Nowhere to flow for Mzuzu Milk


Efforts to value add the milk

By Gregory Gondwe

Dairy farmers in the North are said to be producing over 7 thousand litres of milk which has no market.

The farmers who operate under the Mpoto Dairy Farmers Association (MDFA) are 800 in total and are grouped in 14 milk bulking groups.

Initially, the farmers were delivering their milk to processing companies in Central Region as well as the Northern Region, which was nonetheless still not helpful to them as there was either no benefit for their efforts or hope for the future.

Losing out to Non-Payment

While at the region’s sole Northern Dairy the company had no capacity to take in all the milk, at the Lilongwe plants, the companies there were only good at collecting the milk but very bad at paying for it.

After the money accumulated to excess of millions, MDFA sued the Lilongwe based companies that had to be paying them through the court which was an experience the farmers vowed never to repeat.

Dropping the Milk Teeth

Eventually such experience helped MDFA to drop the milk teeth and allow for the growth of teeth that would allow them chew their way through hurdles and achieve some form of success.

They acquired a mini-milk processing plant.

The Regional Association Manager Edward Kalukusha Mwale, now in charge of the plant, said the facility is however only managing to utilise 600 litres out of the over 7 thousand litres farmers produce, which sometimes get wasted due to intermittent power supply.

“Half a loaf is better than none,” he assures himself. “For the start, we think we are on a good note. It takes somebody to put up an idea like that and then see how you grow. But our aim is to answer questions like how do we grow? How do we expand?” he said.

He said there is an illuminating light at the end of the tunnel considering where they have come from and where they would want to go next.

“We started with 60 litres of milk a day now we are around 600 litres a day. We feel quite a good number of farmers in our bulking groups are benefiting and this has attracted the attention of all other farmers who were vending and are now bringing their milk to us,” he said.

Mwale also pointed out that even in the face of such a promising future challenges are cluttered all over.

“The major challenge now is how we process all this milk when in fact we can only process a capacity of a thousand litres a day. Now we are thinking that if we manage this one very well, we should be able to expand and then see how we can diversify; do products diversification to process – may be ice cream, the yoghurt and the like; so we are hoping in the near future we should be somewhere,” said a colour dreaming Mwale.

Production against Electricity

The farmers said the over 7,000 litres of milk which they bulk is not giving them maximum benefit due to lack of market and a suitable facility to manage the supply and even when such development forced them to acquire a mini-milk processing plant, running it has brought in more challenges.

“We are still forced to look for market for the surplus which our association cannot take up, which they usually vend it through the market and homes of people within the city and the surrounding areas,” explains Samson Kawonga who is MDFA’s Secretary General.

He says this is the road they do not desire to travel for long, although even the litres that they give to the plant are sometimes not beneficial to them as the milk goes bad due to power blackout.

You can imagine we are a farmers company. The milk comes here; we process it here. But with the constant black outs are having terrible problems in processing our milk,” Mwale agreed with his association boss.

With such intermittent power outage, the farmers started losing faith in their investment as Kawonga rightly says that it was disheartening; and things had only to wait until the World University Services of Canada (WUSC) brought them an electricity generator set in an attempt to rescue them from their situation.

“The coming in of the gen set is a boost; as what it means is that we will have to process all the time. It’s up to us to process 24 hours, 12 hours or six hours; we are very safe because the milk will not go sour,” said Mwale.

This year, Dr. Jacob Mapemba WUSC Country Director handed over the generator worth 300 thousand kwacha to the farmers and told Northern Life that his institution has always been involved with the growth of this farmers’ association.

“We have a volunteer programme that focuses on HIV/AIDS and agriculture in Malawi. In agriculture sector we work with farmers’ organisation and Mpoto Dairy Farmers Association is one of the farmers’ organisations that we are working with,” explained Dr. Mapemba.

MDFA WUSC Cooperation

He said in the past they have brought to MDFA volunteers in animal health, marketing and various issues to build their capacity in production and marketing issues.

“However we realised that MDFA in the quest of providing market for the milk in the northern region started a mini processing plant because they are producing over 6 thousand litres of milk but there is no market. We thought it was a good initiative as regards what they had started but they still had a challenge that when there was power blackout most of the milk would go sour and they would lose the milk,” explained Dr.  Mapemba.

WUSC decided to donate the gen set to help the farmers avoid any wastage and any loss in terms of income by keeping the milk cool.

Dr. Mapemba disclosed that the volunteer programme is being funded by Canada International Development Agency – CIDA. He said they have used over 300 thousand kwacha of such resources to purchase the gen set.

Valuing the Relationship in Monetary Terms

The doctor then explained how much worth their relationship with MDFA is, in terms of resources pumped so far.

WUSC has in the past brought in volunteers. One such volunteers stayed for a year, while another one stayed for four months.

“For your information, to keep a volunteer for one year thus including living cost and air ticket it costs 30 thousand Canadian dollars that translate to over 3 million Malawi kwacha,” he said.

Production against Fuel

The other anticipated challenge is the fuel shortage that has slapped Malawi in the face and seems to have become her permanent visitor.

“We are very much aware of the fuel problems and this is a challenge we are anticipating,” Mwale acknowledged.

