Flash Disks Killing Our Musicians

To sell 1000 copies at a single musical show, in one night and at K2000 a copy is a feat that can translate into something else. Already, this means K2m a night and this is excluding gate, plus hire collections.
Assuming that the artist is going to perform in all the 52 Saturdays in a year, he would make K104 million in sales of their music alone.
Well, forget about this figure; this can only happen in my fantasy world. But the point I am trying to drive home is, Malawian music followers are helping the industry to drown into a quagmire of retrogression.
As we speak, right now every Jack and Jill is running some rundown music with two or a single rickety computer that is leaking out musicians’ wealth of their lifetime. And now they can do so with the blessings of Copyright Society of Malawi.
For some time now, even in the face of vehement protest from musicians themselves, Cosoma has chosen to be the issuing of soft copy licences which once gotten people can upload hundreds of albums in flash disks for sale.
For you to get the music all you need is a flash disk or a mobile phone that can take in some media and some K100 and you will get all the albums that Lucius Banda, for example, has come up with over to decades that he has been in music business.
These ‘flash disk patrons’ for one thing, are always in the forefront cursing the artists for lack of innovativeness, ingenuity and progress, forgetting that for artists to achieve such, they require resources.
If we were willing as a proud country to have our musicians reach the dizzying heights, we surely were supposed to dig deep into our pockets and patronise the work of our artists so that with our buying of their products they can be fired into some ingenious mortals who will be able to give us even better material that can stand the international test.
Ever since OG. Issah, that music distributor, stopped doing something he has only known best in his life because no soul, no longer goes before his counter to buy music. People have now found a way of getting music cheaply and without regard to its maker.
One might laugh off the decision by the distributor, but one thing you might not realise is that even patronage of music through flash disks would be snuffed if materials will no longer be forthcoming.
The musicians themselves feel the pinch that is why in every music video album our musicians produce these days, they will make sure to warn against piracy.
Much as we might gloss over such warning in the conviction that there is no system in this country to track down music pirates in earnest, one thing which has to stand out clearly is the fact that we are helping in making our music industry achieve some mediocre status.
In the past I used to scream mad at radio stations, including the mother institution the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) which at one time equally behaved like a flash disk patron.
They would get the music through the flash disk but still fail to pay for royalties incurred because the music was being played to the public as it were.
The same was the case with entertainment joints that have our music as its heartbeat. If you remove the music it means you are getting rid of the pulsation and consequently killing it.
Owners of such places, just like owners of radio stations have realised that they can never be without music. Pity though, they have this feeling that music just comes into flash disks without deeply thinking about sleepless nights that one spent to compose the lyrics and even the accompanying instrumentation to come up with the music that brings fame to their joints.
There is something terribly wrong with a culture of getting things on a silver platter. It feels the same way as the culture of getting free lunch. It kills the spirit of discernment where you have a special place for the maker of your favourite music.
Because the moment a patron has respect for the artist who makes their favourite music, the only way to give back is when they buy – read me tight here – buying their audio compact discs or DVDs without having to let some virus infested computer empty hard earned music products into their flash disk at the expense of the maker of such music.
One other good thing is that we have our music selling at very affordable prices and there is no way anyone can claim that they can manage a music player but not the music that gives the gadget meaning for its existence.


Copyright Act: Govt’s Wish list

Before the enactment of the Copyright Law in 2016, everything that was not happening right in the arts sector in general, and music industry in particular was being attributed to lack of such statutes.

A couple of years later, artists seem to still be at the mercy of the perpetrators of arts related offences and sins. This is so even in the presence of the law and those that are empowered by it, the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma). They continue sleeping on the job and do little or nothing to enforce it.

Cosoma officials would argue their case all they want but they can only hear from me as someone who is echoing out the brutal and naked sentiments of musicians and other artists in different disciplines.

I will quickly take you to the recent matter relating to Collins Bandawe, the musician famed for his Tchekera Maluzi song. Apparently without his knowledge, two urban artistes – Saint and Macelba – decided to do a remix of the track.

When asked by the media if they had the consent of Bandawe, the duo said since Collins was nowhere to be traced they therefore sought permission from Cosoma.

Assuming that Cosoma indeed gave them such a go ahead, then if the body’s action is not fascinating enough, then tell me what is. Because it is as good as going to the police to borrow a gun that one intends to use for a heist.

Cosoma failed to use the very law that provide for its existence.

