Anthony Malisawa is an awkwardly unfamiliar name in the entertainment circles. But the mention of the name VJ Ice immediately draws a flurry of reactions, from those who know him as a Video Jockey (VJ), DJ, musician, music producer and videographer.
The music video of Gwetsa by DJ Nathan Tunes and Hazel Mak which he directed was voted as the Best Malawian Video at last year’s Urban Music Party (UMP) Awards.
And, Jaiva by Hazel Mak featuring Roberto and Tay Grin, another of his production is on rotation on Trace Africa channel on the Digital Satellite Television (DStv).
Yet, despite all these many faces, the slender jack-of-all-trades wears his hats with both pride and humility.
“I am a creative person. To be honest, I am a lot of things. I am a video producer who directs and shoots music videos, a radio personality, a professional DJ/VJ, music producer and graphic designer.
“As a producer, I have worked with actors, animators, celebrities, composers, directors, musicians, non-profits, singers and writers. I have shot projects on location, in studios and in many places countrywide. I have been a DJ for most big festivals in Malawi such as the Lake of Stars, Ovation Food Festival apart from club DJing,” he shares his brief.
VJ Ice explains that he fell in love with videography through famed videographer Chipiliro Khonje.
He cites the shooting of the Zokoma video with meagre resources that made it on Channel O as the highlight of his career.
But he has since achieved more since that milestone.
“To manage to break through to international channels with little resources we have is amazing. We shot the Zokoma music video with few resources, a Canon 550D stock lens and a zoom lens. But it managed to make it on the Channel O playlist in 2013.
“In 2014, I produced a break through music video for Janta’s Divorce that won him video of the year at the UMP Awards that year. In 2015, I produced a video for Dali’s Angelina which was my first production accepted on Trace Africa and then 2017 I followed up that with the most loved video of the year Gwetsa for DJ Nathan Tunes and Hazel Mak that received a lot of airplay on Trace Africa.
“Now we have a new video currently enjoying airplay on Trace Africa by Hazel Mak featuring Rorberto and Tay Grin titled Jaiva. So, to be able to showcase Malawian talents outside Malawi is the best part of my career,” he says.
But how does he balance being a DJ/VJ and a videographer?
“It is hectic to maintain both careers, I can’t lie, but I enjoy both of them. If asked to choose one, I will still choose both. Mostly, my weekends are my DJying days as I am a king of the night. We make the nightlife happen for people. While I mostly do my videography work during the week. So, right now, both are essential to my life as they complement each other,” he says.
VJ Ice notes that despite the high standard of videos that are being produced locally, Malawi still has a long way to go before the country produces a continental superstar.
“I admit the video game is on point, but it’s high time our artists started producing songs that have good content, with good production and mostly club bangers too. I am not saying our artists are not doing all that, but it’s rare, we do not have the consistency.
“Also, what is making us not reach the levels that our neighbours have reached is because as Malawians, we do not promote our own music. Go on social media, you see less talk about our own music. Local music producers are doing well and have produced professional records and we have a wide range of music video producers around now, so all I can say is that let us all hold hands and support one another and press so that we make it out together,” he says.
The Lilongwe resident also challenges musicians to pull up their socks.
“I feel like the producers are putting a lot of energy to change the scene but the artists are the ones slacking behind. Imagine, when I was starting in 2012 as a video director, we had little resources compared to what we have now.
“Now we have drones, gimbals, 4K cameras—making it easy for the producer execute good work. Times have changed, but the artist has stayed on the same level,” he contends.
What next for VJ Ice? What should we look forward to?
“I am writing a film called F.A.M.E [Fashion, Arts, Music, Entertainment] which will showcase the good and the bad side of the industry,” he says.