The Entertainment Journalist Award

When I last brushed shoulders with Lucius Banda, I never believed him when he declared that the Media in the country is contributing to the downfall of the musical growth. He cited one small aspect where Radio Stations do Newspaper Reviews. He said all the pages except, entertainment pages, are reviewed which is a mark of disregard of contributions of entertainment in the country.
On March 6, 2011, the Malawi Voice, an online publication, in conjunction with Top Citizens Events Management recognized several Malawians doing several duties in politics, sports, and entertainment.
Top Citizens Events Management, a registered public relations firm, conducted research to find out who rocked and thrilled Malawians and hit most headlines in the year 2010.
Under the Media category, they also recognised Columnist of the Year which was scooped by Raphael Tenthani who puts down socio-political satires under the banner of Muckraking on Sunday, in the Sunday Times.
Yours truly, Prof. Zungwala came second with this Drumming Pen here in Malawi News while the third spot was taken by Garry Chirwa with the column ‘If I Were’ which appears in The Nation.
I must be seen to have digressed, but my point is on the Malawi Chapter’s Media Institute of Southern Africa annual awards. Do you recognize that there are no columnists of the year?
Of course, running the Misa-Malawi awards without any best columns awards would be a forgivable sin, but it is quite unforgiving if you look at that long list of best performers and miss out entertainment writers.
I have in mind, prolific entertainment writers like James Chavula and Kondwani Kamiyala of Nation Publications Limited (NPL), and at Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) we have Sam Banda Junior, Jack Macbrams Chirwa and Clifton Kawanga who are some grand masters in weaving out beautiful pieces on entertainment pages of the company’s titles.
What is very, very funny is that the core business of media institutions is to Educate, Inform and Entertain. Mark that … Entertain…
But perhaps following the philosophy of ‘love the game, but hate the player?’ even when I see so many souls poring over pages that have entertainment stories; there seems to be nothing to show in terms of appreciating the authors as is the case with other areas.
A newspaper that has no entertainment stories is like a huge green and bubbling Mango tree that can not bear the all important mango fruits. You find that no one is interested to look at it.
Newspapers have realized that entertainment stories are a hot cake and they would highlight the top entertainment stories on the front page. Twice or thrice a week newspapers have fixated pull outs in form of supplementary entertainment publications, with equally an attractive name.
Even Prof. Zungwala, for your information, is housed in the Weekender Supplement of the Malawi News – this is one good example of an entertainment supplement.
It is therefore indisputable that we need awards for our entertainment journalists. The same as one would feel cheated when reading a newspaper that has no entertainment stories would also be equated to a bad aftertaste that is left in the mouth when a litany of media award winners is without any entertainment writer.
Entertainment is an all encompassing media discipline, where music, drama, reviews on books or other literary work and poetry, and the list is long, hogs the limelight.
Each and every weekend artists prepare to go to different entertainment centers where fun seekers go to listen and dance to both gospel and secular music.
The entertainment writer has to explain the slackness in quality output by our musician, their achievements highlighted, misfortunes told and everything happening to them and their art published.
Readership loves to read this and decide where they would want to go if weekend is approaching; likewise, when a published book has hit the bookshop shelves the entertainment writers will dissect and guide the readers which one to go for first before the other.
I remember the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) used to have programmes like ‘Tidziwane ndi Oyimba’ which is one typical example of an audio version of entertainment stories.
Several other radios have also tried to come up with initiatives to champion the entertainment beat. I am failing to paint an emotional picture, which the feelings of many people paint as they draw towards entertainment.
This is not to say I am failing to justify the case of demanding for recognition for entertainment writers…
Honestly as MISA we need to you feel that we leave some holes in the awards when we leave out a very important sector of the media that must always be recognized at events like awards presentations?
From tomorrow onwards, try to read your newspapers and skip anything that has been written on entertainment. Let all radios stop playing music and see if they will survive or if people will remain alive.
Entertainment is life. When all is done people need to unwind and this is done with entertainment. Let’s recognize our Entertainment Journalists, Please!


Where are the Lady Secular Musicians?

