi elicited a mourning that made me shudder with shame.
Unlike crying over divorce or death, the closure of the French Cultural Centre, if anything, should have made all of us celebrate.
Celebrate because, the centre’s existence was never in vain. The French’s stay in Chichiri in Blantyre should have been endearing, knowing what vast lessons had been left. With such knowledge, instead of writing mourning pieces or airing out woeful programmes for the closure we would have said:
Exit French Cultural Centre, Enter Malawi Cultural Centre.
I am aware that since the Centre had 19 staff members, including 3 full-time teachers of French and 2 part-time teachers, these would not like what is being said. But this is a different kind of perspective from where I am looking at the whole picture.
My Perspective intends to look at the two pronged mission for the centre which was to teach French language and to serve as the only cultural centre in Malawi.
The French Cultural Centre used to achieve all this by organising various events ranging from exhibitions to theatre, to concerts, poetry, gastronomy, cinema and sport throughout the year.
Of course, the reason I am writing this is on musical performance and to cap all the activities at the centre, they had what they used to call the Music Day, the Beaujolais Nouveau, on every 14th of July.
Most fellow country folks who are mourning its disappearance as well as the French themselves believed the Cultural Centre was the liveliest place in Malawi as far as cultural events are concerned.
You might be wondering why the French created a cultural centre in Malawi. To start with the culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups.
According to available literature, France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a center of high culture and of decorative arts since the seventeenth century, first in Europe, and from the nineteenth century on, worldwide.
This explains why even when they had not colonized Malawi they still made a point to come and establish their cultural Mecca in Blantyre.
The fact that the French are often perceived as taking a great pride in their national identity and the positive achievements of France whose roots delve in “chauvinism” and cultural issues are more the reason they integrate it into the body of the politics than elsewhere.
To cut a long story short, the French decided to promote what was known as assimilation where their desire was to intertwine cultures of other people with their own with a view of dominating to show the greatness of their culture.
In the process, Malawi which has no regard to create concrete institution that can posit best way of perpetuating cultural practices
The Dr. Daniel Kachambas of this world, showed the world what they were capable of doing musically at the French Cultural centre which in March 2010 also brought the Kachambas’ grand-grand children under a banner ‘hidden talent’.
Malawi’s urban musicians, producers, DJs and fans as Hidden Talent Entertainment (HTE) members Renegade and Pilgrim were launching their mix tape ‘Renegade vs. Pilgrim’.
This is just one tinniest facet of all parts that made what the Centre became since it also had performances of international luminaries such as Angelique Kidjo.
Now as a country, how do we start building on the foundation that the French have left us?
How ironic, Malawi is musically and otherwise failing to display her own culture right here in Malawi and the whole country is failing to appreciate and learn from a European country that trekked to here to establish the same.
Since this is all ours now, I think this provides some fertile ground to start planting seeds of progress. We could start with a one-stop musical cultural centre.
Here, we could get to know who Dr. Kachamba was, what music Stonald Lungu played, how Michael Mukhitho Phiri managed a number instruments when churning out his music.
What drove the MBC and the Chichiri Queens? Why the Police Ochestra did make such a big name? How did Kalimba and Makasu conquer the international market?
This would also be the place to sample music from Ben Mankhamba, Agorosso, Wambali, Peter Mawanga and yes, Lucious Banda and all the latter artists currently hogging the limelight.
This could as well start by copying what French Cultural centre used to do to musicians and their fans. Malawi Cultural Centre I say.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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Beef Makes Malawi’s Hip Hop Retrogressive


A friend of mine Limbani ‘LC’ Chaguluka is an accomplished fellow in as far as the Malawi music urban history is concerned. He took offence when I discussed Urban Music on these pages here and mentioned a group of artists that I will not mention, as having started the urban music journey in the country.

According to LC, the urban music which has its base in Hip Hop can be traced back to the days of veteran rappers Criminal – A with what was known as his deep, calm serene voice.

Well, I want us to talk about HIP HOP beef and this could easily be mistaken for meat or something.

