Malawi media and the allowance conundrum

In an ideal world the media companies are supposed to pay for everything that will go towards investing in a story.

When these organizations bring invitation letters or make calls inviting the media to their events, all the gatekeepers have is to consider whether or not they feel obliged to publish the story. This assessment is informed by interrogating the invitation and see if the end result is making business sense as an entertainment or educative/ informative piece. The other aspect taken into consideration is whether the piece falls within the media company’s corporate social responsibility. Once the gatekeepers weigh all the pros and cons they can decide not to invest in the story or not. This is the ideal situation.

Rarely would you find a media organisation declining to carry out a particular assignment based on the invitation and this is what actually happens in the real world.

The real scenario however is where the media organization does not have a budget to carter for lunch/transport/incidental/communication allowance for their journalist for a particular story, as investment in a story for our media bodies is rarely a priority. Meanwhile they have a newspaper to fill with stories, bottomless airspace to feed with pictures and audio as well as online void to be filled with latest stories and pix. For a resource constrained media organisation, therefore they compromise ideal arrangement as earlier examined.

Some NGOs think construction of a pit latrine requires media coverage, and this is where the problem starts to emanate. Donors of such project will need proof that the money they gave the NGOs has been used for the intended purpose. Politicians will also want to show their superiors that they are working and therefore abuse the space especially in the public media. Politicians will slaughter a goat for their constituents on the Christmas day and want coverage where they will thank His Excellency the State President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika for the goat meat; they want this covered. We also have organisations like CEDEP and IPAS for example which are ‘taboo mongers’. They are trying to inculcate in the audience, but through the media, that safe abortion and homosexuality is okay.

When all these NGOs/Politicians and of course other so called newsmakers consider the constraints experienced by the media when it comes investing into gathering of material then they start competing for the media attention; not because they want to help the media get stories but because they have different motives. No wonder, while other will dangle ‘a mere’ K5000 for attending a press conference others will pay triple as much or 500 percent more.

Now when you consider all these factors which are just a tip of the iceberg, and having reservations about giving the media allowances for doing their job and how the media discharge it’s work is not only a mockery to the profession but it far much gives the media a window of what different sectors of the public view it from. It’s like there is a ‘mercenary approach’ as we discharge our duties across the mediascape.

The question remains, when all is said and done, do we live or operate for allowances or we indeed operate in penury and only survive because of the handouts. Most media practitioners hate to be told of their love for allowances. Believe you me most of us cannot survive the socio-economic demands considering the take home from the monthly salary which does not even come close to the breadbasket assessment by the Centre for Social Concern …

When all these issues are considered, then talking about giving allowances to the media becomes complicated matter.

At the end of it all one cannot blame the media for complying when there are institutions out there who are desperately dangling these so called allowances for the media practitioners to take, not because they are needy but because the benefactor know they cannot achieve their goal if money is not going to exchange hands, after all they already budgeted for such, according to the budget proposal they submitted to the donors; after all what the media gets is just one tenth of their entitlement if you go by what the financial proposal of the project suggests…

In conclusion perhaps only the media can guard against such opportunists by investing more in story productions and telling off those that are bent at abusing the media to achieve their end to miserably fail to do so. The solemnity that ought to be the benchmark of the profession, the dignity and honour as well as the veneration that it ought to exude when journalists are discharging their media duty needs to be protected.


Sam Simakweli’s attempt at resurrecting Chaphuka

Paul Chaphuka remains an enigma because he came at a time when there was the rebirth of Malawi music. His one and only album ‘Ndichiritseni’ released at the time he had just died on May 11, 1997 was only made possible by legendary brothers Paul and Lucius Banda. What would have become, had he not succumbed to skin cancer is a subject of conjecture.

But his album is marked in the all highly treasured archives as one of Malawi’s classic music production, albeit going with the equally pioneering all famous Balaka genre.

Chaphuka’s career started – or it is better known to have started – when he played with Mte Wambali Mkandawire and as an instrumentalist he used to play the bass guitar a departure well registered when he joined Alleluya Band where he was now playing lead guitar.

The album had many captivating tracks like Nkhoswe, title track Ndichiritseni – which of course is a Chichewa rendition of Alpha Blondy’s song ‘Heal Me’ found in the album Dieu. Just like Alpha Blondy who suffered a mental breakdown that prompted the release of the track in 1994, Chaphuka too, having realised of his ill health sought God’s healing power. As they say the rest is history; while Blondy survived, for Chaphuka, it was never to be.

Lucius and Paul had to finish the album and together included a tribute Tsalani in the album. This is all to give you a picture of the priceless sentimental value that this album has.

Now why I am all rumbling about Chaphuka today is because Sam Simakweli has taken a ‘leap of faith’ and done a rendition of one of Chaphuka’s great hits in the album called Mavuto Tawaona.

