Where are the Sunbird stars?


So, the Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’ is now in eviction phase which is a sure way of trying to ape the South African and US Pop Idols, although without being a complete replica when it comes to what accrues for the competitors.

Look, the American Idols, for example, since it began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, has not only become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television, but also has spawned 345 Billboard chart-toppers besides producing what have become top international stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks.

Of course, the South African idols has its fair share of controversies as the television show on the South African television network, M-Net, as – until its eighth season – the contest only determined the white competitors as best young singers in South Africa until Khaya Mthethwa became its first black winner, ending the dominance of racial minorities.

The good news is that Mthethwa took home a prize package worth almost R1m, including a recording contract with Universal Music, South Africa.

It is apparent that someone watched both the US and South African pop idols, both of which base their format on the British series, and thought of replicating the same back home.

The Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’, other than the marketing ploy that it is, is but a mockery of the ‘stars’.

Adrian Kwelepeta fast comes to mind. He won the last season and it’s just now that he has been able to release an album. He says this is the case because he was searching for resources.

Apart from promoting the Sunbird brand, the country’s search for a star really also needs to ensure that the stars are not just fading.

The initiative is commendable because it is the best when it comes to isolating the stars from the crowd. My opinion is that it, however, needs to take a mile further by finding the stars institutions that should train them to become professional musicians.

At the current trend, it is all clear that these youths, who are hungry for fame and swayed by the belief that what their vocal cords can project is sweet sound that can stand the musical test, will remain being used as pawns in this marketing promotion game.

The flowing of benefits in the end create a disharmony of sorts as it is one-sided, flowing at the promotion of the corporate firms without trickling down to those players that make the whole event matter.    

Adrian pocketed a K500, 000 prize money but where did it take him to if for a year he had to hunt for resources to record an album?

By the way, where is the second spot winner, Chisomo ‘Chichi’, and, of course, the third winner, Ruth Magona?

Of course, the organisers say the Sunbird ‘Search for a Star’ was a success in 2013 and the competition has proven effective as a corporate social responsibility intervention to showcase innovative singing talent among the youth of Malawi.

I know Sunbird has been partnering E-Wallet to implement and manage the show. E-Wallet’s Felix Njawala says, through the show, they intend to enhance and enrich musical talent in the country putting much focus on the youth.

But where is the talent that E-wallet unveiled? Where are the Sunbird ‘stars’ that were ‘searched’ and ‘found’ through last season’s event?

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About Gregory Gondwe - Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Gregory Gondwe is a Malawian journalist who started practising journalism in 1993. Until March 31, 2012 he was regional editor and bureau chief for Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS). Gregory is also a media consultant assisting several international journalists pursuing assignments in Malawi. He holds a Diploma of Journalism and an Intermediate Certificate in Journalism among other media-related certificates. He is also columnist for Malawi's first and oldest weekly, Malawi News. He can be contacted on gregorygondwe@gmail.com.
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