But he said they have a plan in store where they are planning to be buying the fuel in bulk and keep it somewhere for emergencies, since there are blackout time and again.

Future for a Dairy farmer

Mwale still says the plant is the farmer’s dairy factory. It’s up to the farmer to take their milk to the bulking centres, so that this milk is processed there and then sold.

“The benefits they reap will be immense because it will always go back to them. It’s not like a private processor who will maximise too much on the profit and make them slave for no benefits at all. All we are doing here is to ensure that they get the profits by giving them back home. With such resources they will support veterinary services, AI programmes, to support extension services in the rural areas where they are keeping these animals,” he explains in good breath.

Government Worry with the Situation

But Government says it is worried that the milk that the farmers produce might reduce in quantity considering that it has nowhere to flow due to lack of market and capacity to process all the milk that is processed.

Chief Animal Health and Livestock Officer for Mzuzu Agriculture Development Division Mr. Levison Allidu Banda said something has to be done.

“Companies have to come to Mzuzu and rescue the situation but more still, we depend on you the media to assist us helping our farmers,” said Allidu Banda.

With the problems the country is facing with her tobacco, government could perhaps look at other means of maximising productivity by investing more in sectors like dairy industry, where farmers say are not encouraged enough.

Waiting for a Good Samaritan to come is nothing but lack of commitment displayed by government which is apparently setting her priorities upside down.

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Demystifying the Toyota Malawi Services


View of Totota Malawi Mzuzu Branch

By Gregory Gondwe

Mere mention of Toyota Malawi makes vehicle owners in the country shudder with fear, in the belief that the company is here to ensure that it sweeps all their monies and leave them to suffer in destitution.

Toyota Malawi Branch Manager for Mzuzu Chris Gadi says this has been their experience as well four years after opening operations in Mzuzu and two years after occupying their majestic offices and workshop.

“There is a misconception that suggests that Toyota Malawi is for government, companies and organisations, this is the reason we have had patronage from these institutions while no individual would bring their vehicles here,” said Gadi.

He says they are now targeting individuals where they would want to encourage them to bring their vehicles to Toyota Malawi without any fears whatsoever.

Toyota Malawi, especially Mzuzu Branch has so much to offer according to Wilson Banda, the Workshop Manager.

Mobile Clinic Services

Banda says they have this service at the disposal of not only organisations, companies or government agencies but individuals as well.

“When customers feel like they cannot take their vehicle to a Toyota Malawi workshop, they can just call us and then we can go to where the vehicle is, be it at the office or the resident of the car owner and do anything that is required on it,” explained Banda.

He said currently this service is being hundred percent utilised by Paladin Africa Limited.

Banda says since the company situated at Kayelekera in Karonga has a fleet of Toyota Vehicles and since it becomes cumbersome to drive such many vehicles to Mzuzu Toyota Malawi, they instead take the mobile services clinic van to Kayelekera.

“It is also cost effective considering expenses and downtime when a fleet owner takes vehicles to our service centers from as far as Karonga,” he said.

Environmental Conscious

The question could be that, if we allow Toyota Malawi to come to our offices or houses wont they mess up the environment?

The answer is NO, because once they are on your door steps, they will not only service your fleet but they will also take care of the environment.

“We strictly observe best environmental practices where we have a disposal system of oils and all other removed parts,” quipped Gadi.

Banda explained that all used oils that are drained from the vehicles flows through different pipes within the workshop and is stored in one tank where other firms whose products depend on such oils do come to reuse it.

Likewise when cleaning vehicles, since the availability of oils cannot be ruled out, they have a sieving system called ‘oil separators’ that only allows water to pass but the oils are automatically retained in specially designed waste tanks.

Banda further explained that what they do with all other wastes is that they use or have used dumping bins which are collected by the Mzuzu City Council.

Gadi said there is need for the individual customers to come to their premises and find on how they can work together with Toyota Malawi.

Toyota Malawi touts itself that better customer treatment is Toyota Malawi’s hallmark of quality service.

The company says their dedicated and professional front line staffs has put it in a position where it is geared to provide excellent customer service and professional advice on all their motoring needs.

“Checking a person’s vehicle is free and we also provide free consultancy on what customers can do with their vehicles,” said Gadi.

 

Toyota Malawi also boasts of trained technicians through Toyota Motor Corporation training Programs in all specialist dimensions of Toyota engineering.

The company says this is to ensure that vehicles for customers are serviced to the highest standards.

Toyota Malawi says these standards are achieved through constant ongoing training in advanced technologies in electronics and mechanical product development.

State-of-the Art Service Centre

The reason Toyota Malawi Service Centres are state-of-the-art facilities designed specifically for all Toyota vehicles maintenance requirements could be proven when one pays a visit to a similar centre in Mzuzu City.

Well, the only thing that is not available at the centre is the Showroom.

Gadi acknowledges that this has come with its own attendant problems like lack of knowledge from customers that one can buy a Toyota vehicle right in Mzuzu.

“People from the region still travel to Blantyre and Lilongwe to buy vehicles when they can do likewise right here. In fact, the prices and all the conditions are the same,” said Gadi.

