Music has since, time immemorial, been there to evoke many emotional reactions from its listeners.
Traditionally Malawian music has served to portray the kind of life that the natives live, their challenges and social problems fronting their society and how they can decipher them.
Allan Namoko’s Lameki for example, a father speaks to his child about the beauty of listening to his parent’s advice and the folly in neglecting it. In addressing the persona in the song, Namoko passes the much needed norms to the future generations.
A piece that was done in the late 1990’s but still enjoys massive airplay to date, what more defines great music if not its ability to stand the taste of time?
This is in contrast to what is labelled music in modern day. To those who have been there long enough, they laugh at the carcass of Malawi music hyped by the current generation.
Most of it pegged on lyrics that are profane, sexually explicit in nature and yet they are skyrocketed as nice art.
Though other have argued that some songs are only misinterpreted, but for a functioning mind some of the songs are purely meant to drive sexual feelings to the audience.
Some of the songs that have enjoyed massive airplay on local radios, unceasing downloads on music websites and turned talk of the town include; Sonye’s Tsika , Na lero done by Nepman, Tetelitete in which Mafo features Nyasa B, Zafrey , Ndidzakukwatila by Gibo Lantosi, Nepman’s Chilawe Changachi featuring Black Nina.
To prove a case, in Tetelite, Mafo chants “Vuto langa mchani mkazi sindipanga ndege // Mafo ndege // ee sindindipanga plane.” In the lyrics, Mafo lightly meant ‘ndege’ which in English is ‘plane’ for unprotected sex (plain).
But is this what urban music is about? And what might have been making such songs hits, if nudity was depraved in Malawian societies?
One of the country’s avid arts follower and commentator Dave Namusanya is of the view that what makes a piece a hit is not necessarily the content but the composition itself.
Namusanya tilted the argument to some tracks that are not even carrying any nudity notions but became hits of the town.
“Is it not a wrong assumption to say that they have become hits? Lawi’s Amaona Kuchedwa was a hit for a long time before it was replaced by Na Lero (obscene in its content you can say). There was hardly anything obscene with Amaona Kuchedwa and its popularity was greater than Na Lero, in my opinion. So, it is about composition. Not the obscenity.”
Namusanya, a former Arts and Entertainment Journalist at Blantyre Newspapers Limited added that whether profanity was now eating up the current urban music is no anything new saying there are some old and culturally done songs that are in the similar lines.
“People are used to commenting, to hailing the past in contrast with the present. There is no issue here. Nothing is new. There is a Chitelera song which says ‘walephera/ mamuna anali wako walephera/ wam’tengera ku bed walephera/ tembenuka tiyese walephera’…there is another old and traditional song ‘kamwana kamwini kangoti mayo mayo/ mamuna n’chilombo uyu/ kuche msanga n’tuluke’…there are a lot others. It is not new” he concludes.
One artist whose song was demonized for having similar notions plead for anonymity while expressing his view that such notions make tracks famous as such he opts for the same to be part of the top musicians.
“Well, I must say that the idea you have here is correct, but everyone in the music industry wants to be on top of the game. And if people fancy such kind of music why then would we be going the opposite way? The money we get is from winning a fan base by doing songs that contain what people fancy these days.” said the artist.
Most of the artists, Malawi24‘s Joseph Dumbula approached, were either coy to give response or gave excuses and kept telling the reporter about appointments they never gave in to.
However in a separate interview, Lilongwe based Music Producer Essim Mbwana argued that most of such songs do not last long in the market.
He cited that it was unfortunate to that most of the artists copy concepts developed by their fellows.
“Such type of songs stand out because they tend to deviate from normal way of life. Anything that deviates from normal attracts attention, that’s how the human brain works anyway. Yes, songs that don’t contain obscene language have a chance too, it’s a matter of doing them in a new way, creatively done.”
While noting that it is now becoming a common trend, the music producer maintains that musicians need not to focus on fame alone but their reputation and whether they are in good books with the audience or not.
“If you are an artist and want to make it, do your own music, and never try to copy from any artist, the audience are always attracted to new and unique music Plus obscene music even though they tend to hit, they don’t last long . To make it in Malawian music you need a good image, not just fame, because fame doesn’t pay.” Opines Mbwana.
To pinch salt to the wound, a remix of Nepman’s Nalero had to be edited in order to make it permissible for airplay in local radio stations because of its denotative content.
As Urban music in Malawi surges, the big question to be debated is; does goodness of music in Malawi still rely on the content or how famous it has been?