Joe Gwaladi? One would ask; is he a musician, comedian who imitates music, composer or a singer? One fact for sure is that he is an artist – And what form? Thus why questions like above arise.
In the street where music sells most, they will tell you Joe Gwaladi is a musician; at least this is the answer you will get if you ask anyone.
Now, just like Ian ‘Mandede’ Lizi who long ago vowed to produce his music and videos and sell them products himself, Joe Gwaladi has even perfected it.
At first, he bought a traveling bag which had two wheels where he would place a music player connected to a car battery and would be blasting the airwaves with his music which he would be touting to attract would be buyers.
Now he has bought a bicycle where he has mounted a big speaker, music player and of course the car battery. He goes to marketing places, especially within Limbe, where he will be playing his music and easily attracts the curious Malawians, who seem to have just too much time to waste.
Once people have crammed around where he is then Joe Gwaladi antics commence. Now this is where questions start coming, is Joe Gwaladi a musician, comedian who imitates music, composer or a singer?
He sings along his music on top of his voice, while dancing like he has betted his life for it. As he wriggles his music away he, like tobacco sellers at the auction floors, mentions the price for the CD, cassette and DVD copies of his productions.
Apparently the fans are not going anywhere and they are not ready to miss anything that Joe Gwaladi has put on offer, free of charge.
Well, while we can describe Gwaladi’s actions with all sorts of names, but one thing for sure is that musicians in the country are really suffering from piracy and exploitation. You cannot get any better signs of the malaise than this.
Like I said some years ago, music is supposed to be the most sellable commodity in Malawi this is the reason distributors and marketers are the only beneficiaries in the industry, reaping Gold and getting ‘stinkingly’ rich.
In the past, especially when the industry was just waking up in the advent of multiparty dispensation, the distribution and marketing part was solely controlled by the ‘greedy’ Asian businessmen who heavily affected it by disgracefully spewing exploitation germs into the industry.
At the begging artists raised no alarm and this was due to issues of unemployment in Malawi which made those ones who felt could sing, just leap into the musical bandwagon.
Studio owners did the juggling, either on some ‘termed’ credit conditions or when the supposed singer stumbled into a sponsor.
If the music struck a chord of luck and managed to sell the little the supposed singer gets gives him or her, a sigh of ‘half loaf is better than loaf’ relief.
Therefore, being ripped off by the Asian distributors, to the presumptive singer was lesser evil than facing penury devils in the streets, thereby giving this Asian a roller coaster ride of fortune.
A musician makes a ‘demo’ and goes with it to a studio owner who samples it and makes a decision.
If it passes the values of his satisfaction, he arranges for a recording deal with the musician depending upon whom and how many are on the waiting list. Be it on credit terms, which is a rarity or by sponsorship, the studio goes into gear and records a single or an album for the musician who then emerges with a master copy.
Out of the studio, the musician now gets back into the folds of the street, where depending on the taste of the distributor though he will take the master copy or not.
Now his only helpless control over the distributor, in as far as multiplying or duplicating the master copy is concerned, lays in the face covers or sleeves.
Since gluttony rules supreme, the 95 % lion’s share the distributor gets seems far from being enough; and woe betide the world of technology for bringing to the world a sophisticated colour photocopier with it.
The distributor finds solace in the machine and uses it to his gormandizing advantage, but then to the detriment of the artists.
By way of making copies of the ‘erstwhile protected’ album cover, the distributor now frees himself from the realms of a musician’s grip over the control of the sleeves and he is now at liberty to sell extra copies of the album and maintains the figure the artists knows, begging him to believe sells are bad.
At one time Matafale went into the shop, of a distributor in Limbe and right at the time a man brought into the shop ‘cartons’ of his pirated cassette albums prompting him to break the shop counter and the cassettes right at that time, amidst shouting in rage at the trader. Right there and then he withdrew all his albums from the market and warned the distributor never to sell them again.
To an extent this is how some of our artists started selling their own music themselves, but is this the right way to go?