On the Mzuzu Toyota Malawi’s service aspect, the place is fully equipped to support technicians in all their product range that they supply to their customers.

As such Mzuzu has a capacity of handling 400 units per month and 20 vehicles per day.

Wheel Alignment Machine

Mzuzu Centre has a computerised wheel alignment machine where your vehicle is hoisted some metres high and the rest of the job is done by robot-like equipment controlled by a computer.

In case the feeling that this service is for Toyota vehicles only is very present in your mind, but please do away with it because tasks such as wheel alignment can be performed on other models that are non Toyotas.

Mzuzu Toyota Malawi says these specialized jobs can also be done alongside the Toyota vehicle as long as the customer contacts Toyota Service Advisor or Workshop Manager for further details.

Genuine Parts

Quality parts are like wise going alongside genuine parts and accessories whenever your vehicle is undergoing maintenance at the centre.

One major advantage with Toyota parts is that it ensures your vehicle’s safety, reliability and durability.

Toyota Genuine Parts come with a full Toyota factory warranty which gives you total peace of mind. This warranty looks at either 6 months or 20,000km of work.

Even when individuals are afraid of approaching Toyota Malawi, but the company says it provides competitive pricing on service and repairs which give the customers value for money.

The motoring company says its quality service is priced at a very reasonable rate which always gives customers not only value for money  but has numerous long term benefits such as  high  resell value which makes great economic sense.

“We also tailor make service packages for individual customers with one or two vehicles,” says Gadi.

One cannot ask for anything better, Toyota Malawi says it provided free service up to 25,000 km to all customers who purchased vehicles from 1st April 2011.

They also observe what they call standard service menu where prices have not changed despite the current economic situation.

“You will find our prices displayed in all our service centres including Mzuzu,” says …

She says they now have an extended warranty from 50,000km/2 years to 100000km/3 years whichever comes first.

They also ensure that they not only enter service contracts with customers but full maintenance contracts as well.

Gadi also says there is a 20% discount on parts for all customers coming through their workshop.

Toyota Malawi has also what is called Global Electronic parts catalogue which enables them to supply any part for any Toyota vehicle irrespective of its origin.

They also host a fleet management facility that includes; priority maintenance administration; well maintained vehicles; quarterly reports such as cost /kilometre, fleet ageing and recommendations at no extra cost.

The facility has lower fleet overheads and running costs as well as providing fleet visits to address customers concerns.

Gadi challenges that all this is done at very fair prices and all one has to do is just go to Toyota Malawi and ask.

Chakufwa Chihana, the Forgotten Warrior


Chihana: The Forgotten Hero

By Gregory Gondwe
Chakufwa Tom Chihana is a name that is associated with multiparty politics of Malawi when the talk is in different shade where politicians are trying to out-do each other with some politicking.
He is a man who until his death, the northern region where he came from, stopped taking him seriously. This is the reason they kept decreasing number of parliamentarians that he took with him to parliament.
Chakufwa, the Czar

Chakufwa as he was and still is fondly called, is the only political party leader who was being referred to as ‘Czar’ for his party the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD).
When you try to look any the meaning of the word ‘Czar’ you will get more confused with Chakufwa Chihana as he, according to the Malawi media, is the only one who earned this title.
To start with, ‘Czar’ in political sense is sometimes spelt like ‘Tsar’ and is an informal title for certain high-level officials.
It is commonly used in the United States and United Kingdom.
Wikipedia says political czars can run or organize governmental departments, and may devote their expertise to a single area of work.
The “czars” have various official titles such as adviser, director, administrator, or diplomatic envoy, but such titles are often quite long or awkward sounding.
In the United States, czars are generally executive branch officials appointed by the President either with Senate approval or without it.
Some appointees outside the executive branch are called czars as well. Specific instances of the term are often a media creation.
In the United Kingdom, the term tsar is more loosely used to refer to high-profile appointments who devote their skills to one particular area.
The czar term derives from the title Tsar which was used to designate the Russian, Bulgarian or Serbian monarchs of pre-World War I Europe.
It says during the latter stages of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson appointed financier Bernard Baruch to run the War Industries Board. This position was sometimes dubbed the ‘industry czar’.
“One of the earliest known metaphorical usages of the term in the U.S. were to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was named commissioner of baseball, with broad powers to clean up the sport after it had been dirtied by the Black Sox scandal of 1919,” says Wikipedia.
In 1926, it says, a New York City chamber of commerce named what the New York Times termed a “czar” to clean up the milk delivery industry.
In the United States, the term czar has been used by the media to refer to appointed executive branch officials since at least 1930s and then the 1940s under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1942, The Washington Post reported on the “executive orders creating new czars to control various aspects of US wartime economy.
“Positions were created for a transportation czar, a manpower czar, a production czar, a shipping czar, and a synthetic rubber czar, all to solve difficult problems in coordinating the resources necessary to fight World War II,” says Wikipedia.
Now, how come Chakufwa Chihana was an AFORD Czar? Perhaps this could go down to the way he controlled the party; with an iron fist, more so when the party became a northern region bloc within which Chakufwa exercised unappointed powers that had unconfirmed but confined jurisdiction.