Copyright Act section 66 in simpler terms guides on how best this could be done. Among others one is supposed to find the original owner of the works; inform them of their intention to redo their work and even provide the address of the place at which they intend to make the recording.

It further describes the kind of work as follows: “Sound recordings made… may be in the form of an adaptation of the musical work previously recorded.”

Once this has been recorded the law guides that the original owner is supposed to be given the copies that have been made 15 days before publishing them and at least by 90 days royalties should start trickling down the original owner.

In the case above, others can argue that section 36 of the Copyright Act provides for the permitted free use of the works. However, on a number of conditions the duo did not qualify even under transient and incidental copies.

It is therefore disheartening that the society allowed all this to happen with careless abandon when they are supposed to be in the forefront promoting and protecting creativity as their sole existence suggests.

When one sits down and go through the Copyright Act what comes out clearly is that this has just become government’s wish list.

There are issues to do with Copyright Fund on section 98 of Copyright Act for example.

The law expects the society to administer this fund so that it can be used to enforce this law, promote and improve creativity and artistic skills as well as promote and preserve works which depict a cultural identity of Malawi. It further expects the society to, through the fund, pay proceeds from the fines paid for infringement of the rights under this Act.

Artists claim that they have not heard anything from Cosoma as regards this fund even when this very section expects it to conduct civic education on the same.

The question could now be, what is keeping those officials busy at Cosoma when they cannot make a sound decision on a seemingly very simple and straight forward issue.

Are the artists safe under those that are running the show at Cosoma? And what is the mother ministry doing?


Reggae Lyrics and the Yesterday Youth

There was a time when legendary Wambali Mtebeti Mkandawire jokingly told a group of us that had he been playing reggae, no one around would have been his match.

Then I have heard artists like Tiwonge Hango saying they have to do a lot of groundwork in order to break the market for the kind of traditional music, which they play, while there seem to be a ready market for reggae to those that know how to do it well.

Why is it that reggae has managed to find room in the hearts of a many music lovers in the country?

When the youth that are middle age now were growing up, there seem to have been a proliferation of reggae music to an extent that those that had many a lyrics in their songbooks earned themselves respect.

One other aspect that also helped a lot at that time was the philosophy and positive teaching from reggae music, which to an extent helped or traumatised the duty of parenthood.

To an extent, music moulded the quality of education that was on offer then. Have you heard grandparents whining that their form four grand sons and daughters cannot stitch a sensible English sentence while at a Standard six level of that time our grandparents could advance an English debate that could carry the day.

The traumatising part with reggae, which I do not desire to dwell on today, is the question of ‘International Herb’ in the reggae music, which is encouragement to the smoking of Chamba.

Those that fell for it either succeeded with their studies or fell by the wayside, while others found themselves preaching senselessly along the streets while naked while the lucky ones found themselves at Zomba Mental Hospital, St. John of God Mental facility in Mzuzu or Bottom Hospital in Lilongwe.

Those that took the positive meaning out of the reggae music that was available then triumphed because they were good at the English language, which sometimes would be a barrier to all other subjects that the school was offering.

Reggae, like most music is transmitted alongside a lyrical content that needs full attention for anyone interested in message other than the accompanying instrumentation.

Take for example the track TRUST ME from the album of the same name by the late Joseph Hill who later in the days used to play under the name of Culture. Below are the lyrics of the song Trust me.

Reggae Music for a reason
You see you can play it under Jah season

I play reggae music in the middle of the street
Play reggae because it’s our beat
Play reggae music because it was ordered by the Messiah Marcus Garvey

Trust me, trust me, trust me
Why don’t you trust me, trust me, trust me

Allow politicians to fool you again
Allow a lawyer to plea your case
Allow the doctor to poison you
And even the minister to indoctrinate you

You trust the teacher to teach your children
Trust the mechanic to build your car
Trust the carpenter to build your house
And yet you don’t trust your brother at all

You don’t even trust yourself
Please be yourself

You trust the media to give you a news
And my simple words you do refuse
You don’t trust Rastafari
You won’t even listen to I and I and I

I stand up for the rights of every man
Just lonely as long as I can
We can win the victory
To fight on for humanity

Nine holes are in the human body
Seven of them are in your head
So why don’t you clean up your life
And try and live just like the Congo Natty Dread

One mother you’ve got
I must remind you
And you must respect her to the highest level I say man

Although the lyrics in this song cannot make you change your religious belief but it will at least give you a positive reason to fight for your cause.