What is HIP HOP Beef? This is to be in a state of war with someone…or a rivalry. Like A few years back Eminem and The Insane Clown Posse had beef with each other.

This is in this sense helps to improve creativity as one would always try to be very innovative so that they can outdo the other.

Remember there was ‘PATS’ Entertainment Centre near cross roads deep down Blantyre City. This is where Rap and Ragga competitions used to take place among several issues.

Groups that had beef with each other in the country, especially in Blantyre, they would argue near fighting at this venue.

LC remembers with fond memories a competition where one rapper had to be declared a winner of a well organized rap show that was in December 1995, four days prior to Christmas day.

But he thinks since 1990’s Malawian Hip-hop music has gradually been accepted among the old and young listeners, especially in 2009, when most of the rappers accepted the grim reality that the only way they can break into the main stream market was to rhyme in our native language ‘Chichewa’.

To him, this strategy seems to have worked with ‘emcees’ like Young Kay and Tay Grin who are enjoying a significant air play on our local radio stations.

LC is wondering if there is anything anymore, causing feud between rappers? Or in Hip-hop circles commonly known as ‘beef’.

Hip-hop inherently is a competitive genre, and this can be evidently be proven by citing its own elements which constitute this beautiful culture.

Hip-hop comprises of four main elements, and these are Emceeing, Graffiti, Breaking and Dee-jaying, and of course the new element

‘Entrepreneurship’ which was included, to be in synch with new direction of Hip-hop culture.

Battle free styles and break dancing are some elements which promotes a quite considerable competition in this culture.

However, this element promotes what we call healthy competition in order to lever the game and promote the craft.

But Malawian rappers, American rappers, and the whole Hip-hop industry seems to have lost direction by embracing this ‘virus’ called beef, that it Is part of Hip-hop culture.

This feud synonymously called ‘Beef’ in Hip-hop circles won’t help anyone promoting this infant culture locally; as a result it is only derailing the advancement of the culture in Malawi.

As much LC understands that some rappers are not keeping it ‘real’ thus in terms of not conforming to the principles of Hip-hop, he thinks we just have to accept that all rappers can’t be good, as such beefing someone because he is more entrepreneurial, and making some fortune out of this culture is retrogressive.

Puffy Daddy has made millions of dollars by being a mediocre rapper, he is an entrepreneur and nobody can dispute the fact that he using one element of Hip-hop ‘Entrepreneurship’.

In our case let everybody release the music, as we advance people will get acquainted with artist’s who are doing true Hip-hop, who is in game for fame, and of course who is doing this music for self glorification.

Let someone who is on commercial tip like Tay grin release his music, and let people like Third eye who are doing hardcore Hip-hop release it too.
At the of the day who are you to judge someone that you understand the craft better than the other artist?

Both dimensions of the music currently being produced are good for the progress of our local Hip-hop culture, regardless of the grittiness of the music being realized.

In 1994 a group called Black life had leader who his followers got inspired and would listen to most of his advice, including staying away from petty issues like rap feuds, his name is King Baywell C.

There were also rappers like Prince E and Tackie T who also had a substantial command from the other side of the town of Blantyre city.

These men for being in the rap game for quite some time commanded a huge respect from rookies to old rappers.

These rappers squashed a lot of beefs which culminated from petty beefs.

They did understand and knew the essence of eliminating ‘‘beef ‘for sake of progress and to catapult the image of Hip-hop, which is mostly tainted with obscene language, degradation of women and violence.

The question now in 2010 is, who can act like leaders to settle this rap disputes? for example let’s take rappers like Junior -C or Dominant -1, who have been practicing the art for the last 15 years , and we may regard these rappers as veterans among the current group of rappers .

LC wonders whether they have the respect and command which the old veterans displayed in the 1990’s, thus to say , can they act as mediators and settle this disputes which are too retrogressive for Malawian Hip-hop industry ?
Feed back: drummingpen@columnist.com

MAM STUDIO DRAMMA UNFOLDING


Weeks ago I predicted that there will be trouble brewing with the coming in of the Studio for the Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM).

