Local artists and rebranding

Good people, it seems the floodgates of fame have flapped open and many artists have been talking about rebranding lately.

Rebranding is the world on the mouth of nearly every artist who can get a reporter to take down a few notes.

Reporters are not known for invoking their right to silence, especially when it comes to interviews both hot and friendly.

This is why I am bombarded with questions when the scribes keep bombarding us with listless lists of artists claiming to be rebranding.

Now, this is the burning issue that ought to go without an intelligent: what is there to rebrand when the speaker has never been a brand even in the blue-black moment of a far-fetched dream?

If all Malawian artists were brands as they claim, the country would be a concrete jungle of celebs with fame and dime.

Yet only those who can stand head and shoulders above the rest of their kind can claim to be brands and worth of rebranding.

On the gospel music front, Faith Mussa and Patience Namadingo are some of the youthful voices taking big leaps to distinguish themselves from the pack.

Here are two artists always striving to be unique and marketable.

However, Namadingo, who recently performed to the satisfaction of a sold-out audience at the giant Comesa Hall in Blantyre without shuttling a busload of supporting artists, is a perfect personification of what it takes to brand and rebrand.

Getting to attract and impress a flurry of gospel music enthusiasts in the country is not easy. Even the renowned few on that side of Malawian music–including Ethel Kamwendo-Banda, Thoko Katimba, Ndirande Anglican Voice and Great Angels–seldom go out without a long list of curtain-raisers that essentially steal the time and prominence better assigned to the headine act.

Many are scenarios in which an artist launching an album ends up being eclipsed by a long list of performers who are supposed to play a secondary role. The pack performances have literally shattered the excitement associated with live shows. Almost every week, the people who flock to Boma Park in Mzuzu, Robin’s Park in Blantyre and Sheaffer Marque in Lilongwe are subjected to the same faces and playlist. The only feature that changes is who is hosting who–and the chronic Z-listers have found a better term to justify their existence as they call it ‘supporting each other’.

It may not just be about giving a hand, but lack of confidence. Times without number, artists with marketable names, illustrious experience and the allure to dazzle have preferred burying themselves in a crowd of supporting artists who only deprive fans of the time to fully appreciate the main act in a concert.

This is the monotony that Namadingo broke when he unveiled his All New Namadingo album in Blantyre two weeks ago.

The title of the new release says it all–the old Namadingo is gone and a new one is already here to rock.

Just about five years ago, Namadingo was a relatively new name. His talent was immense, his name not instantly recognisable and his promoter at that time found it imperative to host radio DJs and presenters to implore them to give the boy a chance and advice because he was a gem not worth burying in sand.

They gave him the visibility he needed and it faded bit by bit as the artist started making headlines for reasons beyond music.

Fast forward to the new Namadingo. He is still the same talented boy we saw in 2012, but he has repackaged his music to come up with a product that is uniquely his.

And the brains behind his public relations are doing a wonderful job to place him in the minds of Malawians his music may concern.

From time to time, the artist releases short videos and audio clips offering light-hearted insights into things Malawians endure–including frequent power blackouts and deepening obsession with televised football matches. This shows the artist is a citizen of this world of ours like all of us.

Rebranding is not really about jumping from a flying pan into the fire or morphing from obscurity into oblivion. Unknowns shall be unknowns unless they have what it takes to separate them from their uncovered status and give them the edge that the good ole Surf still enjoys among powdered laundry soap years after it was renamed Omo. n

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