Poor Malawi music videos

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.


Learners and Bluetooth Speakers

I stay closer to Motel Paradise where recently a new private secondary school has opened its doors. It has given me an opportunity to observe ill-disciplined learners doing all sorts of naughty stuff.

What attracted my attention is a group of these learners who would bring to school wireless and Bluetooth operated speakers that produce booming sound either sourced from their mobile phones or memory sticks and cards.

These learners will therefore play the music from these gadgetries and sing along while dancing. Meanwhile, their classroom lessons are in session which now casts bleakness on what becomes of the national future if the learners are showing no interest to acquire this all important knowledge with such impunity.

In the early to mid 1980s when the legendary fallen music icon Mjura Mkandawire was a tutor at Blantyre Teachers College, the fruits of his toils were evident in the student teachers.

We used to learn more about the basic music theories from the student teachers than we were able to acquire from our traditional teachers.

The sad part is that Malawi is a poor country. The poverty is not only stinking but it is palpable as well. Not surprising, where the authorities cannot provide the basic necessities like classrooms, chalk and enough teachers, to mention but a few you can’t expect them to provide musical instruments to help in the practical aspect.

At least the absence of such requirements was understandable during the reign of the government of Kamuzu Banda. He is considered to have been one with top standards and class and therefore wouldn’t have expected anything less, but there was none because no future was cut out for music.

But then even when we were learning music there was nothing to show for it because those that made a name were rote musicians and artists like Allan Namoko, Mzalawayingwe Jazz Band etc

Today music is required almost in every aspect of our socio-economic and socio-religious day to day lives. Proliferation of churches that are bent at attracting more following that would equally provide more Sunday offerings for example, use live musical bands a lot. Then talk of artists and musicians that are appearing in each and every household these days

I believe had we made music a compulsory and practical examinable subject from primary through secondary schools we would perhaps have benefitted a lot as a country.

Surely we would also not have had learners staying out of classrooms and choose to entertain themselves with some loud music. Thanks to the sophistication of technology which has allowed tiny gadgetry to produce unbelievable sound and the availability of digitally stored music in memory cards and sticks, the learners have all they need, not only at their disposal but easily solar powered.

Lately, music as a subject is not as serious as was the case in the old curriculum where it was given a higher recognition. Music can be interesting sometimes because it can act like fire which can be both a good servant and a bad master.

Writing for Times in December 2014 Melissa Locker observed there’s little doubt that learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains.


Melissa further wrote that science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn’t otherwise hear. This helps them develop “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.


A good environment which provides both theoretical and practical atmosphere for learning would be conducive to the learners which in turn would not allowing them to abscond classes and entertain themselves outside the classroom and during learning period. In this case music would be considered a bad effect to learning and schools need to discipline such learners in order to save the good name of music.


Dan Lu’s publicity stunts overdose

Sometimes the restraint to talk about ‘below the belt’ actions or howlers by music artists engulf me so much that I let it pass at the risk of either glorifying it by any mention on this space or ultimately missing out an opportunity to speak my mind.

But Lyrical Pen is there for these musicians and any wayward traits observed in the artists’ conduct need to be stopped in its track by opining on its merits and demerits.

Dan Lufani, the urban Afro-pop star is a talented artiste. No contest over this fact. He has proven through and through that he is one artist endowed with flair to dish songs that massage the auditory wits of the most hard-to-please music lovers.

It has become so difficult to ignore him; this is why every time he posts a picture kissing a ‘bared’ belly of his pregnant wife on Facebook; tongues engage a top gear and start wagging.

While entertainment experts lately consider posts of this shocking nature as a true ploy to draw attention and plop up their following and presence as part of publicity stunts, Dan Lufani’s latest exploits in Ireland clearly showed that he lacks guidance in order to only court beneficial controversy or publicity.

When you look at what Lufani’s PR team tried to come up with in order to palliate the controversy he courted while in Ireland, it is clear that it was a shoddy work because those doing it lacked skills and the dirt that Dan sprinkled on his professional fabric was just too much to be washed.

