The question that is sometimes posed is whether or not music and
television relate in any way. Television is the place where one can watch ready-made music videos or watch live performances of musicians.
One other major characteristic of music videos is that it gives an opportunity to showcase dancers.
In Malawi, musicians have only started getting acceptance now, unlike in the past when parents would not encourage their sons and daughters to venture into music as it was regarded wayward. There was a bad tag linked to anyone doing music although, ironically, people would cherish the art of listening to music and enjoying it as it were.
Now, while musicians were looked at with disdain, dancers were regarded as the worst kind of people. Everyone else dancing in different places, except, of course Kamuzu’s mbumba and all other performers at political events, were regarded as out-casts.
But the coming in of television has helped the society to appreciate that dancing to music – or performing as a dancer – is another form of art that deserves appreciation and respect and not disparagement.
Now if you look at music videos Malawi has been churning out over the years, you are left with nothing but helplessness because the system to allow such music sees the light of the day is so restrictive.
The sole so-called public broadcaster has left powers in a few individuals who would always want to get a little something every other time musicians want to provide their music to them.
Malawians always complain that her music is not breaking onto the international market and, therefore, it is not bringing money on the table.
There are, of course, many marketing and distribution aspects that Malawian musicians do not know how to handle. Most international musicians would send press kits to local media, radio stations, television stations, venue managers, record labels and studio executives in order to either create or increase their visibility.
Now, coupled with lack of knowledge to market and distribute our music, Malawi music does not have enough media channels that it can use to sell its musicians.
Programmes that are musical in nature are not enough to contain the production that is on-going at the moment.
The point at which we have reached as a country is that we at least need a television station that will solely be dealing with music or, better still, we need more television stations that equally and ably deal with entertainment.
Then we were saying that lack of provision by the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to give out television licences to those interested to run them is not only hurting the intended targets, it is also making our music industry suffer.
Now we have numerous television channels like Chanco TV, Mibawa TV, Times TV, Zodiak Television and many more, giving hope that may be they would provide a change in the approach. What is doubtful though is whether they will get any economic sense from travelling down that road.
In other countries, playing latest music videos on television boosts sales of music and patronage at live shows.
In Malawi we have a number of private firms where we are getting both quality and mediocre production of music videos. Without any set of standards or criteria we get music that is beamed on television that leaves you with a bad after-taste.
You are always ashamed of the person performing because you realise that for such run-of-the-mill production to chance airtime it has passed through a number of hands. It does so much damage to the aptitude of those working for the television station.
Then we were saying government through MACRA was tremendously contributing to the poor quality of music video production in the country.
Because there was a single television station the problem was in two folds; the television would beam anything provided such mediocre player has greased the palms of the one in control or that those behind such productions would disregard quality because they knew whatever they produce will come out regardless.
This left no room for competition. But a healthy competition breeds innovation and creativity.
Therefore since we now have a sprouting of new television stations we hope things will change. It is high time the few production houses we have upped their game to inspire creativity among our artists.
Only then can our music industry grow and break into the international market.