Chakufwa, the Democratic Activist

In fact the road for Chakufwa started with his trade unionism where he led the labour struggle with vigour but then this altered into pro-democracy activism.
Chakufwa Chihana lived between 23 April 1939 to 12 June 2006 and in the 67 years that he existed on earth it was the last 14 years that Malawians knew who he was.
Not that he had never been involved in politics in the tender years of his life, no, but that his courage to challenge Malawi’s first President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda made him what the rest of the world call ‘Father of democracy in Malawi’ although within, attempts have been made to re-write the history.
Chakufwa Chihana remains an enigma when it comes to many descriptions that one would get when you enquire about him.
At Chombe where he was running a lakeshore resort, there are legends about Chakufwa ‘who they say is the father of many’.
At political level, starting with his party AFORD where he is said to be the father and founder, his demise completely mangled the party into something unrecognisable. It has been electing leaders that are merely figureheads and still failing to fit into the shoes of Chakufwa.
At national level he also remains the only person to ever hold the position of Malawi’s second vice president.
Apart from the Bishops who did it collectively, Chakufwa is the first person to also openly challenge Dr. Kamuzu Banda’s despotic regime and this is the reason he is the only one in Malawi to ever have been awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1992.

Chikufwa, the Trade Unionist
Chihana was born in Rumphi district in Mhuju area, at Kawiruwiru Village, in the Northern Region of Nyasaland before it became Malawi.
His father died when he was young and he was raised by his mother, an activist for local women. Chakufwa was fond of reminding all his meetings about his mother, a Nyausowoya – Nyatekenyu.
He used to say without her, surely he would not have been learned. And indeed after his secondary school, he worked for the colonial government and became active in the 4000-strong Commercial General Union, a Trade Union.
At a tender age of 19 Chakufwa became the union’s publicity secretary and magazine editor.
The following year, he was made secretary-general of the Trade Union and became so active in campaigns involving Malawi Railways and the Imperial Tobacco group.
Afterwards he consolidated his positions with studies at Oslo and Dubrovnik universities and received a Masters in Politics at Bradford University.
He worked as a lecturer at the University of Botswana afterwards but the trade unionism spirit was still adamant in him and in 1985, he became a co-founder and secretary- general of the Southern Africa Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC).
Chakufwa, the Political Prisoner

As early as 1970 Chihana was detained upon his return from exile and suffered incarceration of torture for seven years where five of such years he spent in solitary confinement.
In fact from the onset, it was clear that Chakufwa’s spirit was far from being apolitical.
At the time he was busy with trade unionism, he also joined the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) but as Dr. Kamuzu Banda began to consolidate his power after his presidency, Chihana continued to be pro-independent trade unionist and pro-democrat.
He was consequently dismissed from the MCP. He was ordered into internal exile and assaulted and he was hacked with an axe that was left sticking deep into his skull and thrown in some bushes in Nkhatabay.
It was a Catholic Priest who found him, treated him and helped him escape to Kenya.
While in Kenya Chakufwa continued to criticize Kamuzu Banda while at the same time working as an adviser to the Kenya Federation of Labour.
In 1992, he led the underground movement to topple Kamuzu and when he came to challenge him openly, he was arrested at the airport and was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour for sedition.
He was however released in June 1993 on the eve of Malawi’s referendum to decide whether to introduce multi-party democracy.
Chakufwa, the Brave Warrior

The reason the northern region still looks up to Chakufwa Chihana as a brave political warrior was among other things the speech he made at a Press Conference in South Africa the very day he was coming to Malawi to challenge Kamuzu.
When you look at the video of the Press Conference now, which is in possession of NorthernLife, one wonders what went wrong.
In the preamble of the conference Chakufwa who strongly believed he will be killed by Dr. Banda declared:
“This is my last Press Conference in Freedom.”
“I am returning to Malawi today with an aim of helping to restore human rights and democracy in the country,” said Chakufwa flanked by Dr. Mapopa Chipeta, the late, a political scientist who was working at Southern African Political Studies based in Harare and Ahmed Dassuo at that time a London resident.
“I am quite aware that a warrant of arrest is out in Malawi and I may be arrested immediately I step out of the plane. But I am not frightened at all, I think we have a mission to accomplish and this mission will have to be accomplished, whether there is a warrant of arrest, whether there is death waiting for me, my colleagues will continue with the struggle,” explained Chakufwa.
Not that he was not afraid of Dr. Banda as he said: “Although I am apprehensive, but I am not frightened and my arrest or death can only fuel the struggle for the restoration of democracy and our basic human rights in Malawi, therefore it will not be in vain.”
The message that Chihana had was that for a long time Malawi has suffered terrible repression because it was surrounded by Marxist governments and the West paid a blind eye to the dictatorial tendencies in the country because she was the West blue eyed boy.
“The destiny of Malawi therefore cannot be left in the hands of Dr. Banda or John Tembo alone,” declared Chihana. “For me to say such thing now is regarded as treasonous by those who hold power in my country.”
Chakufwa the Political Prostitute