In general in the song Hill who was of Rastafarian life had problems with people who could not trust him as a musician with his counsel but could listen to politicians, lawyers, doctors etc.

If you look at how reggae spread throughout the country at that time you could tell why even when bands like Kalimba, Makasu came on the scene this the route they took is, remember ‘Sometimes I Wonder’ or ‘Let’s Talk it Over’.

Even when Alleluya Band came on the scene, reggae was the route they took and I do not need to tell you about stories of Joseph Nkasa and friends whose locally blended reggae beat has made them get riches that even surprised them.

Reggae, which originated from Jamaica, influenced the reasoning of the Malawian youth then and to an extent now. Because even when American Gangsta music has come over, the violence message that is its major theme has not moved any sensible youth, but to an extent it has killed youthful interest in reggae, which has resulted into a number of negatives including poor educational performance.

Music is an influential aspect to life and it is not just any other music but particular genres have particular influence due to its style and to an extent its lyrical authority, which is very perceptible in reggae music.


Nkasa’s musical confusion

Joseph Nkasa, the touted wordsmith is a unique musician on the local scene for more than one reason.

Like a bee to a flower, politicians have always been attracted to him. But politicians being what they are only use him for a particular purpose and once that has been achieved they tend to leave him waiting for unfulfilled promise. They behave like bees indeed, once they get the nectar from an attractive flower, and then it’s a done deal.

Former President Bakili Muluzi got attracted with his fame and as he had successfully done with Lucius Banda, he wanted to rope in Joseph Nkasa to be in his hero worshiping team. He started by promising to buy Nkasa a vehicle.

Of course, the car never came and Nkasa composed the track ‘Anamva’ where he reminded the president about his promise.

Exit Muluzi enters Bingu wa Mutharika. The late Mutharika, according to Nkasa, promised to buy him a house due to ‘Mose wa Lero’ a track that indisputably helped Mutharika’s 2009 Presidential campaign.

Now if you look at all these happenings, one thing that is clear is that it was secular music that he used to touch base with personalities that were perched right there at the pinnacle of the country’s political authority.

Now when Nkasa came on the musical scene he truly came as a gospel artist. I should start by saying that ever since he started in 1996 his career to date has been decorated with 18 albums.

If you look at his first 4 albums you will appreciate his initial gospel bearing. He started with ‘Satana Waponya’, ‘Messiah Alikubwera’, ‘Ndigwireni Dzanja Yehova’ and ‘Kutha Kwafika’.

Now FOUR gospel albums, one semi-gospel of course, never did any good to Nkasa’s name. And what does he do? He decided to jump ship and turn secular with the album ‘Kupupuluma’.

Now after soaring so high with secular music and even after making himself a name he thinks he can go back and start all over again in the gospel music arena.

It is the word of God that Nkasa now tries to use in order to get money from politicians.

Joseph Nkasa composed a song for former minister of agriculture, irrigation and water development George Chaponda to douse fires that threatened to burn his political career to the ground.

To keep you in the loop, Nkasa’s song intended to spruce up the image of Chaponda who had been embroidered in maize transactions that had bedevilled by claims of corruption.

In the song Nkasa equates Chaponda to Joseph, one of the 12 sons of the Biblical Isaac who became a defacto ruler in Egypt after being sold there by his brothers due to his closeness to their father.

He further claims that Chaponda is paying for his mercifulness to help the hunger-stricken and that people are trying to make him lose ‘his ministry’.

Nkasa declares in the song that the stones that have been thrown at Chaponda with will accumulate to his advantage as he will use it to build a house which will make him the landlord.

In all this the meaning is that Chaponda will use the ridicule currently peddled about his involvement in the maize saga to become the leader of this country.

It looks Nkasa is always on the lookout for any political developments to jump on the perceived opportunity and compose a song. His latest toils is a track called Absalom in which he is attacking Vice President Saulos Chilima for trying to usurp the position of President Peter Mutharika and contest for presidency using a Democratic Progressive Party ticket.

When he did Mose wa Lero for Bingu he claimed never to have received ‘enough’ money with the hit single. But this remains disputable because he has now gone to bed with different politicians for the sake of money.

Nkasa composed a song for the then parliamentary Speaker Chimunthu Banda when he stood for DPP Presidency, but it emerged that it was not successful at all as Chimunthu tumbled miserably.

After the Chimunthu debacle he went into an agreement with PPM’s Mark Katsonga who allegedly paid K7 million for political songs, jingles and live performances all to discredit Joyce Banda government and prop up the name of PPM’s torch bearer.