If you were to point out at a legendary lady musician in the country, who is into secular music, would you do that at the drop of a hat?
I would really be surprised if that were to be the case. Over a period of time if at all we have had lady musicians doing secular, then they would be a one album sort of artists.
I would not desire to go a yonder to give examples. I know you know Amina Tepatepa, Emma Masauko, Wendy Harawa, Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, and Beatrice Kamwendo as some of the names that have hogged the limelight and then either disappeared completely and got stuck in the peripherals.
If you look at our history of the late Robert Fumulanis of this world, you will find that one will be able to make a list of names that will date back to the early 1960s when music was being grooved on LP discs in Rhodesia; you will be able to have a number of names all of whom would be males.
You could be mistaken to argue that, but we had Miriam Makeba, without knowing that this is a South African.
This is a South African singer who is one of Africa’s best known voices and a champion of the fight against apartheid during three decades in exile. She earned herself the title Mama Africa.
Of course she died of a heart attack after a concert in Italy in 2008 at 76. Imagine. You also have to admire the likes of Yvonne Chakachaka and the late Brenda Fassie, some names that have made big headlines.
What are the major problems that have left our women in kitchens? Why is it that our Malawian women have either crammed themselves within the gospel confines or left at the back of the front liners under the guise of backing vocalists? Why have they been used more as waist wrigglers hiding under the banner of dancers and not be amongst the ‘Creame de la Creame’.
There has always been talk of positive discrimination or an affirmative action to allow the women whom we have pressed down to rise up for a long time to either use our backs to take the first step upwards or to stand aside and let them move forward with much ado.
Why have we not done something as a country about the female folks that have talent in music that can not blossom due to lack of suitable environment?
Much as I appreciate the challenges that our music industry is generally faced with, I would be damned if this would be the very reason that can be attributed to failure for the absence of lady musicians.
Can Musician Association of Malawi (MAM) put in place a deliberate policy where female musicians can stand side by side with the Skeffa Chimotos of this world or even a lady Lucius Banda.
It is so bad that most of the women musicians are dominating the gospel arena where they survive by the faith of such religious following other than sheer talent and creativity.
There are very few names within the gospel cycles like Grace Chinga and Ethel Kamwendo Banda and of course Favoured Sisters and the Chitheka Family who are musicians by talent first and playing gospel as a contribution of their talent towards the work of God.
This Ethel Kamwendo Banda would be marked as the most complete musician. She weathered the storm and survived as a secular musician during the Wepaz Band days. When she decided to switch ranks, very little people gave her chance looking at what was happening at the time.
But she has proved wrong all critics and doubting Thomases alike when she has not only survived in Gospel musicianship but she has as well led the way.
Imagine there was no gospel that propels most of the so called gospel musicians, would you think we were going to have anything around?
This is the point where we should have talked more…But I think I can easily link it to one write up where I wrote something about Lucius Banda being beaten by self. There I explained how parents contribute towards failure by musicians to blossom from tender age to a point where they can be respected musically.
Seriously, do we have a Malawi female musician worth mentioning? Because I don’t any name with me.

Record for Life Studio 1

Music Crossroads – I am not ready to go into any details about Music Crossroads because we have already written so many articles about the big and commendable job the institution is doing, not only in Malawi but this part of Southern Africa.
Now the institution has established what will be known, no, what is known as “Record for Life Studio 1,” in Area 23, in Capital Lilongwe. This Studio was provided and installed by UK NGO ‘In Tune for Life’ (ITFL) and it is a state-of-the-art recording studio, which is also purpose-built.
Strangely though, the studio was silently and officially launched on Friday, 1st April, 2011.
Qabaniso Malewezi is Malawi’s representative and Trustee of the In Tune for Life and says the establishment of the studio will provide an opportunity for under privileged young people to explore their musical talents in a safe and nurturing environment, where they will be the priority.
ITFL says the studio is a result of partnership with Music Crossroads which for years now has been providing music training of these young people both creatively and technically.
Gayighayi Mathews Mfune, Head of Music Crossroads Malawi says this brand new Studio was first used on March 10, 2011.
He challenged that while many Malawian musical studios, the country’s technicians and engineers are honing their skills every day that passes, there has never been a lack of capacity to record them and that this studio comes into the country’s musical life to fill this gap.
The other good aspect about the said studio is that it is not commercial driven. Most talent in the country has failed to blossom due to exorbitant studio fees.
Gayighayi also acknowledged that indeed most of the young people Music Crossroads has worked with tend not to have any money.
He says the coming onto the scene by the new studio now removes this barrier. No musician worth his or her salt should use lack of resources in this aspect as an impediment to make their musical careers grow.
In Tune for Life, is not new in Africa as it has worked all over Malawi since 2009, although they have been recording across Africa since 2007.
The good thing is that they are able to complete albums, music videos and video animations in Sierra Leone, Malawi, Kenya and DR Congo.
But the good thing with Malawi is that the in Tune for life’s partnership with Music Crossroads marks the first time they have created a permanent recording facility and the training of young Malawian producers are now using of the most up-to-date recording software and equipment.
It might look like this is just an arrangement between Mfune and Malewezi but the whole ITFL Chief Executive Officer Mark Nunn was also involved. He says he is incredibly pleased with this new partnership.
He said the collaboration with Music Crossroads has allowed them to put in place something they hope will benefit Malawi’s most deprived musicians for years.
He said UK companies gave them the equipment which they have used to record three albums in Malawi already.
He had his hands on the console and he says he loved every minute says with new studio, the good things for Malawi music has just the begun.
The three albums in that have been recorded are in the range of what are known as Titenge Udindo series.
These are featuring musicians such as Konkalaz, Body Mind and Soul, Masudie Khonje, Aliona Banda, Daughters Band, Conga Vibes and Future Kings Vibrations.
The albums have been mixed and mastered in the UK, and distributed free through Christian Aid in Lilongwe. These albums are part of a project designed to promote a social goal as well as a musical one.
The music in the albums focussed on HIV awareness and addressing some of the social issues that surround it – like domestic violence, rape and stigma.
Both the In Tune for Life and Music crossroads say all of the musicians on these albums gave their time and their talent for free, as part of the effort to achieve good health for all Malawians.
The albums, and similar socially-oriented material coming out of RFL Studio 1 in the future, will be played and distributed widely, with a strong positive effect on health knowledge in Malawi.
Malewezi insists that so far the project has been very popular so far although I am not sure how best it has been popularised.
But he says his claims are based on the response from artists which he says has been inspirational more so because everybody has been working voluntarily which created an atmosphere which was described as very positive.
The studio is a permanent fixture and the institutions behind its establishment urge Malawian youths to ensure that it is used in a positive way, for everyone.
Well I am going to put across what I think about this project in the one of my future write-ups.