Chihana who upon his arrest in 1992 served nine out of the twenty-four months he was sentenced to serve was appointed leader of the first Pressure Group in the country the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD), which was instrumental in Banda’s agreement to a referendum, held on 17 June 1993.
This was the turning point as the following year Malawi went to the general polls having decisively rejected the one-party rule in the referendum.
“Democracy is irreversible now in Malawi. We are going to have a new Malawi, and no one can stop the change,” this is Chihana’s oft quoted remark coming after the referendum victory.
As the founder and leader of the political movement AFORD which became a political party once it became legal to establish political parties in Malawi, he contested in the 1994 elections, but tumbled since the voting pattern followed the voters’ region of origin.
Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) emerged victorious while Dr. Banda’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP), lost power to Muluzi but came second while AFORD) came third.
UDF did not muster a majority in parliament and therefore coaxed AFORD to be their bed fellows and changed the constitution to give Chihana the position of the Second Vice President.
Chihana served as Vice-President under President Bakili Muluzi from 1994 to 1996 and then left government claiming UDF government was corrupt.
“Munganya uyu nkhamanyanga yaye[I never used to know this man],” said Chihana when he justified his decision to move out of the coalition government. In 1999 elections he took AFORD to the MCP camp where he was running mate for Gwanda Chakuamba who was the MCP torch bearer. This ticket lost mysteriously to Muluzi who was elected for a second and final term.

He re-emerged as the second vice President between 2003 and 2004 and said when the people questioned him: ” Ine chakurata chane ntchakuti nisukhunye khuni kuti yembe ziwe, kuti imwe musolenge waka nakulyanga” [My aim is to shake the mango tree so that the fruits can fall down and you can just be picking them and eat]”.

This earned him the title of a political prostitute.

He was also part of the coalition government that President Bingu wa Mutharika put up soon after winning the presidency on a UDF ticket in 2004. He fell out of grace with Mutharika and he was fired as Agriculture and Food Security Minister after protesting Mutharika’s ill treatment of Muluzi.

Chakufwa and the last Journey

On the May 14, 2006, Mrs. Christine Chihana, wife to Chakufwa informed the Office of the President and Cabinet that Chihana was unwell and he had been feeling unwell for the previous 4 weeks.
Government doctors at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital assessed the medical condition of Chihana, and recommended he be immediately flown to South Africa for specialist medical attention.
Chihana was flown to South Africa on Tuesday 16th May 2006 and was admitted at Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg, where he later had brain surgery on 18th May 2006.
Right Honourable Dr. Chakufwa Chihana sadly died on the morning of June 12, 2006 at 0800 hrs while still in hospital.
Although Chihana was accorded a State Funeral his grave site where he is sleeping all alone at the Hill Top in Mzuzu, near the Reserve Bank and Nation Bank has become a bone of contention between the family and government. There is fight over who should take care of the place.
The same way as his gravesite has been neglected is the same way that he has been politically forgotten.

Songs on Fuel Shortage


There is what is known as Freedom ofExpression. This also goes with expressive art, music is thus supposed to bethis work of art.
Would you say that most of the music thatour artists have given us resonates with the general feeling of the populace?
Before I answer this question, let me seekyour pardon as I will in these past weeks be referring to Jamaica, more sobecause I know it is past the musical experimenting stage, if the success thecountry has chalked with its music is anything to go by.
There has been a genre that, like a batonstick has been handing over the authority of ruling the dancehall from ska toskalites to reggae which has now had its attendant off-springs in the name ofRagga also referred to as dancehall.
What propelled dancehall to stardom overreggae which sits on its couch of wisdom and preservation is its tendency tosing about now.
There are numerous problems that have rockedour country Malawi’s economy and by extension this has badly affected thelivelihood of the masses.
If you check how lives have been lostbecause an ambulance could not go to pick up a pregnant woman due to lack offuel; how drugs were never in hospitals [like are there now]; how farming hasbeen greatly affected because the fuel that was supposed to transportfertilisers and other farm inputs was never available.
And although the list of woes is endless,you would really be surprised how they would be kept under wraps. On one hand,in the government we have those that are keeping our purse called the ‘ruling’and on the other, those ensuring that this money is made to do its rightfuluse, called ‘opposition’.
Both these sides will pretend to be sidingwith the people who are feeling the pinch. Government will bring all excuses inthe book; from Satan sitting on the back of the authority to chain storessiphoning the scarce forex etc.
The opposition will try to remind all andsundry how the ruling has failed due to stubbornness to refuse to work withdonors, to myopic economic policies etc.
Well, while all these are doing their stuff,I have not seen the musicians doing enough; either s/he is afraid or they areso daft that they do not know how best they can speak out on behalf of themasses.
While others will argue that this would belike fighting Joseph Nkasa’s later day Moses, others will even argue furtherthat Lucius Banda is the one cut for this.
Yes, I would agree that Lucius indeed doeshis part, but this is not enough at all. After all, Lucius does it occasionallyand such track usually has to wait for its cousin tracks to complete an albumfirst.
Musicians are supposed to do singles thatare specifically into exclusive problems hurting the masses at a definite time.
What is required is not even a harsh, rudeand hastened stuff. You are now wondering what I mean?
Well, remember Malawi’s King of Reggae thefallen Evison Matafale? Few days after the September 11 terrorist attack on thetwin towers called World Trade Centre, Evison Matafale came up with a track hecalled ‘Time Mark’. This piece was a typical Matafale reggae track, so matureand gapless. The lyrical content was thick, deeply thought of and puretranslation of the biblical books.
It is more demeaning to hear people sayingMatafale would have released a track to act as the wail of the masses thatshould awaken those in authority, both the ruling and the opposing. Demeaningbecause it will be like after Matafale we no longer have musicians around thatcan serve the masses by setting their agenda.
Like journalists, will use the press, radiosor television to relay a message, musicians will use their music medium to setthis agenda setting albeit relaying it through radios and television sometimes.  
Our local musicians, who are to numerousthese days, can take advantage of our misfortunes to make a name.
Imagine what was happening earlier in theweek in Lilongwe at first then followed by the other cities. Women who aremothers to all of us that are living on this earth had to have their dignitybattered merely because they were putting on a pair of trousers.
We need innovative musicians who can createsongs to either support something like this or sing against it.
By now we should have had competing songsover the fuel woes. We are always complaining that we do not sell our locallymade music. Perhaps it is time we got experimental and understood what peoplereally want their music to have.
Let our musicians take their rightful placeby taking their rightful role to make those in authority who are deaf and blindto the realities on the ground, realise what the people really want throughtheir music.
Feedback:drummingpen@columnist.com
   