For some of you who is not in tune with what the Pen is trying to drum out, let me put you in the picture.

MAM got a Digital Music Recording Studio courtesy of the Royal Norwegian Embassy that is assisting Malawi’s Support Scheme through the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA).
MAM’s Treasurer San Msokera alias San B the said during the unveiling of the same that the K1 million-Studio has sophisticated equipment.
He then said the studio is going to make musicians move away from dependence.
Now soon after the article had run, a number of musicians have been sending me complaints over how the facility is managed.

One musician said the way it has been arranged is like there is no studio for MAM at all because the charges for recording at the facility are not favouring the membership.

In essence there is no profit that individual musicians will benefit from the studio and he laughed off suggestion from San B that the facility is to help them move away from dependence.

Then the other artists that went there say the facility’s equipment is mediocre and this will not make the studio compete with established ones that have better equipment.

Already this will be a minus as without any favours that should go with being a member, even association members who strive for quality will have to think twice before they record there.
It is not clear, read me well here, the kind of procurement that were followed before purchasing the equipment at the MAM studio.

Usually if better procurement is followed, quality equipment can elude those given the responsibility to buy as no temptations to buy cheap equipment and keep the change comes to mind.

MAM studio, I am told, has a condenser microphone and studio monitors that are on one side and while on the other side there is Desktop Computer, a mixer and a keyboard.

But as if this is not enough, without even getting views of the MAM membership on how they want the studio to run, some few selected officials have started dictating what is supposed to be the modus operandi.

As a member driven association, it is high time MAM sat down and elect members in its positions who should equally have the welfare of musicians at heart. The current scenario unfolding is not suggesting encouraging characters of leadership.

Music being what it is should not make its creators poor as is the case with our own artists. In more African countries today, the music industry has thrived so successfully that you cannot even question its management.

In Malawi it is a pity that music is still making those who create it, take it an activity engaged to pass time, other than a career.

What is more disturbing is that the body that is there to help musicians is in fact ripping them off.

Proof is when elections are nearing, you find that they will still cling to their positions; the question to ask is why? As a member driven association, it has to be up to members to look within its inner self and elect people that should steer it to a height that should make each and every musician respectable.

The way the studio facility should be the starting point. Members of the association should be the first ones to help themselves, other than waiting for the Professor to do your job.

Feed back: drummingpen@columnist.com

CALLISTA MUTHARIKA DRAWING SALARY FOR A CHARITABLE CAUSE


Taxpayers in Malawi are paying First Lady Madame Callista Mutharika over a million Kwacha every month as a salary for her appointed role as National Coordinator for Safe Motherhood for Malawi.

Documents sourced show that the amount translates to twelve million four hundred and eighty kwacha per year for the role for which she has been given a three year contract to run until April, 2013.

Findings show that the previous office bearer Vice President Mrs. Joyce Banda did not draw any salary for the assignment which is largely considered charity work.

Besides her entitlements as First Lady of Malawi, Madame Callista Mutharika is also drawing millions in salaries as National coordinator for Safe Motherhood for Malawi according to available contract papers.
The contract, which does not stipulate her exact duties, indicates that she reports to the president.

Madame Mutharika has lately been engaged in a series of assignments on safe motherhood in Malawi for which her contract says she has to have access to a chauffer driven saloon and 4 x 4 vehicle, cell-phone, electricity and water paid for and is also expected to draw leave grants and gratuity in the end.

According to the contract, the First Lady’s contract expires after 36 months beginning May 1, 2010.

In documents in our possession, the First Lady is requesting salary arrears amounting six million Kwacha.

It is, however, not clear in the contract documents how the performance of the National Coordinator for Safe Motherhood would be assessed and determined.

The concept of a National Coordinator for safe Motherhood in Malawi was drawn from that of the national Goodwill Ambassador for Safe Motherhood initiated by the Africa Union Conference of Ministers of Health in 2005.

The first office bearer in Malawi was Mrs. Joyce Banda, the Vice president, before President Bingu wa Mutharika assigned First Lady Madame Callista to take up the responsibility instead.