While the effectiveness of this project had not even materialised, Nkasa joined the PP ranks and did a track for Joyce Banda whom he had discredited in the other tracks.

The JB track which was first heard on her Ufulu Radio and state owned MBC presents a litany of development achievements of the President and why she would be voted to retain power.

While I can neither accuse Nkasa for his lack of ethical sense nor the politicians for taking any routes to seek vain glory, one thing that is clearly standing out is that Joseph Nkasa does not believe in what he sings.


Snoop Dogg’s way of remaining relevant

Snoop Dogg is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, television personality and actor who is never short of controversy. Real name Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. the 46-year-old American has within 6 years tried to remain relevant by turning to reggae music, before going back to his rap genre. Now he has taken another leap into the Gospel fold.

He was discovered by Dr Dre in 1992 when he launched his music career and he has since sold over 23 million albums in the United States and 35 million albums worldwide. Around 2013 he was worth an estimated $110m.

For over two decades that he has been in music industry, Snoop is considered rap’s great survivor considering that he still remains successful when many of his contemporaries are dead.

All this standing did not however stop him from going to Jamaica in 2012 where he announced his conversion to Rastafari and adopted a new moniker; Snoop Lion that in early 2013, coincided with the release of his reggae album ‘Reincarnated, and a documentary film of the same name that talks of his Jamaican experience.

Many, especially Rastas, did not believe that this gun-toting gangsta-rapper has embraced the peace-and-love principle of Rastafarian livity. Reggae legend Bunny Wailer who at first welcomed Snoop to the fold later said he felt betrayed. Bunny Wailer like most Rastas felt the US Rapper was a phoney who let down the Rastafarian community.

And what with his thirteenth and fourteenth studio albums, Bush, released in May 2015 and Coolaid, released in July 2016 respectively which marked a return of the Snoop Dogg name.

The same is the distrusting feeling with his turning into a Gospel artist while trying to ride on the back of his mother Beverly Tate, an evangelist whom he is also featuring in his gospel album.

In October last year Dogg released his first Gospel song called Words are few which features gospel artist B-Slade (formerly Tonéx) before releasing a Gospel album this year “Snoop Dogg: Bible of Love.”

Although the album has gospel and R&B heavy-hitters like Tye Tribett, the Clark Sisters, Faith Evans, and Rance Allen it still fails to remove doubters from the picture.

In several interviews Dogg says it’s not about money; it’s about spirit… And those that are not happy that Dogg, a secular artist has migrated to the gospel music, should realise that the Devil is a liar…

In an interview Snoop is convincingly arguing that he thought the church is supposed welcome sinners. Because if the church was full of saints it wouldn’t be right. So if one finds somebody trying to find their way home the natural thing to do is provide warm welcome.

We have several examples in the country where the movement has always been one way; from secular to gospel music. Remember San B, Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Evance Meleka etcetera. It was only Geoffrey Zigoma who on several occasions went back and forth.

Much as these would stick to their story that there was indeed a religious conviction for the switch, for Snoop Dogg, with what transpired before when he briefly became Snoop Lion, there will be a need of serious convincing that he has made a genuine transformation.

After over 20 years of doing rap music that was propagating the other side of what Gospel music preach, it will be a matter of time to establish whether or not Snoop Dogg is for real or is trying to stay relevant. If one reads between the lines they might be tempted to see it as the same as Snoop’s holding of the dubious distinction of having 17 Grammy nominations without a win.


Unwarranted attacks on Kuimba 11

There seems to be people in this country who just love to hate. And if there is one grouping that has grown thick skin because of endless attacks on their works then it is the reggae outfit from Chileka, the Black Missionaries.

The past few weeks we have seen people from all callings including some from the media and even from the music industry picking on the four tracks that the Black Missionaries, fondly called Mablacks, has released in readiness of their ultimate issuing of Kuimba 11 album.

The tracks released on Friday April 20, 2018 include Zofuna Mtima Wanga, Umboni, Special Lover and Mbusa and like is the case every time they are about to release an album the noise is always deafening.

Several reasons could explain the source of such noise. One is because people in this country are always envious of those that they think are doing well. Be it in politics, business, religion, soccer and even witchcraft those that excel will be called names.

Come to think of it, before everyone has been trying to compare the current Black Missionaries of Anjiru, Chizondi and Peter to the one led by Evison, and Musamude. The comparison has always favoured the fallen band members.

