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.