By Dyson Mthawanji
Despite belonging to different local football clubs, best players from clubs meet in a national team to join forces and form a strong team that plays against other national teams. Imagine best musicians from different bands coming together to form a national band? Imagine musicians of rich talent and influence forming a music band?
Listening to Maskal, Piksy, Lulu, Lawi, Dan Lu, Peter Mawanga, Patience Namadingo, Young K and Faith Mussa one notices that these talented minds belong to the same influential crop. Their glistering and soft voices make one forget about instrumentation and burry all the focus on the lyrics imbedded in the golden voice. They are talented music minds.
Imagine these artists in one band. It could be a band that could satisfy urban music lovers to the peak.
Likewise, musicians Katelele Ching’oma, Moses Makawa, Thomas Chibade, Joseph Nkasa, Malume Bokosi and Lawrence Mbenjere have similar composition styles. Imagine these talented men teaming up to form one band.
One of the local music lovers, Loyce Sandram says this can be the best band Malawi has ever had in its music history.
“Most of the bands in Malawi have one best musician who is mostly the owner of the band. Real Sounds has Chikeffa Chimoto and we know no other artist who is great musician in this band. The situation is the same with all other local bands,” she says.
Attending most of the local live music performances, one indeed notices the dominance of one great artist in the band. If Zigzaggers band holds a live music show, just know that it is only Ben Mankhamba who will mesmerize the fans.
If it is Mathumela band, just know that Lulu is the one that will make people resist to leave the dancing floor. Therefore, the imagination of having a band full of music giants sounds satisfying for the music lovers. However, another local music consumer, Joel Chiheni Phiri, says having one band full of music giants will be boring and expensive for the fans.
Chiheni-Phiri says: “If this imaginary band can become a reality, the loser will be the music fan who will have a narrow base from which to choose his tunes. Listening to such a band would be like listening to one musician. Joseph Nkasa and Malume Bokosi play same type of music so is Katekele Ching’oma and Moses Makawa.
“So if they were to form one band, I believe music fans will feel like it is one musician performing in terms of style. On the other hand, Piksy and Maskal or Faith Mussa combining to form one band will mean fans paying more at the gate. Imagine if musicians of such caliber as Namadingo and Faith Mussa pegs their show at K6,000? Fans will have no choice but to attend which will mean them paying through the nose so that will impact adversely on music fans.”
The long-time music promoter in Malawi, Jai Banda, is quick to agree with Chiheni-Phiri that such kind of imaginary band cannot happen. But while Chiheni-Phiri says the musicians like Nkasa and Bokosi have same music style, Banda chooses to differ saying they have different styles hence forming one powerful band is a non-starter.
“We cannot have a powerful band having different great artists. Each and every artist has his or her own style hence they can’t form one band,” says Banda.
Banda says the big musicians can only manage to make music collaborations but not a permanent band. “Lucius Banda did a song with Moses Makawa, while Dan Lu did a song with Anjiru Fumulani [Black Missionaries]. On international scene, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson and others did one song, but they could not form one band. Otherwise that could be chaotic,” says Banda.
Music industry in Malawi has usually been marred by disagreements. For example, highly talented musicians such as Billy Kaunda, Mlaka Maliro, and Charles Nsaku once worked with Lucius Banda in Zembani band. However, the working relationship flopped as counter accusations emerged in the band after these artists made good sales of their albums. These musicians diverted to form their own bands. Kaunda formed the Armageddon band; Mlaka established Maloto Vibrations; while Nsaku created Ali ku Tawuni Sounds. These bands performed across the country competitively against Zembani band.
It is from this background that experienced music producer and musician himself, Joseph Tembo of Dimingu fame, says it is difficult to have such one great band because every musician wants to feel powerful in his or her own band.
“If such imaginary band can happen, it can be a good development in music. But the way I know the music industry, that can’t happen. Music is different from football. In football you need eleven powerful players to form a team. While in music, every band needs to have one crowd puller.
“That big artist should have the supporting team which should just be budding artists. This helps the young artists to have full dedication to their work in the band as part of respect to that one great artist. This cannot happen when all the musicians in the band are powerful,” says Tembo.
He adds that sometimes this imaginary band cannot become a reality because of money issues. Tembo says when powerful musicians come together in one band, they can end up disagreeing on how money should be shared.
“Even when they want to perform it will be difficult to choose who should perform first or last. The one performing last will feel more powerful than the rest, as a result, these will feel inferior and that will be the beginning of cracks in the band,” says Tembo.
In 2016, disagreements broke between Lucius Banda (and his Zembani Band) and Black Missionaries on who should be playing last when the two powerful bands share a music stage. Both wanted to be the last to perform.