And yet what is funny is that even when Evison Matafale and Musamude Fumulani were there, the three were around as well. In fact most of the tracks that we think were the best then, were composed by the very same people we now vilify.

If you ask me, even when Evison or Musamude were to be around, the same people who claim that the current Mablacks is failing, would still have faulted them.

You know why I know so? It is happening to Lucius Banda who has been there long before the Black Missionaries. Every other time Lucius releases an album people condemn it saying Son of the Poor Man was the best.

Our challenge as a people is always to think that what we are familiar with from our past is the best. You can just hear old ones boasting that they had the best childhood unlike the current youth who are corrupted by the video games and smart phones.

What is funny though is that how could they compare themselves to the current youth when all their playtime was dominated by imitating a hyena or creating cray car toys?

The same is happening to music. These old-cray-toy-car-making-youths cannot like the same kind of music that the present smartphone youth root for.

People ought to live with the fact that times are changing and therefore even music won’t remain static; it will keep being transform to suit the modern ear.

I am saying all this if the argument is that Mablacks are no longer sounding like before. I however strongly believe that this would be a lie because Mablacks have not changed their mission. Their music would still make Matafale and Musamude proud, knowing that they are indeed perpetuating the mission.

Hello! Please give it to the Blacks. We are talking of eleventh album. May be you are not aware, Matafale only managed Kuimba 2 with the Black Missionaries having done Kuimba 1 with the Wailing Brothers. Mablacks have then gone ahead to release nine more albums on their own.

When Musamude was passing on, he had just finished recording Kuimba 6 with his younger brothers and they are now doing a fifth album after his demise.

How many bands have died for various reasons? The question should be what has made the Black Missionaries tick and continue releasing one album after the other not to mention their hard work on the road when others have fallen by the wayside?

There are many factors before one has to consider before attacking the band.

They have selflessly tried their best to serve this country musically.

It’s also our choice as consumers to go for those that we think are doing the best music that pleases us. The least we can do if we do not like the Black Missionaries is to keep quiet and let them be.

Whither Malawi’s Royalty Collection

The Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) was established in 1992 and it operates under the 1989 Copyright Act which protects copyrights and “neighbouring” rights in Malawi.

Although the Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act, which protects industrial intellectual property rights in Malawi, Cosoma has a very central role in this aspect.

In April of 2015 I wrote that the rules that govern the World Trade Organisation (WTO) allow Malawi because it is only a less developed country to delay full implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement until 2016, which is two years ago.

Government through the Industry and Trade Ministry was also working with Cosoma and the Registrar General to align relevant domestic legislation with the WTO Trips agreement with technical assistance from the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (Aripo).

Under this arrangement Cosoma partnered with privately owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) to be using an electronic system that has been able to capture all musical works performed or played on the radio for the purposes of collecting royalties. At the moment I am not sure where we are now.

I also explained that there are three ways that musicians in Malawi can earn through royalty collections. Cosoma collects mechanical royalties that it gives to an artist after they record with a record company; broadcasting royalties that comes from air play of an artist’s music by a radio or TV station as well as; public performance royalties which is the money that the artist earns when his or her music is played in public places like bars, public transport system, hotels etc.

At the time Dora Makwinja, Executive Director of Cosoma explained that in the past they used to keep data on sales of music by authorized distributors especially those that they had given licenses.

She said when Afri Music Company was in the business of producing and distributing music they used to have a good database of record sales and even for others who were also in the same business because there was some kind of control.

Now, with parallel markets where musicians are also selling their own musical works, it is difficult to have a complete data of the record sales and therefore there is a huge loss of royalty collection.

Before, she said the system was beneficial to musicians like in 2009 when one musician Lawrence Mbenjere set a new record when he became the first musician to cart home money in excess of over K2.5 million in royalties.

There were also challenges in collection especially in broadcasting royalties, where some radio station including the state owned broadcaster the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) would fail to remit the royalties and at one time in 2013 MBC owed Cosoma K8 million.

The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (Macra) announced that it has acquired a machine called Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System (CIRMS).

Cosoma Senior Licensing Officer Rosario Kamanga had indicated at the time that CIRMS, otherwise also known as the Spy Machine would help them manage broadcasting royalties because other broadcasting institutions were neither logging the number of times they had played music of artists nor indicating at all whether they had played it or not.

With the Spy Machine in full gear it remains to be seen how these is now helping musicians in terms of royalties.

By the end of the day what is paramount is ensuring that the musicians get sweets out of their sweat. I just hope Cosoma has the answers.