The Joke that is Central Region Musicians


Trust (or lack of it) seems to be eluding what would have been a tight fabric of an ice solid entity that groups together our local musicians.  

Greed and suspicion, seems to be the substitute and no wonder Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) and Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) seems to have been infected by a thawing element called Music Development Organisation (MDO), whatever it means.

My conviction is that when two or more people are deciding to form an organisation that share a common purpose, objective and vision, they do so with a sober mind. Basically because it helps you to draw a plan of what will be the structure of such an organization especially on how it will model its hierarchy and how the components of this hierarchy will work together to achieve its objectives and vision.

This also the time that members decide on how to furnish the empty calendar dates with a work plan; what is supposed where and when and by whom.

But with the Central region scenario, one frustrated musician shared his frustrations with two other musicians, who likewise followed the sharing aspect, unknowingly, the ripple effect reached 35 musicians who were moved and agreed to form an organisation – MDO.

You would expect me to hail such an initiative considering that I have been whiplashing MAM and COSOMA on these same pages, times on end, due to their conduct which I argued was contributing to the retrogression of our music industry. 

But I won’t, because I have been around enough to realise what this is leading to. We have seen it with politicians and the religious groupings too, Robert Nesta Marley easily called it ‘Ism and Schism’.

You do not form an organisation out of frustration, because it will only serve today’s purpose.

You may argue that MDO is on the road to accomplish what others failed to because it has Kendal Kamwendo, Symon Kamlaga, Peter Mlangeni, Boniface Kavalasaza, John Magwira Chisale, Evance Meleka and Sally Nyundo who are themselves accomplished musicians by our standards.

You may argue further that the reason Kamwendo says they formed MDO for “We are coming into this battle not against anyone but to protect our talent” resonates with the feeling of most musicians.

The bottom line is they think COSOMA and MAM have failed to fight piracy and this is a feeling coming after pressing COSOMA to release their royalties.

I have always been arguing why COSOMA takes ages before releasing royalties for musicians and therefore the reaction by the musicians to the delay was justified, but it does not necessitate a breakaway from the two bodies to form an independent one. The same reasons will create more ‘schism’ and out of MDO more will form.

If my memory serves me right, the last time COSOMA gave out royalties was on December 29, 2009, when Lawrence Mbenjere set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.

Now what makes MDO a bunch of jesters is when they claim to work independent of COSOMA.

One free lesson to the little knowing 35 musicians is that although COSOMA was established in 1992 it operates with the blessings of Malawi law; the 1989 Copyright Act which protects copyrights and “neighboring” rights in Malawi.

 

Although the Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act, which protects industrial intellectual property rights in Malawi, COSOMA has a very central role in this aspect.

 

At the moment, rules that govern the World Trade Organisation (WTO) allow Malawi to delay full implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement until 2016, because it is only a less developed country.

 

Government through the Industry and Trade Ministry is working with COSOMA and the Registrar General to align relevant domestic legislation with the WTO TRIPs agreement with technical assistance from the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).

 

If therefore musicians are not satisfied with COSOMA they better ensure that it starts serving them, by either replacing the current office holders or changing its policy – albeit with the guidance of the act – but not creating what they think is a body that will roll the functions of COSOMA and MAM into one. This is laughable.

I hear MDO has formed an anti-piracy taskforce which has already pounced on an alleged master pirate Ishmael Maluwa and confiscated CDs and DVDs as well as equipment in Lilongwe’s Area 24.

The news that I have for you musicians is that managing music industry is not about moving around homes of the suspected pirates and confiscating a few computers and CDs and DVDs. There is a whole lot.

Obviously, money is also involved and based on the grounds that the musicians have formed their MDO, chances are it will not survive the heat in the industry and soon, ‘mugawanapo zida’ and the circus will become a vicious cycle.

Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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