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.

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