As I promised last week, I want to discuss Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam) following a half an hour talk that I had with its President, Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango two weeks ago.
Rising from ‘Ashes’
As I have always complained in the last half of a decade that I have been writing about music on these pages, Mam has been a big letdown to me as well as to the owners – the musicians.
The initial mentality that was inculcated in the musicians was that Mam was a body that was there to be moving around with a begging bowl on behalf of musicians and that whatever ‘booty’ they would chance upon should be shared amongst the membership.
No wonder, to the shock of the current committee members, musicians always ask for alms. I can equally testify that many musicians have always begged for alms even from me.
The Rev. Mhango team has now a duty to change this defeatist attitude of musicians.
Whenever you attend meetings organised by Mam in the past, it was crammed by musicians – or so they called themselves thus – who had no single track under their name. Or artists who have only released a single track or album that even without getting any bragging rights as it turned out to be a total flop, still made the owners give themselves undeserved acclaim that they are musicians.
The type of membership is the one that was used to getting undeserved allowances. Most of whom have not been inside a classroom or if they did, they never stayed long enough in that classroom to help them breakthrough in the industry.
Musicians used to behave strangely when called for music clinics. Like a pupil or student demanding payment for attending school, the musicians also wanted Mam or organisers to pay them for attending training workshops aimed at improving their music careers. There was completely no wish to self sacrifice.
It was therefore clear that previous committees of Mam embraced mediocrity by associating with dubious musicians and ignoring well established musicians.
The Rev. Mhango team is lucky because it has realised there is need to change this status quo. Already they have engaged with local music gurus that include Sir. Paul and Lucius Banda, Wambali Mkandawire and Ma Blacks, to mention but a few, from whom they hope to tap wisdom and more knowledge on how best to steer the body forward.
This is a process that is aiming at regaining trust and ensuring that musicians become responsible to sacrifice not only for the good of their association but for their own good as well.
As a mother of all artists from different disciplines including Mam, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) has been operating in the last 7 years without a board.
Now, Mam says they have fought hard with other sister bodies and now government has promised to appoint a board this year.
Affiliation for Foreign Musicians
One other thing that Mam has negotiated with government for is to put up a mechanism where all foreign artists that come into the country to perform must pay temporary affiliation fee. This is because they come here to work and it would be one way where the association will get help by being given an opportunity for an alternative income.
Federation of Professional Musicians
Mam is not part, nay! Mam cannot be affiliated to Federation of Professional Musicians because as the requirements demand, the local musical body is not a union.
Rev. Mhango says at the moment they are currently negotiating with government so that they can attain a union status.
Within the association regionalism is also at the centre of its challenges, where musicians openly say they cannot work with the committee members running the association because they come from other regions in the country. This will only bring dire consequences for Mam and at the end of the day; the loser is the musician himself.
Fund Raising committee
It has always been strange that a body of musicians that has musical equipment has always been failing to organise fund raising shows. Now at the helm of the committee is Sally Nyundo and I am only waiting to hear what plan of action he will come up with so that by December we should hear how much Mam has fund raised and how this money has transformed the body.
Introduction of music in technical colleges
I have vigorously campaigned over here that music has to be drafted in the technical colleges. Previous committee never explored the possibility. I hope this time round this committee will do something about it.
There has never been one single trade that has generated youthful interest in Malawi at any given time than what music has done.
The technical colleges with music trade has to start with the elementary lessons in music in the first year, while in the second year, learners can choose who they want to become.
Guitarists, drummers, saxophonists, trombonists, percussionists, keyboardists or pianists should be one group while the other group should concentrate on music production, the third on music engineering in terms of studio recording while the other group should dwell on marketing.