Last week I had the honour to be flown to Jo’burg by Malawian Airlines to interview headliners at this year’s Lake of Stars Music Festival.
These were the Mafikizolo duo, Theo Kgosinkwe and Nhlanhla Nciza, as well as South African Hip-Hop artist Sizwe Moeketsi aka Reason.
One thing that came out clearly is the fact that being an artist is supposed to be an organised job.
The main issue that was not spoken during the two interviews, but was clearly registered on my mind, is that our musicians have not dared the music industry enough.
There is one advantage that comes with breaking into the international music market, which is to give it out to the audience in line with what you believe in.
Originality is the mother of best innovations and what has failed our musicians a lot is the proclivity to move with the crowd where if people like Joseph Nkasa’s beat, then if Moses Makawa will come on the musical scene then this is the beat to go with.
Talk of artists like Mafikizolo, for example; they came on the scene with hits like Kwela-kwela and had a break of seven years before re-emerging on the musical scene with a track like Khona which is a dare-devil departure from what they have been known for.
Nhlanhla, the female member of Mafikizolo, says change is growth and if you have to succeed in this business you have to be brave enough to try on other genres.
And it does not matter whether such genres were established already or are a product that becomes the artist’s brain-child.
Even when you are playing genres like Hip-Hop that are already established, you have to do them better than the existing music because you risk imitating something that exposes not only your mediocre talent but your lack of ambition as well.
Take Reason, for example. He boasts of such a long history with Hip-Hop. He says to a certain degree he got so brave and started experimental approach to his creativity after feeling he had done just about everything with Hip-Hop.
He says Malawian artists must strive to be creative in whatever realm they pinch their beacons in in order to have to have a trans-generational appeal with their music.
He says, for example, he has caught his father listening to his album and he finds it instructive since that is the only way he can have a conversation with his father about his life experiences.
Apart from artists like Lawi, who would give you what is their concept of music, most of our artists lack courage to try out something new that should solely be a product of their imaginations.
My feeling is that unless we dare, we won’t break into the international music market.