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Lessons from Zambia music

Seasons come and go. And so is the trend in music favoured by the listening public. At the moment, Zambian and South African music dominates the Malawian industry.

While comparisons between Malawi and South Africa find little common ground, the association with Zambia brings too many common interests.

However, despite this, Zambia outshines Malawi in terms of music.

Only a handful of Malawian musicians, such as Skeffa Chimoto and Lucius Banda, have impressed the Zambians and earned enough airtime in public places and on Zambian radio stations.

Contrastingly, in Malawi, an event is incomplete without Zambian music. Even in drinking joints and at parties, it is Zambian music that dominates.

There must be a reason. Chill took an initiative to learn from some popular Zambian musicians on what they think gives them an edge over Malawian artists and what Malawian musicians get wrong.

During the interviews, four issues dominated the discussions—Zambia leads in quality, seriousness, audience target and relevance.

B1, of Sikiriti ku Bedi and Perfecto hits, said he is a fan of Malawian music and his favourite stars are Skeffa and Lucius. He says Zambia learns a lot from Malawi, but Zambia beats Malawi on several areas, an element that makes Zambian music dominant in Malawi.

“We sing for the public and it is not easy to impress everybody. This is where the term ‘art’ comes in. It is the duty of the artist to think of the audience to lead in loving the song. A proper definition of this is what has helped Zambian songs excel. For instance, my music dwells much on daily issues and every person finds an element related to his or her daily life.“They might not love the entire album or song, but some messages will make them be part of the song,” said B1.

On his part, Danny said: “Zambian music is controlled by competition. There are many artists and everyone knows that to register success one has to work extra hard and take time to work on the song. Malawi should embrace this phenomenon. Take music as a serious business and perform every section of the song in steps, not producing song after song. This affects quality. Think of the audience and what it needs and debate whether the music is worth producing or not.”

One of Zambia’s finest musicians JK believes Zambian music beats Malawi in terms of seriousness. He says in Zambia, a music producing firm employees the best producers and because there are many music studios, there is high competition to produce quality music.

This in turn influences the quality of music each studio produces.

He says music consumers can demonstrate against poor music.

“There should be a moment when musicians can shun some studios due to low standards of its products. Similarly, music consumers should not buy half-baked material. Some artists ignore the basics of music and, in professional music, this in intolerable,” said JK.
The three musicians also wondered whether Malawian musicians know the purpose of music and what they ought to achieve when they compose their messages and take them to studios.

“Music helps in soothing the minds. There are times when music with unhappy lyrics is preferred, but research shows that people seek to get fun and excitement from music which helps them to forget about hard times. Malawi misses it on this.

“Most of their songs are about issues that portray that life is and mind you, messages in music control the people’s mindset. So the more you complain in your music, the more people will live complaining and hate the songs,” he said
B1 said Zambians compose songs that soothe the heart.

“We compose for the people and our focus is on what they want, what they will want to listen and dance to and this is accomplished by the melody to create the real mood and life reality. People have more fun at clubs and parties and they cannot listen to complaining songs,” he said.

JK concurred with B1: “Malawian musicians complain in their music.

People want to dance, have fun and forget about their problems and good music achieves this. In Zambia or South Africa, it is more of dance music and despite that some people do not understand the messages, they still dance because the rhythm alone defines the mood,” said JK.

Malawi sees gold in foreign things. There is a good crop of music purely copied from foreign artists.
Danny said the basics of music should not be ignored and artists should be natural.

“We are Zambians and we have an identity with our music. Malawian musicians should create an own identity and not copy from Zambia or South Africa. Any song that passes the basic elements of music can do well and there is no best genre. Artists should bring a new touch to music and perform it to entice the audiences.”

B1 and JK feel it is not too late for Malawi. They believe with seriousness, consultations, quality messages and instrumentations, it can pick itself up from the shards.


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