Malawi music is progressing at a convincing pace however there is work to be done if high standards are to be reached.
A number of issues which keep drawing back the industry have to be addressed. Through a microscopic view of Malawi urban music, the following liabilities have been noted.
Lack of originality
Being a culturally diverse country, many songs coming out fall short of cultural values therein. Instead the American hip hop culture is dominating the art, as most artists yearn for prestige. They believe urban music should reflect foreign life if it is to befit that status. Yes, local languages are used but only as a channel for transferring foreign ideologies.
A good number of urban musicians are busy promoting other cultures while ignoring their roots. Judging them by the type of music they do, in other countries they can be confused as their own. On this note, Nigerians must be very proud of Malawians for helping in promoting their culture through music.
Dan Lu in Sweet Banana does it the Nigerian way with only languages used separating him to Kcee, the featured artist. It’s the same story in his other song, Sorry, in terms of style. In Nyamulira, Dali’s song on which he was just featured, the trend continues.
Worse still, Nigerian music is now being identified as afro music thus every artist doing music along those lines is called an afro artist. A new clique in town, Twin M, has added numbers to copycats of Nigerian musicians.
But what serves as perfect examples for music besieged by traits of local culture? Mwini Zinthu by Blaze and Ril B, Undiberekere Mwana by Postnegative, Chipapapa by Tay Grin, Maybe tomorrow by Theo Thompson, and Moto by Piksy, to mention a few. These are the songs we can confidently present to other parts of the world and say, “this is Malawi music.”
It’s not about preaching against foreign genres but to what extent are local cultural values embedded. Look at how Tay Grin has transformed hip hop into Nyau Music, no wonder he is one of the very few local artists recognised outside the country.
This is one of the major setbacks in Malawi music. Most artists rush to studios with work that is not ripe enough. Creating good music involves a lot; writing lyrics, practicing, recording a demo, and polishing up the work. This requires time but in Malawi it does not work that way as artists write lyrics while in studio. Let veteran musician Sir Soldier Lucius Banda who can spend two years writing songs be a standard.
It’s sad that artists are so quick to gain fame and make money. This makes most artists lose touch after a few years. Music is an inborn art which one has to enjoy, it has to be baked without thinking of its rewards. When listening to Lulu, one can tell that he takes time in developing a song.
Lack of promotion
There are very few music promoters in the country making most artists manage themselves. This is a serious problem to up and coming MCs without a financial backbone on which their talent can lean on. As a result they end up working with cheap studios where quality is compromised.
Surely making music is not cheap, more money is required when the song is out to carter for marketing purposes. It’s sad that music is no longer selling as it used to before the internet took shape in the country. Fans would rather download a song than buy a CD in this age, and this has reduced music to a game for only those with financial backing and not those with talent.
However most artists have a problem; you sign them only to be dumped once they rise. Nde’feyo Entertainment deserves a standing ovation for their remarkable role in promoting artists.