Malawi urban music has redefined music, especially in the past decade. With the demise of the popular Balaka reggae beat, urban music filled in the gap. Before it, the question of who produced a song was answered by the one listening to the song. It was easy to tell that such a song has been produced by Chuma Soko or Paul Banda, for example. The instrumentation itself said a lot, and it was a gateway into the worldview of the producer.

But with urban music, the signature is not in the instruments, but an audio one. The prominent producers of the genre, like DJ Sley, Stitch Frey, DJ Sonye, Dominant 1, Tricky Beats and Pro-Pee; all have a recorded audio signature which they place, usually, at the beginning of a song they have produced. But the big question in this relationship between the producer and the owner of the song is: Who endorses who?

It is hard to tell. Music is one of the highly subjective issues around and it always proves hard to come to a conclusion. Perhaps the answer lies in the studio, where I have never been during the recording of an urban song. Who asks the other to have the producer’s audio signature on the song? This is where the right answer is. If it is the producer, then it becomes his attempt to propagate his art through the song. If it the artist, then it is in his belief that people will listen to everything coming from a particular producer, hence asking for it.

On another note, do the artists think of the free marketing they are giving to the producer? When they are going into the studio to have their music recorded and produced, they pay for it. It means they own what should be in the audio and for the same guy they have paid to invade their audio for free advertising does not make any monetary sense. But the continuation of this, as urban music keeps on dominating, shows that the concerned parties are fine with the situation.

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