Joe Gwaladi’s marketing innovations

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?


Khonzie Masimbe’s 6 Questions

I must confess, until Monday May 14, 2012, I had not heard that in Malawi we had a musician from Chileka – I guess related to the Fumulani’s – by the name, Khonzie Masimbe.

By a streak of luck for me or a strike of misfortune for Khonzie, I first saw him and for the first time, when he curtain-raised a Black Missionaries show at Afro Motel in Blantyre on the mentioned day.

I remember to have indicated on these pages that I cherished the opportunity to sample performances from Khonzie Masimbe and there was also Toza Matafale I was seeing for the first time on the day.

My observation at the time was that “Masimbe is good and has only ‘he’ to blame if he will not make it big.”

I thought I had seen the last of Masimbe but I had another thing coming.

I went into a barber shop in one of the townships in Blantyre to shave and trim and there was a television screen at the corner which was showing pirated Malawian music videos from a VCD player.

While waiting for my turn, I had no interest in what was being played and started checking emails on my phone when an inviting reggae track opening, caught my attention.

When I looked up on the screen I ended up into a video track which wass showing Khonzie and a woman holding hands walking in the street.

A girl by the name of Beatrice Katema opens the vocals of the track with a declaration: “Ndimakukonda” [I Love you] and instantly Masimbe answers with a need for real assurance: “Tanenadi Chilungamo” [Please say the truth].

Then after some captivating instrumentations he starts:

“Inde ndikufunsa mobweleza-bweleza; chilungamo ndi chofunika, ukapanda kundiyankha bwino, ndizakusiya wekha m’mawa” [I will ask repeatedly; truth is of essence, if you fail to give me a candid answer – I will leave you in future].

“Undiyankhe momveka bwino; usawonjezelenso bodza, ukanama bwenzi Langa iwe uzavutika Wekha m’mawa” [Give me a plausible answer; don’t sprinkle it with lies, if you lie you will suffer the consequence tomorrow].

Mvera (Listen):

“Iwe kodi uli ndi mwana kapena ayi? Undiyankhedi Chilungamo”[Do you have a child or not? Tell me the truth]
Ngati unakwatiwapo undiululire, ndisanzamvere anthu ena… [Have you ever been married? Tell me, I don’t want to learn it from other people]
Nanga makolo ako amati chani akawuwona umphawi wanga [What do your parents say about my poverty stricken state?]
Wakonzeka kusiyana nawo makolo ako, ndikutengele ku Chileka [Are you ready to leave your parents’ home and allow me take you to Chileka?]
Kwanu ndi opemphera kapena ayi, Mulungu wanu ndi chumacho [Do your people believe in God or you worship your wealth?]
Kodi umandikonda ndi mtima onse kapena ndingobesa[Do you love me wholeheartedly or you’re just wasting my time?]

Mafunso anga dziwa ndi asanu – Ndi limodzi kwa iwe, [My questions to you are six] ndipo undiyankhe lero – Ndimakukonda [And please answer them today – I love you]

Mayankho ako akhale asanu – Ndi limodzi kwa ine, [Your answers have also to be six to me] ndipo undiyankhe lero – Umandikonda. [Answer me today – You love me]

Now the talented lady musician by the name of Beatrice Katema is unveiled in this track. I wonder why Malawi does not know about her. She showcases what a talent she is when she starts responding to the questions:

Ndikuyankha mobwereza bwereza; cholinga choti umvetsetse, ndikapanda kukuyankha bwino ndizavutika ndekha-ndekha. [I am answering repeatedly; so that you should understand; if I fail to give you a candid answer – I will suffer the consequence on my own].

Ndikunena mobwereza bwereza; chilungamo ndichofunika, ndikanama mwamunanga iwe uzandivuta ndi mafunso. [I am speaking repeatedly; truth is of essence; if I sprinkle my answers with lies, you will trouble me with questions].

Nsanje ine ndilibe pa moyo wanga undidalire nthawi zonse [I do not have a jealousy life, depend on me]
Kwathu samaunyoza umphawi wako, usamachite nawo mantha [My people do not despise your poverty-stricken status, don’t be afraid of them]
Ndakonzeka kusiyana nawo makolo anga, unditengele ku Chileka [I am ready to leave my parents, take me to Chileka]
Love ndizakupatsa usadele nkhawa ndikunenadi chilungamooo [I will give you love, don’t lose trust, I am saying the truth]
Kwathu timapemphera mwamuna wanga, Mwini moyo timamkweza [My people are religious my man, we extol the Creator of life]
Mwano ine ndilibe pa moyo wanga, kufatsaku ndichibadwa [I am not rude, I am submissive from birth].
Now I gave you the lyrics to try to offer you the beauty of the video track which is an epitome of creativity that we need in our music video productions.

The scenes of Chileka and the City where the woman has been hauled from and to are clearly depicted in the video track necessitating that there is need for music lovers to have and watch it.

I always talk ill of the lyrics and mediocre production of our music; do I need to keep quite in the face of quality work like the one Khonzie Masimbe has given us?