The music market in Malawi is stuffed with foreign beat releases by local up-and-coming musicians. But not all Malawians listen or buy such music as it lacks elements of identity that makes countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa unique.
Street interviews in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, show a discontent on Malawian music which, some say, is losing its identity. Others feel local musicians just copy foreign beats.
But an up-and-coming Malawian hip hop music star Young Kay feels otherwise.
Says Kay: â€œI am a hip hop singer and I cannot say I am leaving hip hop for local music, then I am joking. There is life in hip hop and many people like my music.
â€œThis is the generation for urban music and one cannot concentrate on traditional beats when you cannot sell.â€
Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) president Chimwemwe Mhango, however, concurs with those that feel Malawi music has no identity. He says musicians in Malawi are attracted by what is being produced outside the country while demeaning local music.
â€œThe problem is Malawian artists think foreign music is the best. Again, most people like listening to foreign music than local vibes thereby forcing artists to twist themselves to public demands,â€ said Mhango.
He thinks identity is crucial in music and Malawi needs to have its own. He hails Fikisa for producing beats with a Malawian touch (manganje).
Mhango, however, says most local artists lack exposure as they do not participate in international festivals where national talent is exposed. He believes if that was done, no artist would be allowed to take a kwaito song to a music festival in South Africa.
Entertainers Promotions director Jai Banda says he has had questions on the identity of Malawiâ€™s music for a long time.
â€œI do not know the problem with our artists, I have talked about this for over 20 years. Reggae, mbira, hip hop, kwaito, kwasakwasa, rhumba are not our music, we should have our own identity. Our musicians have the role to develop this identity and sustain it. It does not need a group, an artist can start this. Oliver Mtukudzi did it,â€ says Banda.
Blame it on the public
Nevertheless, one of Malawiâ€™s respected musicians Wambali Mkandawire thinks Malawian artists have done their best and the twist to foreign music should be blamed on the public.
â€œThe point is; music is a reflection of what is happening in the society and what the society feels is good. Malawians today are Western in mind, they like things from the West than theirs and there is no way an artist can hold on to local music which is not liked.
â€œMalawians do not value history and based on our culture, we need to ask ourselves who we are and what is ours. If we choose our culture, musicians will twist to that. Lucius Banda and San B have done well, they never copied from anyone,â€ Mkandawire says.