Malawi’s Mabiringanya Dancehall


Coincidence or call it chance, led me to adiscovery of Jamaica’s ragga, or commonly known as dancehall music but done byMalawian youth which is under the banner of ‘Mabiringanya’. 
By the way Mabiringanya is the chiChewa wordfor eggplants. I am not sure why this is the name chosen, but one thing forsure is that the artists playing under the banner are so excellently talentedand their videos are artistically done that they defy belief.
Under this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI8vOt6tpSU&feature=relatedthere is a track called ‘Kamete Tsitsi’ which the video indicates was done bytwo artists known by their showbiz names, ‘Mad Doctor’ and ‘Khobaliro’.
Under the same Mabiringanya Empire bannerthere is a track called ‘Facebook’ by Mafunyeta which you can listen to on andwatch on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh32JW-qlgI
Then there is a track called ‘Wangongole’which can be listened to and watched as well on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lBXTAXr0eQ&feature=relatedand is done by artists ‘Dotolo’ who is also appearing like ‘Mad Doctor’.
When you listen to all these tracks, plusmany more that I have not mentioned here, like one called ‘Simple Life’, youwill discover that dancehall element in all these tracks is very evident andthe artists involved are very talented. This talent is not only in the way themusic is produced, but even in its lyrical content.
Check the track ‘Simple Life’ which goeslike:
 ‘Simple life ndimene ndi ma lida’, ‘Akatiwonakukhalira kumangotida.’
Another track ‘Swagger Dance’ says: “Aliyense akudziwa lero kuvuta”
“KuvinitsanaSwagger dance mpaka thukuta”.     
The same is in the track called Kamete Tsitsi: “Pasukulu pano ineyo ndineSala”, “Sindimafuna Tsitsi choncho ngati wamisala”, “Kamete Khobaliro salaDotolo walamula”,“Ukapanga Chibwana iwe ukakumba dzala”.
Well, my point here is not to dwell too muchon the excellent dancehall pieces by Mabiringanya but I want to discuss themessage and influence.
Let me start by looking at dancehall whichstarted in Jamaica in late 1970s to early 1980s because so many of the recordswere deemed unfit for radio airplay and therefore were suitable only for thedancehall.
It was born out of reggae because theartists of dancehall represented a new generation of reggae’s primary audiencereclaiming the music for themselves after ten years of roots and culture.Reggae purists were furiously debating as to whether dancehall was genuinelyreggae or not. To date this remains a bone of contention.

The Jamaican audiences wanted records that were raw and producers like Henry ‘Junjo’Lawes and King Jammy made deejay, as this is what the artists of dancehall orragga are called, like Yellowman, Josey Wales, Lone Ranger, Eek-A-Mouse andBrigadier Jerry.

The birth of dancehall also helped inexposing singers such as Barrington Levy, Little John, Cocoa Tea and FrankiePaul who had been struggling to be heard.

