The 2018 UMP awards were held a couple of weeks ago, where the deserving in the urban music scene got their payback time. VJ Ken won the music video director of the year accolade. Our Correspondent Franco Mwachande explores his art:
It needs so much effort for success to come your way. It all depends on how much you put into your goals.
It’s not what people think you are to describe you all corners of your life but instead they describe you for what you manage to show up in your life, compared to others who are already in the game.
This is not quite different in the game of videography. Some join the race after getting inspired from their relatives or friends. And the story of VJ Ken is not totally different as he joined the race after getting some inspiration from Nigerian video director, Clarence Peters.
Peters, music video director and multi-award winner, is at the forefront in producing Nigerian music videos which made VJ Ken desire to join the race of Malawi’s music video production.
Says VJ Ken: “I used to watch videos shot by him [Peters] and after my graduation from Malawi Institute of Journalism [MIJ], I got internship at Angaliba TV as a cameraman. All I knew that time was to produce programmes and documentaries but I was determined that one day I would be what I wanted to be in my life.
He affirms that after his superiors saw potential in him, employed him full-time, and he is now the chief cameraman.
“It makes me believe I can achieve what I wanted, especially in joining the race of music industry,” he adds.
Born Kenneth Liyada Makina 22 years ago at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) in Blantyre, but originally from Ndelema Village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Symon Likongwe, Blantyre District, the award winning cameraman says VJ is short for video jockey.
VJ obtained a Diploma in Journalism at MIJ and he owns Auto Focus, a production company under his effort.
His career spans from 2016 but he came out of the underground in 2007 and has not relented.
“I used to watch Malawian music videos and I take time to watch Peter’s videos. He is a giant and I learn a lot from him. His creativity and magic in his videos is awesome and I got so inspired that I started searching for tutorials on the Internet on how one can plan, shoot, edit and produce good videos,” he says.
According to him, his first video shot and production was for a song done by Nomzy called Tangodekha and he was paid K3 000. Then, he went on to shoot ghetto artists, notably Waxy Kay and Afro singer Shammah Vocals.
“To be honest, we cannot talk about Malawian music videos without mentioning names like Ron CZ, Sukez, VJ Ice, Plutnum and Ben Bei, among others. These guys are doing all they can in sharpening our music videos. I also respect Colin Tilley in America,” says VJ Ken.
Apart from being director, he is also cinematographer and creative director of Auto Focus Media, a production company that specializes in shooting videos, photography, news media art and television.
He has soared high, that Princi’s Sail Away music video beams on Trace Africa. Up his sleeve is the Tay Grin’s Lubwa video as well.
VJ Ken shot Fredokiss’ Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) theme song. One of the most creative and captivating 2018 music videos was Ethel Kamwendo’s Gwira Yesu. That was his creation.
The list also includes Che Kumbu’s Pa Charger, Wanga by Hilco and Saint, Nsambi by Sir Patricks, Mutipatsa? by Phyzix and 2018 Catholic University Cypher.
On his UMP accolade, he says: “Defeating the undefeated streak of all time winner Sukez of HD Plus Creations which was not nominated was the greatest achievement so far. I thank God and people who always put trust in me. When I started this career, I promised myself that I should not be average but awesome and this award to will bring more fruits,” he said.
His breakthrough to the Trace Africa music channel has enabled him buy a 4K camera, quite an expensive feat.
In terms of the weak side of his art, VJ Ken narrates that lack of equipment deter the professionalism and also lack of cooperation among industry players.
“Most of the tools we use are not found in our shops so we buy from other countries. In the same breath, it costs us a lot of money to import it here,” he says.
He also cites lack of unity among directors as another problem, saying that leads to stagnation of the art.
He wonders: “I don’t know why Malawi video producers are failing to work together. Just imagine, we used to get negative feedback from those who feel are legends and have been in the industry for a long time. These people start destructive criticism when you work on something and that’s the reason a lot of upcoming video directors pull back.
“Then there is the problem of delayed payments from clients. Eissssh!” he mulls.
On his future, the Catholic Church adherent said he wants to grow his company and recruit some youths who have capable in and breaking it on famous international music channels like Chanel O and MTV Base.
“My dream was to become a priest because those are the models who were close to me since I was young, and all my secondary education I was at Saint Kizito Minor Seminary.” added Vj Ken.
However, everything changed after he wrote his Malawi School of Certificate of Education (MSCE), then he decided to switch careers and went to MIJ, where inspiration from Peters swept him over. n