Malawi urban music takes over

A seemingly simple question this one might look considering the genesis of what is now known as urban music. Not that it provides us with the opportunity to define what it is or is not, but it is all clear that Lucius Banda will be considered as the traditional archetype of our local music.

That it is on one hand, but on the other hand, Tay Grin exemplifies what ought to be known as the urban type of music.

Now what is bringing me into this talk this week is observation made over a period of two subsequent weekends.

There is a new joint in town – Blantyre – called Dusk to Dawn where one Friday, Tay Grin decided to organise what he called Afrima nomination party. He simply used the social media without going to the traditional advertising platforms to announce about the event. What followed is the jam parked dance floor where patrons parted with K2000 to gain entrance.

It should also be mentioned that performances started from midnight to morning and patrons kept trouping in all this while. There was lack of parking space outside the club and it clearly shows what this means when we compare it to this.

Come the following Friday, Lucius Banda and Zembani Band also performed at venue and the story was different as it failed to park to its capacity.

There are different schools of thought that are emerging in order to explain away this disparity. But I should say from the onset that this does not mean Tay Grin is better off as others are arguing.

I think it all goes down to the niche audience that these two artists separately appeals to. It is becoming an extremely painful reality that the urban audience is taking over the space.

Because the urban is more appealing to the youthful population which is becoming a dominant force it is clear as they say in marketing that ‘consumers of niche products become product advocates more often because they feel more connected to the product and realize it was made for them’.

A good example is the free Ndirande show by Fredokiss. He parked a venue in a way that no meeting, be it political or religious could achieve. With politics and religion you know their manipulative power where they will try to profess popularity by parking vehicles with people that they ferry to such spots for obvious reasons. For Fredokiss it was just consumers of his niche products walking by foot to the venue.

What it means for traditional musicians is that this is the market to explore. Lucius has tried to feature hot musicians every time they are taking the music industry head on.

Recently, Fredokiss who is also known as Ghetto King Kong released latest hit song “Njira Zawo” which features Lucius Banda. This is the rendition of Lucius’ “Ali ndi njira Zawo” and if anything one would think that it should have been the other way round.

What is happening right now on the market shows that a very big boundary is developing, on one side there is the urban niche audience and on the other there is the traditional one. Again the venues also matter because it looks like the way Dusk to Dawn is designed it makes urban music lovers identify with it more than the traditional music followers.

If it were at Motel Paradise for example, would the Lucius Banda, Tay Grin comparison remain the same? At the risk of being wrong I would want to believe otherwise. It does not at all compare the two on the strength of their musical talent but it rather speaks of the shifting in fortunes for various reasons.

Unfortunately the urban niche audience has internet while the traditional remains there in the past where newspapers and radio announcements mattered.

The industry players perhaps need to rethink.



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