Imitators, where is your pride?


ood people, that some Blantyre-based imitators have hijacked, recycled and owned Collins Bandawe’s song, Tchekera Maluzi, is not surprising. But it is shocking.

Like any daylight robbery, it must be denounced and terminated if originality and integrity still matters.

Not that the hit from 2005 epitomised these virtues.

However, the recycled version by Saint and Macelba brings to light a disgrace that should have been put to rest the year Bandawe’s tune took radio deejays and listeners by storm.

When the one-hit wonder released Tchekera Maluzi, he was not to his era what the late Daniel Kachamba and Allan Namoko were to the 1970s-originators of unique styles.

For Malawians constipated and obsessed with South African beats, Bandawe had actually reinvented the wheel by imitating Ntombi.

Even then, it was appalling that a song built on mimicry and not much uniqueness topped music charts Malawians trust without questioning the credibility of the compilers and the songs they select.

Speaking to our entertainment hawk Brian Itai this week, Bandawe was quick to dismiss any similarities between his most successful song and Ntombi’s 1996 tune, Malumbini.

He reckons the lyrics and meanings are different.

But the style is not.

Yet, this is no ammunition for Saint and Malceba who stand accused of copying Tchekera Maluzi on the pretext that they could not locate Bandawe on  planet Earth.

The truth is that the urban music duo, who have illegally exhumed and modernised the song once consigned to history  and old-timers’ playlists,  needed neither telescope nor periscope to locate him because all the three live in Blantyre.

This could be a case of a star-struck and fame-starved pair ‘stealing’ from Bandawe an alloy he pilfered from elsewhere.

To lovers of creative minds, this tells a sad story: Gone are the days youthful Malawian musicians carried the hopes of the entire fledging industry the legendary Namoko and Daniel Kachamba willed to them.

Then, art was nothing without originality—and artists created delightful sayings, ideas and styles.

In the words of one pensive Kondwani Kamiyala, a showbiz journalist who speaks of the rise and fall with no less nostalgia, art is  about originality and originality is art—the rest is imitation.

Sadly, neither fake musicians nor broadcasters who play second-hand songs seem to this is no new call, but the same realisation that has kept legends going beyond the tests that ended pretenders’ goings.

The rising culture of imitation brings to mind a famous aphorism from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, the versatile Italian renaissance artist who fashioned Mona Lisa with the same ease he delved into anatomy.

“No one should ever imitate the style of another because, with regard to art, he will be called a nephew and not a child of nature,” he writes.

Simply put, it is better to walk your own path  staggeringly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with a guiltless face.

Imitators and violators of basics of copyright law, where is your pride?

Here is why Saint and his collaborator may not be saints: Artists who reproduce or restyle hits without express permission and attribution could be  disgusting reminders that the industry which personifies everything good about creativity is going to the dogs.

However, broadcasters, who play songs resulting from breach of copyright rights that are supposed to be binding for 50 years, are accomplices to this bloodless felony.

If artists are unsure how to achieve originality, Confucius, the Wiseman from the East, offers a clue:  “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation-the sincerest form of flattery. n

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