Lucius Banda Beaten by Self

I was fascinated when Lucius Banda conceded that he thinks he cannot match the musical prowess that is engrossed in his four-year-old son Mapiri Bakili Banda.
While his peers would be competing for space to have a better view of Tom and Jerry or anything that kids of his age would rush for, give him a music video and he would go into trance like Luther Vandross appreciating a ‘Clockwise’ jazz video piece by George Benson.
His father is recording his latest 16th album and he can sing all the songs in the album word for word; and he is running short of critiquing the father just because of age limitation. He, at four has an urge to fiddle with musical instruments.
Michael Jackson released beautiful tracks that stormed the world at age 5 and behold Mapiri is only four.
You might think ‘Ndikubwekera’ But the reason I am seen to be mouthful with my fascination with Mapiri is because he has found a better family through which his talent will be nurtured through the passage of time and bear the music torch on behalf of Malawi.
When I learnt about Mapiri, it made me reminiscent how my parents name-called musicians and how near cursing me they would go if they heard me telling them how I wanted to be a music man.
I would gather several tins, tightening plastics across the mouth of tins of different sizes to make drums of varying sound and make a drum kit with some beaten worn out pot covers or plates that would act cymbals. Then I would be drowned in sound that I would be producing only to be jerked to life by a scorching whiplash that would send me scampering for dear life without realising what has befallen me.
Afterwards, would I then see my mother destroying my months’ long artistic toils to come up with such an impressive improvising creation of a drum kit.
Using an oil gallon that I would turn into a guitar had its perils as well, my father would not only destroy it but would ensure a small beating is done to remain a constant reminder of how schooling cannot be replaced with lowlife musical career.
Strangely, he would highly praise Mjura Mkandawire for the ‘Kunali John Chilembwe’ song on 3rd March when gathered to listen to the show or much appreciation for a church Choir at both Mendulo and Nyungwe Catholic Parishes.
I also remember to have done a number of corporal punishments for turning a desk into a drum in class in between periods.
If you now check the route that most of our musicians took, you will realise that it was through the Church Choirs because parents had no idea that one can transmigrate from choir singing persona to something else within the no go musical zone.
Vilification of musicians was the order of the day, what with the so called examples of the days of Zambian Paul Ngozi who the conservative government of late Hasting Kazumu Banda banned because he was spotting dreadlocks.
This mentality is it that caused schools in those days to let learners only parrot what their mothers sang for their Nkhoswe Number one without understanding the dynamics of music and what it can do to one’s life as a career.
Malawi is to an extent a poor country because it has unwritten culture that stifles growth of talent in the young people and the culprits are mostly parents and teachers.
Now Lucius Banda understands the heart of music and what it means to guide the talent in little Mapiri to grow into something that will makes souls dance.
It should therefore not take the father to first be an engineer before appreciating and letting the blossoming engineering skills in the children to grow.
I have argued on these pages that we need music lessons in primary through to our secondary schools; I have also drummed out loud for the introduction of music in technical colleges as a vocational calling that has to produce musicians, music producers, marketers, promoters, etc…
But this will all be in vain if parents and teachers will try to inculcate a negative attitude towards music in children.
Watch out this space next year, when Mapiri Bakili Banda will be five. Don’t say I did not warn you!!!