When Society Condemns Murder Suspects
When Society Condemns Murder Suspects
Do not be cheated, Malawian musicians have managed to hit gold through our very patronage when we buy their music and lately, they are making more money with live shows.
If you want to attend a musical show at Ozone for example, be ready to part ways with a thousand kwacha. If you are to attend a show at Mzuzu Hotel Boma Park, keep K800 in the pockets, because that’s what they will demand for you to pass through the gate.
A minimum of 1000 people most of the times would have passed through the gate, meaning K800, 000 would have been pocketed. If the fans are as many as 2000 which is a common feat when the show is either for The Blacks or Lucius Banda then the figures are in seven digits.
Added to this, there are street sales of the album through compact cassettes or compact disks which is minus the musical DVD which when thrown into the fray and with good patronage, the money becomes so big to be true.
Then there is also Mechanical, Public Performance and Broadcasting Royalties, which most of the times come as a surprise to musicians who end up buying cars and other useless expensive consumable items for they do not have any single idea what to do with their money.
Malawian musicians will always complain that the market is exploitative and this is the reason they cannot prosper. While this, to a large extent could be true, there is also one area that they do not talk about; this is where windfalls like manna avails itself for their taking. And this comes when you look at the way money comes in.
I think we can easily follow the musicians and find out how they manage their worth.
It reminds me of what happened 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.
I wrote about it then, and then as is the case today, my interest is not to discuss whether that was a vote of approval of what he is churning out by the consumers or there are other factors at play, but my interest would be; has he really benefited from this money? Has he managed it properly?
What was also historical was the fact that since the establishment of the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) 15 or 17 years ago at that time, K2, 523, 459.16 was the biggest money it ever dished out to a single musician.
It has not given out again since then, I should hope this year, COSOMA is supposed to pay the musicians.
At least in 2009 Lucious Banda carted home K1, 094, 579.10, Thomas Chibade K712, 742.48. Joseph Nkasa who in 2003 got a million got K597, 942.27 this time round.
Mbenjere to get this kind of money, accumulatively he amassed K2.35 million from Mechanical Royalties that an artist receives after they record with a record company.
On the other hand, K103, 000 Mbenjere earned from broadcasting royalties that comes from air play of an artist’s music by a radio or TV station. He also amassed a meagre K66, 000 from Public Performance Royalties unbelievably, this is the money that is earned when the artist’s music is played in public places like bars, hotels etc.
While I still doubt COSOMA’s capacity to ably manage the collection of money from all public places where music is played as no COSOMA official ever visits most bars and such places, I wonder how this is done.
I still want to know how musicians, whose music is played there, ever profit from such ongoing.
There is no way; a bill for institutions like radio can beat that of public places. This is what I find sticky with the management of the Public Performance Royalties.
This is also not to mention the poor remittance on Broadcasting Royalties, by such shameless institutions like MBC.
My contention today is not about MBC, it is about the management aspect of these little resources that our musicians accrue.
At least Lucius Banda has numerous business establishments including Summit Cultural Centre in the Capital Lilongwe and Zembani Lodge and a music company with the same name.
Likewise, Mbenjere Music and Video Production companies at least have their works sprouting about, meaning this is an investment of some kind.
I am yet to find out how Joseph Nkasa or Thomas Chibade has invested their resources.
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture, which is supposed to be looking after the musicians, is doing little to change the status quo to egg on the investing mentality in our musicians. I remember director of culture in the ministry, Bernard Kwilimbe, himself a reputable musician, said at one time that there is a ignorance on the part of musicians as they not know that this is a calling that goes with proper planning. Planning comes from proper management, no?
While there is this knowledge by government, there is nothing that it has so far done to help improve the situation on the ground; one way to achieve this is to conduct several clinics within the year to equip musicians with music management.
The launch of Skeffa Chimoto’s ‘Chikondi’ album on November 30 in Blantyre only managed to show the spirit of doing it but, in several respects, fell short of living up to the expectation of the audience who parted way with K2,500 entrance fee.
The launch was scheduled to start at 8pm but it was not until 10:15pm when Skeffa’s Real Sounds Band member Lenzo Mhlanga opened the
curtains, before Danny Muyaya came on the scene.
The sound system was the biggest let down. It was like a radio station
on badly drained cells. What was more disappointing was that no one seemed to care about fixing anything.
From around 6pm technicians – I hope we have them in this country – had struggled to tune up the sound.
What is even more disheartening is that it was like a career carpenter
who has been overwhelmed by a new range of equipment that is failing him to be as good as he is known to be.
Because Malawians let mediocre pass without any protest, the musicians had to get away with it.
Then there was performance from the acts that were invited to support
the launch. While others tried to impress others just lost it, including the
Zambian artist, Dalisoul.
I have never seen such a careless performer who would go off-key in his own songs without even noticing it, meaning he could not even apologise since to him all was well.
His performance also brought the question of choreography when performing a live show. It is supposed to bring a fresh air to the whole
feat as it has to be in tandem with music that is being played.
In the case of this Zambian cartoon, it was no-show and, therefore,
not surprising, the dancing crew composed of about five boys, were
completely detached from the singing.
I get back to the issue of choreography. Well, since I have said the performance was not even musical, and that since good choreography goes well with good music, I was almost tempted to let it off here and discuss of other things at the show.
But then to even suggest that what the crew of five was doing was dancing choreographically would really be insulting the intelligence of those who appreciate this art. If you ask the patrons to the launch, they will tell you they were impressed with the crew not because they want to differ with me, but to agree with me that these were entertaining acrobats.
If anything, what the Zambian crew managed to do was to pose a question on whether choreography is the same as acrobatics, or are these two things one and the same?
