- How free downloads helped to popularise urban music
Once upon a time, the Malawi music and entertainment industries were being controlled by pure local music done by popular musicians.
Joseph Nkasa, Lawrence Mbenjere, MalumeBokosi, Charles Nsaku, Master Tongole, Billy Kaunda, Millennium Sound Checks, the youthful Thomas Chibade and Moses Makawa were some of the big names that dominated the airwaves.
Even sales on the music market and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) royalties were conquered by local music artists.
But change is inevitable.
Today, most popular local music names have been silenced or have been pushed away from the limelight, in one way or another. Only a few are withstanding the current winds of change, which has dawned on the local music landscape.
And sensing an opportunity, urban music has been dominating the airwaves with its creators appealing to the youthful audience.
Even the concerts of the few surviving older timers such as Lucius Banda are mostly featuring the new breed of urban music.
To be clear-cut, today’s entertainment industry is dominated by urban musicians such as Piksy, Nepman, Mafo, Sangie, Fredokiss, Diktator, Bucci, Martse, Dan Lu, Excess, Stich Fray, Faith Mussa, Lulu, Barry One, Dare Devils, Tay Grin, Young Kay, Gwamba, Nesness, Blaze, Third Eye and Genii Blakk.
However, this trend, which has seemingly shoved local music artists from the limelight and ushered in urban music artists, has attracted mixed reactions from both musicians and observers.
Saint, one of the promising reggae dancehall artists observed that urban music has come to stay; hence, the ball is in the hands of its players.
“There was time for local musicians to shine, but now it’s about urban music artists. To me, the future of Malawi music belongs to urban artists,” said Saint of One Last Kiss fame.
He said Malawi’s population mostly comprises of youths, who easily connect to the music of fellow youth.
“Today, pressing issues are not only found in the village, but also in the townships where young people are greatly affected. There are issues to do with unemployment rate, HIV and Aids, alcohol and drug abuse, which young people have begin to associate with urban music,’ said Saint.
However, there is a general argument which says urban music is popular today because of free internet downloads. Most of urban artists are said to be releasing music for free; hence, finding it easy to penetrate the industry.
This argument is supported by local music ace Makawa, who said the death of the market for local music is contributing to the diminishing morale of local music and artists.
‘If you have noticed, most local musicians do music for commercial purposes, but lately they have been experiencing a tough going since the closure of most reliable music shops such as O.G Issa,” said Makawa.
He said piracy, which has hit commercial musicians like him, has also contributed to the poor promotion of local music.
However, the advent of online music sites has brought about easy marketing strategies for most musicians, especially urban artists. However, most local artists are yet to fully embrace the trend, hence being pushed away from the public eye.
DingaaniWhayo of Malawi music online store spoke highly of the role technology is playing on urban music.
“Online marketing and selling of music is a way to go now because we are living in a highly advanced technological era. One of the reasons why urban artists are blowing in the country is their choice of online marketing of their work, which is easily shared with a larger audience,” said Whayo.
MBC Radio 2 FM’s DJ Raymond Sekeni aka Fraternal said urban artists are climbing the ladders of success at a speed of light because of their creativity.
“Both players of local and urban music are creative. But the type of creativity I am referring in this case is that urban artists are eroding local music in a creative way by fusing their urban genres with local elements. It’s like they are killing two birds with one stone,” said Fraternal.