Play our music, artists tell DJs

The relationship of radio presenters and musicians in Malawi is symbiotic. One is dependent on the other. However theirs is a love and hate liaison where accusations and commendations wing from either end.

They accuse each other of all sorts of wrong doings. But on a good day they heap praises on each other.

For musical artists, their work can only be appreciated when media presenters play their music. While as for radio presenters, apart from eloquence, confidence and clarity, they use music to make names. The relationship between the two therefore cannot be overstated enough.

Simbota (wearing a jacket): We do not have clear standards of music in Malawi

Over the years, accusations and counter accusations have been flying from one to the other. Artists are on record as accusing radio presenters of demanding money to play their music on air. On the other hand, radio presenters continuously reprove artists for producing half-baked music which they expect to be played on air. Such is the relationship between radio presenters and artists.

It is probably for this reason that the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) decided to embark on a special mission to clean out the bad blood that has characterised this relationship with the aim of promoting either side so that the Malawian brand can also reap from such a good working relationship.

“We have noticed that there are gaps between artists and radio presenters who are crucial stakeholders of the music industry. That is why we are engaging them so that we can hear from them on the best way forward. We want to have a win-win situation in the end as we complement each other by the nature of our jobs,” said MUM president, the Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango.

During the meeting that took place in Blantyre last Thursday, radio presenters bluntly told artists about the obstacles standing in their way to success.

MIJ FM presenter Deitrich Fredrich told the artists that they are not using strategic ways of getting the best from the media.

“Many of you do not have media teams to handle your PR and imaging. You move around with CDs from one radio to the other asking DJs to play your music. You can do better than that,” he said.

Fredrich advised the artists to strategically have media teams that can help them on the best approach to get maximum visibility and coverage as well as mature and constructive criticism that can help them grow as a brand.

Concurring with Fredrich, MBC’s Ian Simbota said many artists in Malawi are in a hurry to give radio presenters rushed jobs.

He added that as presenters they too have standards that the music they get should conform to.

Said Simbota: “The problem is that we do not have clear standards of music in Malawi so anyone can be a producer of music. Once that kind of music is brought to us and we refuse to play it that’s when we are accused of being corrupt. We do not demand money from artists.”

However, the artists complained of being sidelined by presenters saying they [presenters] prefer certain artists over others.

Martha Mituka, a gospel artist who is also chairperson of MUM’s women’s desk, asked the presenters to be fair and understand that not all artists are naturally forthcoming and persuasive.

“We know you want us to be aggressive and persuasive in our dealings with you but you have to understand that some of us are shy and reserved. Also remember that not all of us have money,” she said.

Another artist Ethel Kamwendo Banda said she appreciates the stake that presenters hold in promoting artists in Malawi,  adding that things can improve.

A unique complaint bordered on copy and intellectual property right where one artist claims to have given her finished work to a radio DJ cum musician who dismissed it as mediocre.

Months later, the ‘rejected’ music was stolen by the DJ who reworked on it as his own composition.

After a lengthy discussion that saw the presenters accusing the artists of developing ‘an attitude’ once they make it big, the two sides agreed to have regular meetings to improve their relationship.

While pleading with the radio presenters to be playing more Malawian music Reverend Mhango promised to take up the issues discussed and will work towards having better working relationship, produce quality music and use social media more to upgrade themselves. n

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