In early 2000s Malawi welcomed more artists in music industry. the few radio stations that were present that time were congested with music from new and upcoming musicians. Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Radio 2’s Tidziwane ndi Oyimba programme (now Ticheze ndi Oyimba) was dominated by new musicians. They were talented musicians and most of them were unique with their music.
New faces on music scene included Albert Khoza (Akunenepa Nako), Fuggie Kasipa (Dale wangayo), Ian Lizi (Mandede), Chris Mbendera (Nsima ya mgaiwa), Mark Miye and Henry Lash (Amayankha), Malume Bokosi (Alimi Tidalakwanji?), Cecilia Kalima (Dziko lapendeka), Jimmy T (Usathawe Manager Ngozo), Davie Nsaku (Khuluku), Mkakeni Kaunda (Lydia Girl), Dangoman Kadango (Manga Mabuleki), Wizzie Mkwezalamba (Mbalame Yowulukitsitsa), Jones Magwira Chisale (Angobadwabe), Thomas Chibade (Mau Anga), Owen Dube (Ndimamukonda) and Lufeyo Dzombe (Ndampeza wa chitonga).
Sadly, themajority of these musicians are missing in this industry. For many of them even their whereabouts are known to themselves.
“Are they dead or alive? If they are still alive why did they quit music?” complains Gilbert Jana, local music fan from Nathenje Trading Centre in Lilongwe who likes Bokosi’s music, especially the albums Alimi Tidalakwanji? and Kukamwa Kwangotiuma.
Chief producer and presenter at MBC Radio 2, Frank Kandu, says it is indeed disappointing to the music fans like Jana that the majority of these luminous musicians disappeared with their talent.
“Indeed, we registered more musicians in early 2000s who are nowhere to be seen today. For example, Malume Bokosi is still alive but he stopped singing and concentrated on agriculture because music is no longer profitable. In the past, doing music was simple because artists were just responsible for composing and recording the songs. The duplication and distribution of music was done by OG Issa Music Company. Now there are no such companies hence it is hectic to do music as a business. A musician is now supposed to do everything alone,” says Kandu.
He says music by these missing artists was good because it carried elements of Malawian culture. He adds that since the majority of Malawians have now fallen in love with urban music, it is difficult for the most of the mentioned musicians to compete with the current crop of musicians who are good at mixing different genres to make urban music.
Kasipa, who released his last album titled Wankhwiru Wanga in 2007, says he quit music when he realised that it was no longer profitable.
“I’m still alive and around. I quit music when I realised I was growing old in terms of age but the money in my pocket was not growing. I ventured into other businesses so that I can earn money to feed my family. I am running a marketing business in which I hire out music equipment for cocktails, crusades and political rallies,” says Kasipa.
He says many musicians who ventured the music industry in early 2000s were young and when they got married they could not easily support their families with money from music because piracy reduced sales. “In those years, we used to sell tapes through OG Issa but what can we sell today when people just share music electronically?” wonders Kasipa.
MBC Radio 2 FM presenter and announcer, James Gumbwa, concurs with Kasipa adding that music survival needs more money. “Money is important in music because it can enable you to have a band and promote your music through live shows. Musicians that have a band are likely to survive because they continuously promote their music through live performances,” says Gumbwa.
Musician Union of Malawi (MUM) president reverend Chimwemwe Mhango says many of these missing musicians are still loyal members of the association. “The association is still in touch with many of the mentioned musicians. For example, Fuggie Kasipa is still a member although he has gone into hibernation,” he says.
Mhango attributes the missing of these musicians to many factors such as lack of a hardworking sprit among many of them.
“Many musicians lack a hard working spirit. Lucius Banda has remained relevant in music industry because he works hard and moves with time. He continuously responds positively to his fans by giving them music that they like at a particular time. Furthermore, he is always performing live around the country and abroad. This is the way he does the marketing of his music. Unfortunately, many artists are lazy to do the same. That is why they lost value and disappeared,” says Mhango.
Mhango also says lack of proper music system has contributed to the problem. He says in many countries when a musician is signed to a music label company, the company always comes back to push the artist for a new album. Therefore the artist stays in the industry for a long time.
Mhango says: “In Malawi, musicians are doing everything on their own. This is tedious and a musician easily quits. Piracy has also frustrated musicians in Malawi. I met Thomas Chibade who complained that he used to make a lot of money in the past through music but now he is failing to earn a living from same industry.”
Kasipa says he will come back into music when the industry normalises because he still has passion for his career.
Mhango hopes that establishment of National Arts Council will help to bring sanity in music industry hence a lot of the missing musicians will be back with music because most of them are still alive. Yes, majority of them are not dead.
People like Jana are looking forward to a day when musicians like Mkakeni Kaunda will bounce back with songs full of romantic fantasies like he did with the song Lydia Girl. Yes, the day when Dangoman Kadango will come with another song with full of advice to the boisterous youths like he did in Manga Mabuleki , a song which remains powerful today on issues about HIV and Aids.