Malaika Mkhutche is finally here. Dad has to head back to the blogging business now. The Malawi music industry is cruel in several ways. Its cruelty ranges from lack of paying the artists to dumping the complacent ones. You cannot even afford to relax. One always has to work hard to maintain his or her relevance by having music shows and releasing new songs. The present trend of artists using the social media to boost their image is also working miracles in making sure that some of them survive. Even though all the above cruelties involve adults in the industry, but have you ever asked yourself why there are no child stars in our music industry?
That is another one of its cruelties. What most people are yet to discover is that, elsewhere in the world, child stars are the money makers for the record labels. There is always something special in a child who knows how to sing and perform. The likes of Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and Beyoncé Knowles are some of the big stars who started from tender ages until they became sensations in their adult years. The advantage is that the longer one stays in an art there is a guarantee that they will be best at it when they grow up. In art, with years, you become experienced and better, unlike in other trades.
It is just that the Malawi music industry does not have time and space for children who want to blossom as music artists. But it is not the making of the industry itself. It merely responds to the larger society which sees music as the business of the adults and not children. It cannot happen that in the whole of Malawi there are no children who can sing well like Justin Bieber, for example. They are there. But the nature of the environment they are in does not support their dreams. They will have to do it underground, pursue the passion with a self-hard work, and when they grow old, they will have the independence of doing the music. Their parents are not ready to support their interests, worse enough, when it leans to the secular kind of music. Most parents think that the place of children is at school. Anything else will be done after they are done with it.
There was a cold reception fifteen years ago, when the eight year old Mirelle Nkhoma, invaded the music scene. She seemed to be having the best days of her life whenever she was at the stage. But the general public thought that she was doing something not for her. The pressure kept on coming on her, the band she belonged to and the parents, until she was withdrawn from the scene, for good. Imagine how good she could have been today had she been left to pursue her interest in music. It is unfortunate that we prematurely lost Israel Chatama in a road accident. As young as he was, he had fitted well into the boots of greats like Phungu Joseph Nkasa and Thomas Chibade with his ‘Mayaka’ style of reggae music. It could be seen from his music videos as well that he was a composed boy before the camera and he would have grown better and bigger as time went. But there were always fears from people that he would end up a lost young man. There is a talent also in the daughter of the gospel songbird, Grace Chinga. She showed it when she was featured in her mother’s ‘Anandigula’ song in her ‘Udzayimba Nyimbo’ album of 2010. The voice was as good as that of her mother and the composure before the video camera was perfect. But some people commented that she was not going to end up a well-raised young lady because of the exposure. Since then she is no longer being seen. But for those who followed her brief appearance saw in her someone who would one day be even better than her mother.
There is always a fear when a girl or a boy takes to the music stage. Perhaps the blame should not be on the parents and the public only. Music labels in Malawi are also contributing to this. For lack of financial capacity and insight, they go for already established artists, those who have exposed their potential and not those who have the potential. They cannot manage to see a future in someone who has no future today. They are aimed at making quick money from the artists who already have a following.
The missing of child stars may not negatively be affecting our music industry with a magnitude to be concerned about, but we are definitely missing on future polished stars. The longer one stays, the better they become. People like Lucius Banda are good examples. The environment should be receptive, ready to give boys and girls a chance to succeed and not criticizing them too much before they blossom. Talent should be nurtured when it has been noticed, and not criticized, especially when the aim is to force it out of the way so that the person does what is expected of them by their age. Our industry has to be tamed.
About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political analyst and a manuscript developer and editor.