By Howard Mlozi, Correspondent
Originality is a trait that must be treasured and nurtured by every artist for their personal glory, reputation, wealth creation and legacy.
Originality uplifts individual artists to supremacy, but also music industry as a whole.
For example, if Lawi or Joe Gwaladi represents Malawi well at an international event, the whole country will celebrate and gain recognition at global stage.
In the same vein, if local artists continue to copy music styles from foreign counterparts such as Nigerians and Americans, they will not be respected because they are not genuine.
Worse still, they do great injustice to our country, which can hardly be represented with a copied identity at international level. Just imagine, Tay Grin doing core hip hop at Grammys’ Awards in America, will he survive the heat from the likes of Twista, T.I, Kanye West or Jay Z? He could probably shine with his Nyau music stunts and dazzle the American audience.
When tackling issues to do with originality and identity crisis in Malawi music circles, the defunct music duo of Atumwi and Fikisa trio quickly spring to the minds of some music observers and enthusiasts as a missed opportunity as far as the growth of Malawi music industry is concerned.
When Evans Zangazanga (formerly Nthumwi Piksy) and Nicolas Mbonela (Nthumwi Nicode’mo) appeared on the Malawi music scene as Atumwi around 2009, they made an impression with their entry.
Their debut album Machitidwe Atumwi (Sendeza Analysis), which was packed with songs such as Pamtima and Çhipwilikiti, became a darling of most DJs playlists on local radio stations.
The strength of the Atumwi duo was in the way Nthumwi Piksy and Nicode’mo weaved lyrics and sing together on the enchanting Sendeza beats that were pioneered and being produced by Thoko Phiri of the then Stargate Studios.
In its wholeness, Sendeza Analysis brought together Nicode’mo’s sense of humour and Piksy’s vernacular rap factor that took the Malawi music industry by storm.
Apart from the comic rhymes and the well-crafted lyrics, Atumwi became a household name also because of their unique style which made them stand out.
Some branded this type of music “Tcha-tcha”, referring to the programming and variation of instruments.
Particularly, fans liked the idea of fusing current affairs and hooks of popular songs that were already sung by other musicians.
However, Atumwi did not completely forget to advance their own agendas in their music.
Many music lovers expressed their satisfaction with the music of Atumwi, describing it as one of the potential identities emerging from the warm heart of Africa, Malawi.
“Sendeza Analysis is a full genre on its own that Malawi still cherishes until today. When the beat starts roaring, you could feel a Malawian connection in there and sense of uniqueness. It has elements of originality which many music artists of today fail to create,” said former Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam) president Costen Mapemba.
However, NthumwiPiksy and Nicode’mo parted ways at a time Malawians were yearning for more from their creativity. Piksy went solo until today where his music future looks a bit bleak.
Similarly, another unique innovation that happened to the Malawi music industry, was Fikisa—a music trio rich in traditional drums and lyrical content.
Listening to Fikisa’s songs such as Akamwile one would conclude that Malawi music industry had been handed a lifetime gateway to international map with some promising identity.
However, that dream was curtailed by sad news of contractual disagreements with Nyimbo Music Company, which propelled the idea of Fikisa music.
Now three years down the line, the only thing new from the group is the conflicts from the members.
“It is sad that today one can watch incomplete set of Fikisa performing on stage or CheMkope Nicolas without Piksy. These divisions are a major setback to the development of Malawi music industry because we can’t afford to have promising music groups overnight and lose them the next morning. We need permanent compositions of artists if we are to make a difference,” said music expert Robert Chanunkha from Chancellor College.