The danger that dancehall brought though, was its radical approach aimed atshaking reggae out of its seeming complacency and it opted for the apparently loathsome,to satisfy nobody beyond the sound system crowds.
It was aided by rapidly developing studiotechnology which made records quicker and cheaper.
The big disadvantage was that deejays became more focused on violence, with Bounty Killer,Mad Cobra,Ninjamanand Buju Bantonbecoming major figures in the genre.
In 1992, theinternational backlash to Banton’s violently anti-homosexual “BoomBye-Bye”, and the reality of Kingston’s violence fanned by dancehall sawthe deaths of deejays Pan Head and Dirtsman.
And slowly in themid-1990s with the rise of dancehall BoboShanti artists, such as Sizzla and Capleton,a very strong connection between dancehall and Rastafari was developed.
Because of theemergence of the new generation of singers and deejays that harked back to theroots reggae era, notably the late Garnett Silk,Rocker T, Tony Rebel,Sanchez,Luciano,and Anthony B,prominent Buju Bantonand Capletonwho were violence ambassadors began to cite Rastafari and turn their lyrics andmusic in a more conscious, rootsy direction.
When you listen to artistically weavedlyrics by Malawi’s dancehall act Mabiringanya, you are to notice that they arestill stuck with the violence element that was the moniker of dancehall at thetime it was starting in Jamaica.
Look at the track ‘Wangongole’ byMabiringanya, its video, apart from being a good dancehall production, is anencouragement of violence to those that owe you money. The youths in the videoare welding machetes, spears, bow and arrows while dragging and roughing up theperson owing money to the other.
Despite skilful dancing in the dancehalltracks by Mabiringanya, the element of violence is very present.
I believe Musicians Association of Malawi(MAM) needs to take a role in directing such good talent towards good.
Looking at the Mabiringanya videos youcannot rule out the huge influence it is going to have on the country’s youth,but the violence would be undoing all efforts to create a better Malawi throughmusic.
Believe it or not, dancehall has a hugeinfluence on the youth, and good pieces of dancehall music like theMabiringanya dancehall act I am talking about, can have a rapturous influence.
Feedback:drummingpen@columnist.com

How MAM Kissed 2011 Goodbye


The finesse with which musicians in theNorthern region displayed their skills on December 31, 2011, left me wonderingwhat is wrong with the region.
Of all the country’s three regions, thenorth seems to be in full display of a self pitying buffoon.
Take this occasion, for example, only ahandful patrons, I mean less than ten patrons turned up for the MusiciansAssociation of Malawi (MAM) award competition that was showcased at KatotoSecondary School Hall.
And yet when you walk the streets of theregion, you hear complaints like, the region is neglected in everythingincluding being starved of entertainment.
But what best entertainment can one have ifit was not for what MAM gave the city dwellers on the-said-day where six bandscompeted; and added to that the region’s own Tiwonge Hango performed with some brilliancy.
Of course Kula Band triumphed over theregions legendary Body Mind and Soul and went away with 70 thousand kwacha andan opportunity to record an album at the MAM Studio.
Body Mind and Soul carted home K50, 000while the third band had K35, 000 for their toils.
The Pen heard Chris Phiri MAM RegionalPresident saying the aim of the competition is to promote talent. Then MAMNational Vice-President Lanzi Nkhata quipped in saying they did not just dreamabout the competition but it is part of their plans considering that this isits second year now.
Nkhata says the aim of the competition is toprepare artists before they can go into a recording studio. Initially, what usedto happen was that a man or a woman or is it a boy or a girl would just wake upone morning and knock on the doors a recording studio to record his or hermusic without prior knowledge what it entails.
Now they need to undergo training which hisregional colleague Phiri says is nurturing talent.
But look at the winner at the competition,Kula Band.
It is a band that fuses African traditionalmusic with some Jazzy feel with sprinkles of Blues, Rock and Reggae.   
On their apparel of honour there are threeawards that are stuck; they are the winners of MAM Music Award 2009, Chibuku Road toFame Competition as well as the MAM Gospel Music Award.
The Chibuku Road to fame won them K150, 000prize money and also landed them a lucrative recording deal worth 200,000Malawi Kwacha. They now have that album in their bag titled ‘Sudziwa kutiSudziwa’.
Now let’s look at the Body, Mind and Soulwhich was last year’s Music Crossroads Interregional Festival 2010 symbol ofsuccess in Tanzania besides being one of the guest bands
Body Mind and Soul is a 5-piece band, whichstarted like the rest, thus playing reggae but after much thought andexperimentation it created a new music concept it calls ‘Voodjaz’, a subtle mixof traditional rhythms with a jazzy feel.
With it, they conquered the Music CrossRoads Southern Africa Inter-regional Festival in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 toemerge winners that went on the road to their European Tour in Summer of 2008where they performed at different big stages including the world famous CoyleurCafé.  
Now what talent was MAM trying to exposewith bands with such high accolade.
There is a band called Pamlonga whichemerged third with its band Leader dishing out vocals while playing stuff onhis drum set; strange combination. The youthful members of the band seem soinnovative but could not stand the force that is Kula and Body Mind and Soul.
I doubt if these have ever recorded analbum, but they are good.
You would expect MAM to jack up and stopliving in the past when it comes to these issues. How did Kula Band and BodyMind and Soul find their way in a competition organised to discover and promotetalent?
I hear the same competition was also held inthe South as well as the Centre. I bet the scenario was the same where the oldtimers arrogated places that were not meant for them.
I hear MAM has now a strategic plan thatspells how it wants to carry out its functions today, tomorrow and in years tocome.
This will not be the first time that Ilament the criteria used to determine entrants to MAM organised competition.
I have ever laughed off the description thatMAM has of exposing talent that was once explained to me by the former MAMPresident Costen Mapemba.
According to MAM of Mr. Mapemba, exposinghidden talent is where a drummer should now leave his or her set or a guitaristshould now go on the leading microphone and lead in the singing. To MAM this istalent identification.
Now that Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango and LanzNkhata have taken over the leadership mantle at MAM I pray that they should notperpetuate Mapemba’s school of thought which pocks fun at the industry.
I hope in MAM’s strategic plan there is amechanism of monitoring and evaluation, which should leave us pointers to beable to see that indeed talent in the budding musicians is improving.
Yes the idea to kiss 2011 goodbye for thenorth by MAM was first-rate, but the methods adopted in doing it threw us backto 2001.