In Malawi, the office occupant was expected to expand the knowledge of the presidency and all four arms of government; the private sector, civil society including the church regarding the situation of maternal health in Malawi and its socio-economic impact on the society.

When Mr. Tumalisye Ndovie was appointed ACB director and continued to draw his benefits as a senior police officer, government ordered that doing so was inappropriate and withdrew one set of benefits.

Behold, Tear Gass has Re-busted


Those of you who know how music, modern music in the country emerged on the scene just soon after the disciplinarian authority of the first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda will testify that there emerged a group of hippies that took advantage of the freedom.
Not that these hippies were spot on to the meaning of the word, but they had courage to bring Ragga in a country where everything musical was dismissed with disdain and this made other heads turn and wanted to take them seriously.
Names like Dr. Lizard and Tear Gas were the names that made headlines. Then with the coming in of 101 Power FM which brought into the country Jamaican Reggae artists of highest repute, the fusion with such daring characters promised the music industry the moon.
But suddenly there was just a dearth any of these guys and their kind. While Dr. Lizard real name Malumbo Chisiza had passed away, Tear Gas was completely gone and allowed us to unmask our faces to practically look for him.
Tear Gas, real name Leonard Chongwe thinks times has come for musical Journey to continue, and as he bust back right in front of your faces, you better cover you faces as he is here again to make your eyes wet with tears of excitement.
The Tear Gas took time off do Private Lessons to Learn to Play Guitars, Keyboards & music Production online to better express itself musically.
I was amazed when I tuned in to BBC Focus on Africa on January 27, 2010; there he was Tear Gas blazing the airwaves.

This prompted me to find out where he was exactly after enjoying massive support and recognition he concedes that he was overwhelmed and decided to reflect on his music and the Vision that he initially had. This prompted him to change it to contribute positively to the Masses and therefore he has completely turn a new page as the message in this New Album is all about The Love of God, man and knowing his or her purpose in life.

Dr. Lizard still consider the work he did with the Late Doc Lizard, Tackie T, the Late Junior Manning & others as benchmark which he is still using as the Stepping stone for a better and bigger vision for the music to come.

If you think he is lying just get ready for his new album “Reporting For Duty” which will be launched this February.

Although he has thrown out a little bit of the hoarse DJ voice that was Tear Gass of then now he has adopted what is known as a SingJay posture and apparently it looks he becomes the other first for Malawi.

Which is not strange though, if you look at his bacjground. Tear Gass lived most of his childhood Years in the State of UTAH, Salt Lake City (USA), where he started singing at a very young age at Maranatha Baptist Church.

As was the case during the first second republic days in Malawi, Tear Gass made his debut in the music world through Rap & Ragga Contests that besieged Malawi then and rose to notable recognition through his Hit “Warning Dem Still” (1997).

He then became a regular guest on Ragga Street on MBC’s Radio 2FM manned by DJ Tay B (Tailosi Bakili) in the late 90’s; well, I think one of these days I will trace Tay B and find out what he is currently doing musically. It has been a while for him as well.

Tear Gass’s debut Album “Togetherness”, was a major Hit remember, when it was going back to back with Dr. Lizard’s Mama and of course Anne Matumbi’s ‘Greetings Malawi’ .
When Tear Gass became part of the team of the late Great Junior Manning and they curtain raising the two major shows by Jamaican Artists like Jesse Jenda and Ibo Cooper of Third World, Chrisinti and Iquala Rastafari among others.

Tear Gas disputes that he went into hibernation musically asn he says since the release of his last Album, he has been producing music for other Artists.

Now that he had gone into recess he has come back a better artist as plays several instruments including Keyboards, Piano and Guitar.

And the Gass which has fallen for the Bass Guitar with mentors like Benjy Myaz and influences from the Late Dennis Emmanuel Brown, and Evison Matafale, then my warning is to you is to just watch out for the MUSICAL TEAR GASS…It is here to make you weep with joy…
Feed Back: drummingpen@columnist.com