Breaking away from traditional gospel

It is Sunday afternoon at the Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) where one of the country’s top gospel musicians is hosting a double launch of her CD and DVD.

However, the main actress performs five songs only because of a long list of supporting artists who began performing at 2pm until 5pm. The situation is worsened by the two directors of ceremonies who in essence are playing the role of directors of marketing to sell the CD and DVD during the auctioning. This segment, which is usually tedious, has consumed a whole 30 minutes, irking some patrons.

Making strides: Namadingo

It is the launch of a full CD and DVD of a particular gospel musician where people expect to be treated to a complete set of live performance of her songs.

As if performing a few songs is not enough to turn off the patrons, the artist’s set is dull. The choreography looks like a bridal dance of the 1990s, which employs a one-two and forward-backward step routine.

Music interests of people change over time. Exposure and music technology influence their decisions. For example, some copy other artists’ styles on TV to present them as their own.

But as trends are fast changing, there is a remarkable dimension which two artists, Patience Namadingo and Faith Mussa, have brought in the country’s gospel world. Their individual brands seem to have brought about a significant change from the way shows are organised and careers managed.

For example, Namadingo packed Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) and Blantyre’s Comesa Hall in exclusive concerts. Mussa also filled Bicc during the launch of his Mdidi hit.

Unlike other musicians who rely on an army of other performers to organise a show, both Mussa and Namadingo have dared the country’s big venues and managed to attract a diverse audience, in the process.

The shows of the two artists are never short of innovation such as use of traditional instruments and other aspects that make them exceptional.

Mussa has made a name for embracing badza, a traditional instrument which is used in mganda performances.  His one-man band brand has also gained ground for his creativity such as guitar skills.

For Namadingo, his live shows are never short of creativity, too. He is fond of intriguing and surprising stunts and freestyles on stage.  During his Blantyre show at Comesa, he used projectors for the audience to follow his action on big screens.

Namadingo’s manager Tonderai Jai Banda said in today’s competitive world of music, building individual brands and sense of marketing have become an integral part of music development.

However, he emphasised the need for investment to achieve this.

“Malawi needs individual music brands who can command audience on their own. This is the way to go because it is hard to measure one’s support or true fans when a show attracts numerous performers. In our case, we started building Patience Namadingo to become where he is now. And we are not yet done with him,” said Tonderai.

He said artists from other countries have become brands of international repute because of what they invested in their career.

“Malawi can invite Busy Signal, R Kelly, Diamond Platnumz or Davido today because they have successfully managed to build and popularise their brands internationally. Malawi needs to go in a similar direction to creating international brands,” said Tonderai ading that good brands are supported by higher levels of creativity and innovation.

He emphasised the importance of effective artist management to creating forceful and marketable individual music brands.

Namadingo said flexibility has earned him a lot in his career.

“I became flexible the moment I realised that I need to change my brand for better. For example, I embraced technology full throttle and took initiative to interact with people who can add value to my life and ideas. These are some of the strategies that helped to build me,” said Namadingo. n

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