It is incessantly becoming a trend for Malawian musicians to fall into the dungeon of artists that do covers.
For starters, a cover version or cover song, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording of a previously recorded, commercially released song by someone other than the original artist or composer.
The most recent trending song is King Chambieccos’ cover for Casper Nyovest’s Tito Mboweni.
Desiigner’s Panda had its cover done by Charisma. He titled it ‘Kubanda’, a Chichewa word which means smoking. It remains an undisputable fact that the song earned the artist a name and it has been a hit in local charts and in music shows.
Casper Nyovest’s Phumakin, was redone by Omexeler in Malawi. He titled it ‘Phumanje’. He ended up shooting the video bearing the very same concept that Casper Nyovest used in the visuals. He seemingly ended up gaining a little more fame for himself.
KB2 Block also fell into the same scenario doing a cover for Emtee’s Roll Up. They named their own track ‘Kawale’ after one of the popular townships in Lilongwe.
In the same vein, artists have even gone further to shoot videos just like the ones done by the artists from whom they took the cover and concept.
In these songs, one may note that even the beats and the touch are the same.
Largely, the covers have either been completely translated to Chichewa or are carrying up the vernacular and English.
But listening to comments that come on phone-in musical programs on local radio stations – a section mostly rendered to callers to give advice to musicians, most callers ask musicians one thing – ‘be real’, ‘Do not copy other songs’.
The common remark to musicians who do covers is that they portray nothing but lack of creativity and laziness.
Others have even been branding such artists as being clueless.
“Musicians are inspired by a genre or a fellow musician to compose or produce music. No one can claim that they were never inspired by a specific musician or song to become a musician, themselves. Everything has a starting point. Singing covers is not a lack of creativity. It is an act of inspiration. It is reinvention. It is expressing yourself using what you’ve heard the best way you know how. It might be in your own language, genre, mood, tempo, key or rhythm,” says MacFarlane Mbewe an arts journalist working with Capital Radio Malawi.
Mbewe told Malawi24 that he believes that musicians are inspired by the environment and that if going by spiritual notions, it is God who created everything and that it is the surrounding that makes people bring up ideas.
He said: “Recording or performing a cover involves adapting the piece as if it is your very own. It involves memorising the song words. The original song’s key, tempo, rhythm have to be in check though you might opt to rearrange the piece. It is literally expressing yourself through someone else’s product.”
When asked to comment on what his take is on whether doing covers implies lack of creativity, KB2 Block member, Georgiz was quick to brush off such a belief.
He argued that what matters at the end of the day is the way an artist works on the cover.
His group, fondly known for the hit song Anzawo a Masten did the cover for Emtee’s Roll Up.
‘’You can cover a song and make it sound better than the original version. You can cover a song in a way that people can relate. So covering a song is not lacking creativity but how one does it. It shows how flexible one is that he or she can do certain type of song. So covering is not a problem but the problem is how one covers it,” he told this reporter before coming in stern defence of their cover which they titled Kawale.
He added that doing a cover may not necessarily pose any threat to Malawi’s music saying artists need to be very skilful and talented enough before doing covers.
“In Jamaica it works perfectly you can see how many songs Busy Signal has covered, Roman Virgo. And how the reception is worldwide,” he said.
Georgiz’s sentiments on this part are also heavily in line with what Mwale believes on what this trend may mean for Malawi music.
He said that by doing covers of international artists, what it implies is that as Malawi, our music is able to move with time and generally portrays progress.
‘’It means musicians are challenging themselves. It means musicians are getting inspired to do great things. It means Malawian musicians are being ambitious. It means local musicians are swiftly joining the global music village,” said Mwale.
In a separate interview, King Chambiecco whose cover for Casper Nyovest’s Tito Mboweni is currently enjoying airplay, says cover songs like those done by Busy Signal have also been liked in Malawi, something he believes Malawians understand it does not in any way portray any form of laziness on the part of musicians.
He admits being motivated by the way Casper Nyovest did the song and could only show the feeling by doing a cover.
He told this reporter that the treatment Malawians render to local artists clearly indicates how the nation rates highly of foreign musicians and belittle their own.
“I think people should start cherishing what Malawi artists put up as we find it that they cherish outsiders a lot than their own artists…an artist from Malawi can do a good work on something than an outside artists but they always find something to go against these artists. It’s high time they have to accept we got too much talent here just as outsiders,” said Chambiecco.
He also believes that covers would help artist earn the much sought name and recognition.
The artist was also quick to acknowledge the massive feedback he has gotten for the Tito Mboweni cover song.
‘’I am a dancehall artist and I ended up covering a hip hop and trap tune and turned it into a dancehall thing as I just had to show the world how sick I am at any kind of beat. And that’s being creative. Even a lot of South Africans and artists been tweeting Casper how a Malawi dancehall artist did a cover of his song and how they have really liked it. It’s like getting South African people to look into Malawi’s artists,” he added.
The arguments beg a question whether Malawians are being hypocrites by fancying cover songs done by international artists than those done by local artists.
At the end of the day, Chambiecco said, what matters is doing music that people enjoy.