It is this one that has brought us to talk about Chaphuka in light of this production from Simakweli who currently brands as Sam Smack.

When you understand the pain and richness of this song just like the rest of the tracks in the album, you realise that it would require a special reason to do a rendition.

The place to look for such a special reason is obviously in the released newest production and my effort to look for one in Simakweli’s Mavuto Tawaona did not help matters as it left me with mixed feelings.

To begin with, this is a classic that, much as effort would be made to modernise it, there is still need to preserve its touch. This without doubt should have been achieved with Simakweli’s golden voice. But for whatever reason he decided to sound like a Nyanja speaking Zambian.

Smacks is one of the six-pointed stars in the local urban genre and if any attempt was made to do a Chaphuka rendition everyone would give it to him if he so decided to bring in the urban elements. Now he does so by bringing in a guy I am hearing for the first time called Michale Es.

My problem is not because I have never heard of this guy before. But here is my explanation:

There is a ring to all the classic tracks that are redone by modern artists. They tend to resurrect the old, by making it to the top of numerous charts. The reason Simakweli’s effort on this Chaphuka track has not made necessary noise is because it has not brought any fresh impetus to the resounding following that the initial track attracted.

Most of the old folks who fell in love with Chaphuka’s original toils feel short-changed especially with the rapping which, as most of our rappers do, did not bother to make sense and bring clarity to own lyrics thereby degrading itself to the levels of noise.

In short, with the bar that was set by Chaphuka, any attempt to redo his work should be well thought of and should not come in half measures. Unfortunately this one has.

Atoht Manje rising from the ghetto furore

Ellias Missi known in showbiz cycles as Atoht Manje is one self made artiste. I first saw him as an opening act in the Warge produced Itchoke-itchoke medley riddim video which also features late Mafunyeta’s ndikanakhala nyerere .

Well, honestly I just dismissed him as one of the confused youths that had just crammed the entertainment spaces and at the same time mentioned in the same breath as Binge, Tikka, Malinga Mafia, Bingolingo, Big Ta, Chizzy, Blaze, Matia Killa, and Khekhe or is it Khekhi Matia.

Such a musical din, seemingly seen as experimental with the Mabiringanya Empire, also had its contribution from Namasina, Gibo Lantos, Dawn Damage, Roy View, Teddy Muva, Kapadocia Futali, Ceaser, Benjie, Azizi, Phada-Man, Khacoolbah, Bwi-Man, Tamnyata, Trata Dmus, P-Star, Ababa, Tony C, King Gebuza, Senior Gz, Blasnet and Chaddy D among plenty of them. They would all vocalise over one long riddim.

While a few above names can now be counted as having musically excelled, not many really considered Atoht as one to make a mark amongst them until he started dropping tracks like Majelasi, Lululu, Tizipepese, and etcetera.

Atoht is endowed with a crackly voice which is suitable for dancehall or ragga genre. The tracks like Majelasi and Lululu really came riding this genre until Tizipepese, which his fans call Mabvuto came in. It’s fast pace borders on something that can best be equalled to a Congo beat or merely a local hurried up beat like fast paced Manganje as he would love to call it.

Then his songs go with a signature tune of gun blazing sound which he produces with his voice other than computerised programmed sound.

When one listens to Atoht’s productions with a trained ear, you would easily notice that his lyrical structure is messed up. He literally follows his heart, the result of which is a general appeal to his fans but an immediate shock to music teachers.

Every time there is national commemoration during Mother’s Day his track Lululu controls the airwaves. Majelasi on release was also the tune of the moment for radio stations as well as entertainment spots which favour Tizipepese more because of its prowess to force all listening to it to take to a jive.

His music videos have its unique mark that is built around his personal figure but this does not mean in any way that it has to be turned into anything academically acceptable.

Apparently Atoht is also not into music full time as he is into motor vehicle mechanics, meaning he cares less whether or not his music will bring him fame and dough. It’s like he just loves making music, right from back there in 1999 when his uncle and brother took him down the art of playing a guitar.

What is strikingly noticeable is that he is self taught in the aspect of producing tunes that have come to be liked by music lovers. He adds drama to his videos while his lyrics have lines that can best be suited in a Winiko play script as they border on jocular jibes.

Perhaps when all these are rolled into one they make Atoht stand out from the din of noise emerging from the ghettoes and makes one to listen attentively.

It’s not a subject for debate on whether Atoht is talented or not. What I find in the young man is raw talent that needs not only to be guided but nurtured as well.

Therefore, I await the day that this ‘mechanic musician’ will meet a serious music manager who can take care of this talent and move it to another serious level.

You cannot rule out the fact that Atoht is contented that he is making good money out of his music but I dare say that such money even by South African standards are just crumbs.

He needs to conquer all even without jumping the borders and earn his place.