Amusic video is a strong conduit that can propel local artists to smash through the international market and attract universal appreciation and an innovative production has a huge potential to elevate how an artist is envisaged including their personality and it can yield monumental excitement and curiosity within the audience.
Critics have said this many times, but despite that and several commendable productions from a few selected musicians, a larger portion of local music videos are terrible in terms of the correlativity between messages and visuals.
“Before coming up with a music video, a serious musician needs to understand what a music video is, the purpose of coming up with one, whether he or she really needs it and the target audience,” explains Ezaius Mkandawire, president of Film Association of Malawi (Fama).
He observes that when one is making a music video it means they are moving from real music to film production and therefore basic film production procedures must be followed. One of it is a script.
“A music video has to follow a script which will guide the production which means most of the music videos flop right at conceptualisation. For instance, you will notice a choir shooting a music video at a roundabout with a billboard announcing the goodness of using a condom in the background.
“This is also the case with most of the soaps on our television stations; they are unscripted, meaning that the cameraman simply decides to shoot either a shoe, a tree or anything without following a script. In the end you notice that the song does not correlate with the video,” he says.
According to Mkandawire, when an artist comes to him for a music video, he first requests for the music so that he can listen to it then come up with a shooting script based on the message in the song. He then advises the musician based on my observation of the music.
“Thereafter I advise on what shots to be included in the video so that the message in the song correlates with the visuals,” says Mkandawire, who is also director of Trench Media.
He further notes that music videos in the country lack visual motives.
“These are effects or symbols that help explain the music and these are what you see in Hollywood videos. You see things such as birds or other figures; those that many people associate with satanic worship.
“I am not encouraging satanic worship, but artists should embrace visual effects. The other problem is lack of demarcation of work where a musician dictates how his or her video will look like simply because they have. Such musicians will tell a director where they want their video to be shot and such tendencies often result in confused productions; a song can be talking about how to take care of an orphan but in the video the artist driving a Jeep, eating in an expensive hotel or taking a dive in a swimming pool,” he says.
Mkandawire, who does not buy excuses that music videos in the country are of poor quality due to lack of equipment, offers two solutions to correct the situation.
“Artists must attend trainings provided by the Film Association of Malawi. Here we teach how to write a script, how to conceptualise, photography and how to produce the final product. The biggest challenge isn’t lack of proper equipment and materials, but lack of skills and creativity. This is art and it requires skills and innovation, unfortunately the industry is flooded with people who don’t know what they are doing.
“Lesson two is that artists must learn to give the final say on the production to the director of photography; this person must be in charge of the whole project not the musician simply because he has the purse. This tendency is even witnessed during live music shows where you see a musician setting the stage, doing sound engineering and many tasks that are not his expertise,” he adds.
Much as he agrees that some television stations use old and outdated equipment which compromise the picture quality of music videos, Chris Roka, a presenter working for CANTV also sees a problem in the local music genres.
“Indeed, TV stations need to embrace modern broadcasting equipment so that they contribute towards the improvement of the country’s music industry. However, I also have a strong feeling that most local music genres don’t just appeal to the international taste and the poorly produced videos only worsen matters,” notes Roka. n