Some titbits that make up the subsequent statement says Dan Lufani tried to avoid meeting or being photographed with his ex. There is a half-naked woman that did not only pose with Dan Lu but they also hugged each other and yet the statement says he never touched her.

My take is that all this is a botched up job. To begin with, there are artists like Tay Grin who are an attraction to a bevy of beautiful girls but he will tactfully stay away from his female fans without being rude. He will either pose with the female fans in a group without being too touchy or he will pose with one fan but in a manner that clearly shows the boundaries. In other words he does not pose with fans in a compromising manner. This is called being smart and a sign of restrain which is a virtue eluding most artistes.

We can be all what we want as entertainers but the moment we decide to commit to a matrimonial acquaintance we need to behave like it because we stop only living for us.

Many talented artists have ‘strangulated’ their careers before it blossomed to beneficial levels because of the way they behave both in private and public life.

Somehow the actions of some of these artists have a bearing on their parents, siblings and not to mention spouses. Much as the artist would therefore desire to behave in a certain way that will make them enjoy all the trappings that go with this life, there are those people that wear this shame that should make artists cautious before they act.

There is always a limit to how much controversy one can use to get attention and publicity. If one is so careless that he becomes the topic of discussion on social media but in an all negative manner and a reference of ridicule to his spouse and family then it’s time to sit down and reflect.

I know many artists in Malawi adore Diamond Platnumz for his musical exploits as well as off stage stunts with beautiful women. But believe you me; lately he has started losing track and focus because he went off the rail.

It is crucial for artists to always play it smart and avoid being in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.


Lucius Banda’s Free Shows loathing

On 14 October, 2017 Lucius Banda decided to use his Facebook wall to detest what he called a common practice in Malawi where people seek free entry into musical shows.

He went on to deduce that this is not due to poverty because people who do this come by car which has obviously been fuelled and upon getting into the show they buy a lot of beer.

What he abhors is that it is clear to such a person that only paying to the artist to gain entrance is what they hate. Sometimes where positions are reversed where the patrons might have a grocery shop, they cannot give free loaf of bread to that artist whatever the case and it would even sound funny if they were to ask for free bread.

He goes on to pour his heart out by wondering why people feel comfortable to enter shows for free despite knowing the artists have loads of overheads to take care of. He then marvels at Malawians’ lack of spirit to support arts.

In his wisdom Lucius believes if all the fans were paying at the door during such shows then Malawi will have her own export quality musicians like is the case in other countries around Malawi.

He goes on to cite Nigerians, Tanzanians and Zimbabweans where he says musicians grow because people are ready to support.

Lucius made this Facebook post barely hours after rapper Fredokiss had held a free show at Masintha which made the venue bulge at the seams.

Rightly so, his post attracted a comment from Mchiteni Nthala II who urges Lucius to organise a free shows sometimes; his argument is that music is not meant to be sold always as there are a lot of people out there who are his loyal fans but cannot afford the gate entrance fee.

Repay them by holding a free show by borrowing a leaf from Fredokiss, who according to him does not have money but has managed to hold a free show in Ndirande as well as at Masintha, he argues.

He then further says Lucius can also do the same by holding free shows in Mhuju – Rumphi, Kabudula- Lilongwe, and Mayaka – Zomba.


Lucius however is still adamant by inviting the contributor to his constituency in Balaka to see for himself what happens on his ‘gate’ [the entrance to his residence, I presume] where what he will see will make him cry for him. Lucius argues that he doesn’t give back to people using shows.

There were several subsequent comments


One Charles Percy Gama says it’s indeed a matter of concern that after investing a lot in advertising, getting supporting artists, venue hiring and organizing a show, somebody comes with all family members and friends to enter for free. When the artists get poorer and stop performing and switch to vegetable farming or bicycle tax business the same people will snide at them for lack of vision. He says it’s high time we supported our artists.

Another comment from my namesake Gregory Chisomo Likalamu argues that Lucius needs to ask Gwamba or Fredokiss to establish who pays for the venue because at the end of the day music is not only for money, but for fun too.