Re-looking the 2011 Musical Vibes


I should start with greetings for the New Year which isjust a few hours away. Starting from last week, I took you back on the journeyof 2011 where the Pen drummed out a number of issues regarding our industry.
I want us to part with 2011 by continuing looking at afew selected pieces that we talked about in the year gliding towards the lastline.
In the 2011 I asked a question: “Where are the LadySecular Musicians?”
Iargued that if you were to point out at a legendary lady musician in thecountry, who is into secular music, would you do that at the drop of a hat?
Iconfessed that I only know Amina Tepatepa, Emma Masauko, Wendy Harawa, MariaChidzanja Nkhoma, and Beatrice Kamwendo as some of the names that have hogged thelimelight and then either disappeared completely and got stuck in theperipherals.
Iasked a question why we have not done something as a country about the femalefolks that have talent in music but cannot blossom due to lack of suitableenvironment.
Iproposed that Musician Association of Malawi (MAM) put in place a deliberatepolicy where female musicians can stand side by side with the Skeffa Chimotosof this world or even a lady Lucius Banda.
Itis so bad that most of the women musicians are dominating the gospel arenawhere they survive by the faith of such religious following other than sheertalent and creativity. While worrying about the absence of female musicians inthe music cycle I was aware of the challenges in the industry as a whole when Ialso talked about “Investingin Music Entertainment”.
At that time I had the opportunity to visit Kenya whereI lost my breath with the spirit of investing in entertainment in general andmusic in particular that I found fascinating here in East Africa.
For some time, the East African Breweries Limited hasbeen carrying out competition for musicians in the Eastern African Regioncalled Tusker Project Fame – a reality Television competition, which was at avalue of 1 billion Kenyan shillings which is an equivalent of 12.8 million USdollars which is about 1.92 billion kwacha. All this money invested in music,imagine!
I was wondering why in Malawi it is not the case as outthere and I challenged the private sector to try investing in music and ask melater if they would have missed the target. It is on the same premise that Ialso asked a question: “Where isCarlsberg in Music?”
I argued that if anything, Carlsberg Breweries limitedshould have been the main player in the country’s music industry.
Look at how many crates of beer will sell if musiciansare performing, look at the blaring sound that is a dominant fixture in allbeer selling spots. Do we need to tell the marketing gurus at the breweriescompany of the need to give back to musicians?
For two years running now, South African Breweries hasbeen funding Lucius Banda’s trips to perform in that country. This year too,Lucius Banda will perform alongside Lulu in Johannesburg and Durban. But wherewas our own Carlsberg Company?
2011 turned to be so cruel in other aspects what withwhen I wrote about how “Death StabbedMusic on Mwanyama?”
Towards the month-end of December 2010,Lovemore Mwanyama was the one that the media quoted when Skeffa Chimoto, thecurrent top selling musician escaped death in a road accident.
Mwanyama is the one who explained to themedia that Skeffa and his band Real Sounds were en-route to Lilongwe fromSalima when the vehicle they were travelling in had a tyre burst.
Lovemore Mwanyama was speaking asSkeffa’s Manager then.
Now, this year, towards the end ofSeptember, Skeffa took up the task of informing the media that unlike him,Mwanyama never survived a road accident and died at the Kamuzu CentralHospital. Road accident was also the way that made us to “Shedtears for Ken ‘7yrs’ Siyabu.”
Ken Siyabu was master in music video productions and hiscontribution to the industry is so immense that I still run short of words todescribe the multitalented Ken.  
In fact his hands were what made Lucius Banda videoscaptivating in the last four or so years including his latest album Life.
Soon after its release the pen drummed here about “Lucius Banda’s Life in 1 Hour 19 Minutes”.
Going by the overwhelming feedback I got after thisarticle, I realize it is the number one article for 2011 because of how itgenerated interest from the readers, although given chance; my pick would havebeen different.
In that write-up I started w ‘One hour and 19 Minutes’is the time that it takes one to listen to Lucius Banda’s latest album from thefirst track ‘Okondedwa’ throughout the other tracks to the last one, which isthe title track ‘LIFE’ that has awaken the censorship board bull dogs.
Listening to the 15 tracks, one would still be left withthe same Lucius Banda aftertaste.
Before I talk about the choice of genre in this aspect,let’s look at the other genres in the other tracks ‘Wadwalika’ which featuresMoses Makawa, for example. This one as expected is taking after ‘KalataYachiwiri’ which he featured Thomas Chibade.
I said in this track, Lucius’ complete departure of whatwe know of him makes you think the song should be ‘Wadwalika’ by Moses Makawafeaturing Lucius Banda.
I wish you a prosperous 2012 which is full of musicalPromises. Watch this space.
Feedback:drummingpen@columnist.com