From the initial days as a rapper to dropping singles like High Morale, Amati Andikawe and Amenyele, musician Lawi fully shot into the limelight in 2013. The hit, Amaona Kuchedwa catapulted him to stardom as it proved and still remains one of the best tunes locally, in recent years. Almost four years after dropping his first album, the artist last month released the first single off his soon to be launched second album, Sunset in the Sky. What does he make of the mixed reactions that Zonena Kuchuluka has attracted among others issues? The artist, born Francis Phiri spoke to our reporter Yvonne Sundu.
: You announced that the release of your album Sunset in the Sky is set for October. When exactly should fans expect to see the album out?
: We have completed all preparations on the album and as promised earlier we set October as the release month and the date is 28th. We are expecting to do events in two cities, Blantyre and Lilongwe as a celebration of the release. These events will see a few videos from the album come out too. We are through with the videos too. We plan to release and share them at the events.
: Your first single Zonena Kuchuluka has received mixed reactions. The bone of contention is the heavy influence of Allan Namoko and that the song sound like Amaona Kuchedwa. How do you react to that?
: I have a great respect and admiration for Allan Namoko, he is a legend. May his soul rest in peace. I thank him for his strong influence and ability to present Malawian contemporary music in an amazing way. His art has pushed people like me to aspire to do greater things.
I have learnt not only from him but from all who came before us. All who had the courage and ability to add great value to the face of music in Malawi. These are artists who paved the way for us selflessly and it feels great to not only notice that people familiarise you with a legend but to also offer something different for the now and future generations to enjoy.
: Malawi has seen a number of artists such as Faith Mussa and Patience Namadingo re branding, mostly going more commercial. However, we have not heard much from you this year. How do you plan to handle your music moving forward in the face of all the changes in the industry?
: There is always a need to keep up with trends. Seasons change and therefore it is very important to be flexible enough to adapt to seasons and their requirements. However, sometimes you do not need to change but rather be the cause for the change. I believe when you are in that place you are able to offer tomorrow’s innovation today.
: Some fans have expressed fears that you have settled in foreign land. Can you shed more light on this?
: I travel a lot and I love it. It is nice to see places and learn as much as one can. Malawi is my home and I always look forward to coming back and connecting with my people. However, I need to grow, at the same time feed my cravings for new knowledge and things. If I cannot travel now then there won’t be much to share in the future. I plan to buy homes in a number of cities in different continents. God willing this will happen in time.
: Do you think Malawi music is taking the right direction especially now that we have no proper music market channels?
: I think Malawi music needs to be clearly defined. So far, there are a few musicians who have taken time to bring what is purely identified as Malawi music to the rest of the world.
Otherwise, the rest could fall under different categories as the music bears identity and influence from other cultures that we would not necessarily say Malawi shares.
I believe it would have been easier to sell art nowadays as there are many platforms and technology has made it easier for the product to easily reach markets.
However, it will require a certain level of discipline and unity in order for us to establish a well-structured and trusted system that will support the arts industry as well as the economy in Malawi.
Many countries around the world have transformed through their acknowledgement of their arts industries as evidenced by their economic statuses. Malawi has factories which produce sugar, maize flour and other products, they all end up in different parts of the country including outside Malawi. How do the producers do this?
Sometimes the answers are right in front of us than wait for a miracle. We can learn from this and explore the possibility of setting up a chanel for distributing our art countrywide and even export. n