To be honest, what Dalisoul lacked on musical front, his boys compensated with their acrobatics.
Then there was also a mini-drama during a badly prepared performance from Piksy.
One thing I have realised is that either Piksy is a bad live performer or I coincidentally attend his bad day shows. During his last one at BAF, he missed the bus when he brought no voice. I wondered then that there was an entertainer who uses voice and right from the start he apologised for having lost it to flu but still went ahead to perform.
I concluded then that it was a daylight robbery.
But, as Malawians, we still clapped hands so that he could mock us more and, no wonder, at the launch of Skeffa’s album he brought more mediocrity.
Just to show how unprepared he was, the Master of Ceremonies Joe
Mwase of Zodiak Broadcasting Station kept shifting him and he came on stage with JJ of Mibawa Band and it was clear the two never knew what they wanted to do. No wonder they almost turned their performance into a ‘Chindime ndi Samalani’ act.
And, as if this patchiness was not enough, his drummer collapsed in the middle of performance and it had to take the drummer from Skeffa’s band to save the situation.
Piksy kept apologising for the incident the full time that he played.
Skeffa Chimoto knew something was not right but chose not to hit the nail on the head by saying it out right that the launch was compromised by poor sound. He only said he knew some things did not go according to plan.
All in all, as I have said, Skeffa showed a great spirit to perform and the Black Missionaries and the ever-green Anthony Makondetsa really did their best to make the album launch a success.
But, like his famous track, the launch was ‘bitten by the black thing’ (‘launch inalumidwa ndi chakuda’.)
Apart from the poor sound of the equipment that is either growing old or needs sound engineers who know their job, to shoddy performances of the supporting artists, the launch would be described as a success.
Approximately I must say close to 2000 people showed up. If this is multiplied by K2,500 gate fee, approximately the show made K5 million.
And it not for me to say whether or not it was earned fairly.
Imagine being a Malawian musician and your music videos being on YouTube for years but escaping your knowledge because you are merely under a ‘spell’ of computer ineptness.
And believe you me; this is the case with Lawrence Mbenjele and Joseph Nkasa as was discovered recently.
You see, the Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam) organised an online music workshop for the musicians two weeks ago, to school them on the new phenomenon of selling their products on line.
Apparently, it was clear that we are lagging behind when it was established that some of our most popular artists, by our standards, like Mbenjele and Nkasa, did not even realise that their music videos and songs have been on line for some time now.
Of course many questions would be asked as to who exactly is responsible for uploading Mbenjele or Nkasa’s music on YouTube for example? I mean the owners do not even know?
MAM President Rev. Chimwemwe Mhango who is really making an effort to keep me in the loop on the happenings at Mam says at least a journey has started and they would want our musicians to be at par with any other forward movement of the technologies that international musicians have embraced.
The musicians were told to make sure that they are computer savvy if they are really to be amongst the counted. They were even asked to create Facebook pages, even owning twitter accounts. At least I know that most urban artists have these and it cannot hurt that much if the rest of our musicians are able to promote themselves through such pages.
There is just a lot that fans want to communicate with their musicians but unfortunately they are just nowhere to be reached. And now that we have companies like the Malawi-music.com that are helping in promotion and selling of Malawi music online there is just need to be there to keep tabs on how the sales are going on and all other related issues.
It is not like the efforts means Mama is trying to reinvent the wheel to come up with a Malawi way of doing and achieving it, but it is merely grabbing the available opportunity with both hands.
Musicians in Malawi are abused through the normal mediocre marketing system and there is always this unexplained fear that exposing them more will even badly position them as they will be exploited more.
But there is one other aspect which I think has not been widely explored.
I wrote here before that the only time the country has ever tried to connect tourism and music is when some Britons decided to start the Lake of Stars now changed to City of Stars or some whatever name.
However, the structural, technical and organisational arrangement of the event has benefited the organisers more than it has exploited the local music and its artists.
I have also pointed out that the government, through all its departments that are concerned with ensuring that art- music inclusive – is getting the promotion it requires to shape out the country’s cultural identity has no deliberate policy to enforce anything like this.
Imagine if we had bands playing in places like like Mount Soche, Ryalls etc and these bands being promoting themselves online as a tourist attraction, don’t you thing this would be a double killing?
There is a closeness that can be exploited between local music and tourism which can not only bring the much needed forex to the country but uplifting the lives of artists as well.
Imagine if Agollosso was the resident artist for Mount Soche and purely there to sing the Shire Valley Genre that he plays; If Mikoko Brothers Band was a resident band at Capital Hotel and by extension Sunbird Mzuzu Hotel enters an agreement with The Body Mind and Soul, a band that says it plays a fusion of foreign genres and local beat to create what they call voodjazz.
Say Hippo View Lodge had a band dishing out the Balaka beat that we all know.
Taking advantage of the fact that music pulls and attracts people and their world the tourism industry which sells our places out there would intensify promotion of the varieties at their places.
The need to have resident music in hospitality facilities that would be identified with a particular traditional genre would drive someone from Australia to a specific hospitality place to listen to that kind of music and also buy the music.
The tourism industry could then go home and promote the music designated for what facility by producing MP3 samples of such tracks and post them with their background through YouTube, on Malawi-Music.com or taking advantage of any social networking pages like the Facebook and twitter accounts.
With the digital demand in this era there is needed to create an internet presence and even create MySpace music page.
Locally, there could also be promotion of such linkages where everyone else visiting Hippo View Lodge will know they will sample Balaka beat, likewise those that are visiting Capital Hotel will know it is time to discover what other Malawi music genre has to offer.
So we need to applaud MAM for waking up and start taking technological steps.