Nsaku: From analogue to digital


Charles Nsaku is a musician that the young ‘urban’ age can not relate to; at least this is according to my submission.

Nsaku emerged on the scene from a very different Balaka route, but it was Balaka nonetheless.

A wealthy business person had started a band which he called Mwizalero Band in Balaka and that’s where he cut his professional teeth.

If you ask me, I will put Nsaku with a special generation of musicians who brought a special wind of music direction in the country. The Generation marshalled by Sir Paul Banda.

Paul’s younger brother Lucius prides himself as one who at one point or the other hosted many popular musicians when he established his Zembani Band and in the process helping to begin careers of Mlaka MaliroPaul Chaphuka(Late), Billy Kaunda, Coss Chiwalo, Wendy Harawa, Emma Masauko, Enort Mbandambanda, Charles Nsaku etcetera.

But I put them in one music generation and of all those that emerged from this generation, only Lucius Banda can confidently declare that he is indeed moving with time. He has survived the tides and has responded to the present day demand. In my own words, I can say he has managed to migrate from analogue to digital.

It has been a process that has taken longer than one would anticipate. But one just needs to the listen to Lucius albums that he has hauled from past to the present including the present one rightly called ‘Thank You’.

Pardon my digression; I want to talk about Charles Nsaku. His choice of migration from analogue to digital was a little bit uncharacteristic and proven not to be in compatible with the system.

Being someone who has been around, especially when he established his band called ‘Ali ku Town Sounds’ many artists claim to have gone through his hands via the band including the current big names like Skeffa Chimoto.

Now, in an effort to return the favour, sometime last year Skeffa decided to hold a joint show with his mentor Nsaku at Wakawaka. The mistake that was made was to still use the obsolete ‘windows’ into the present advanced sophisticated operating system. You know issues of incompatibility.

Nsaku was still using the language he used to tell the fans he was performing before 15 years ago; still tried ‘Ankolo Pansi pa Bedi’, ‘Makaniki’, ‘Economy’, ‘Ndiphike Nyemba’, etcetera, oh God, it just could not click.

He really tried hard but it was apparent that most of the youthful patrons that had come for the show only waited for Skeffa as they could not identify themselves with the tracks of the old. No wonder those of old age responded with gusto and worse still the turnout was not one that is associated with Skeffa Chimoto, meaning even the old ones could be counted with the fingers of just one hand.

One thing is now clear; either Nsaku has to retain his niche market that has fallen for his music over the time or he has to adjust and adapt to the market demand.

At his time, musicians used to make a lot of money by selling cassette albums through OG Issah music distribution system. Now this is system is no longer relevant.

Not even CDs are an attraction as with the advent of digital production and piracy of course; people carry all the lifetime albums of an artist in just one singe CD or a memory stick in the name of MP3.

MP3 or MPEG Media layer III was designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as a means of compressing a sound sequence into a very small file, to enable digital storage and transmission.

What has to happen now is even a change to the approach of Nsaku music. The studio work has to be different from what he used to do. Now people popularise music that has been well done and this advertises for one’s upcoming live shows. This is where the musicians are currently mining their gold.

Unless Nsaku takes a drastic shift in his approach, he will be best suited to perform in our museums.

Lucius Banda has managed to avoid this by appealing to the present as well. When he plays his music people of different generations still know he is their own. One clever way that Lucius has managed to do to achieve this is to circumvent the issue of analogue and meet half way down with digital all the time. He has always adroitly moved with the pace. He has his place in all the generations. He has even co-opted into his album productions all youthfull musicians of the moment through collaborations among others.

If for example Joseph Nangalembe was to come back to perform today, it will be folly for him to expect to have a pull that he was commanding in his time with the performance of the old which was also meant for the audience of then.

Nsaku has been in the wilderness for so long, his comeback cannot be on the basis of riding on his ghost. On the said day, he even tried to bring along his younger brother Dave. Apart from the dreadlocks Dave is sporting now, he was just the same old one; energetic on stage yes, but with the same style that appealed to the old folks.

Sorry guys, times have changed, move with it if you still want to matter in the current Malawi music scenario.


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