He further states that since Lucius is a politician it’s not surprising that he is egotistical and therefore will only hold free show that will be to his own benefit or when someone pays for it. He argues that Fredokiss is paid with love and not with money.

As a journalist, one would expect me to enjoy free entry which I don’t. I have never been to a show for free even when I will write an article for such artists. However Lucius response is mixed up. He serves two constituencies; a political and a musical constituency and whatever corporate social responsibility activities he does as an MP cannot tick on his check list as an artist.

Several reasons have been offered on his post. But I still believe whether Malawians love free shows or not, he owes it to them and one day it cannot hurt to pay them back as an artist and not a politician of Balaka North.


Why Diamond Platnumz and Morgan Heritage?

These past months have seen the internet and the east African media most especially, awash with stories of Tanzanian top artiste Diamond Platnumz who has been in the news for marital issues concerning his cheating on Ugandan wife Zari Hassan. Apparently Diamond’s alleged infidelity has resulted in revelations that he has impregnated his ex, Tanzanian model Hamisa Mobeto.

I will leave this story at that and turn to his musical exploits which apparently has not been lying docile due to the trouble brewing over his social life.

Around this same time, Diamond Platnumz real name Naseeb Abdul Juma who has done collaborations with international musical acts that I can’t count with my fingers and toes decided to collaborate with the Jamaican royal family of reggae, The Morgan Heritage, to do a love song called Hallelujah.

To begin with, when groups collaborate usually it is because there is something common in their musical exploits. The coming together of Diamond Platnumz and Morgan Heritage therefore was something that was unprecedented.

This is why; Morgan Heritage is a reggae band that has the best reggae album Grammy award for their album ‘Strictly Roots’. On the other hand, Diamond Platnumz is an afro-pop artist whose collaborations with other such African artistes like Zimbabwean Jah Prayzah and Nigerians Davido and P Square, Mr flavour to mention but a few.

On the international scene he has also collaborated with US Ne-Yo doing a track Marry and this well understood as African pop borrows a lot from the R&B genre of the US.

Listening and watching the results of Diamond Platnumz and Morgan Heritage’s collaboration one would agree that they both came down to meet at a convenient level.

There is a track called Nana done by Diamond featuring Mr Flavour which clearly shows how the Nigerian and Tanzanian beat can easily fuse.

Now when one looks at Culture – the Jamaican reggae outfit – for example would we say this is the band that can collaborate with Diamond Platnumz. I think there is no such chance.

In 1990 Morgan Heritage’s debut album called Growing Up was an R&B album it was only in 1994 when the band was officially formed and the group moved to Jamaica, the home of their musician father Denroy Morgan that they settled for reggae in earnest.

Over this period they have released some of the reggae’s greatest hits like Down by the River, Reggae Bring Back Love, Let’s make it up, Protect Us Jah, She is still loving me, Tell Me How come

Peetah, Morgan Heritage’s lead vocalist has still the R&B influenced vocals which when you come to think of it made sense to collaborate with Diamond Platnumz.

When you watch the Hallelujah video more appreciation of this departure from the reggae discipline from the Heritage’s part will be appreciated while for Diamonds this is his turf.

For the lovers of traditional roots reggae the collaboration has been dismissed as a disgrace while for the liberals this is making not only a marketing sense but it brings the members of Morgan Heritage closer to their home continent of Africa.

Without being trapped in some rigid posture, the decision by the reggae outfit only shows their versatility. The elements of not being a pure reggae is also clearly seen and observed in their latest album released on May 19 this year called Avrakedabra which follows their acclaimed Grammy Award-winning Strictly Roots.

Much as the album title poses many questions so is the 15-track album which if you have the history of Morgan Heritage you will not be surprised with its cross breeding of genres.

And therefore their collaboration with Diamond Platnumz is not a total surprise and if any Malawian musical outfit of artiste were n doubt when Morgan Heritage offered for collaboration when they were twice in the country, there goes your answer.

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.