Lawi, real name Francis Phiri, is known in Malawi’s contemporary music world as a young artist who has come with a unique brand of music and is managing to promote his unique genre and market himself to the world in a way that few artists in the country have done before.
For him, the first step is to discover yourself as a person and as an artist and avoid following the crowd “Knowing and embracing who you are helps you tell a true story about your passion and your art,” says the soft-speaking Amaona Kuchedwa star.
Lawi says music for him has been a lifelong affair. As a matter of fact, it was his mother who inspired him. “She was a talented musician. I had the chance to practise music instruments in the house. Later, I played in the church’s youth choir, which introduced me to a whole new scope of performance,” he says.
Before he became a solo artist, Lawi made a lot of music with different peers whom he says contributed a lot to his personal and musical life.
However, Lawi made a breakthrough on the musical industry when he became solo, he developed his own and unique style. In the course of pursuing his passion and dream, it is well-known that Lawi relocated to South Africa to pursue his passion—to reposition himself and bring himself to the world through the window of the Rainbow Nation.
In South Africa, Lawi has invested in a music studio where he is a producer and where also established or rebranded his Mango Band- which features talented instrumentalists from across the African continent.
Lawi believes there is more to discovering oneself as an artiste. Our actions, he says, are influenced by friends and we align our talents, hopes and dreams according to our circle of friends, even when this doesn’t match our potential.
Lawi, who has three albums to his credit says: “Fitting in has a cost so detrimental to our destiny and ultimate success. Your ability to determine and embrace your individuality is the only freeing factor when fitting in is part of you.”
Many see Lawi as a brand. Lawi himself believes that it is not enough to be an artist but it is also important to create a great network of people who will help market your art and earn the money as a reward from it.
Currently, Lawi has three albums up his sleeve: Lawi, Whistling Song and Sunset. He is working on his fourth album, Thirties.
“Where art is concerned, it’s a marketing exercise and the good thing about music specifically is that everyone needs it. It just depends on what you have to offer as a creative person and always yearning to receive something new and refreshing. I only took advantage of that window and lived my best life through music, it is sometimes the way you colourfully live your life through the art form,” he says.
Work smart then hard
And for Lawi, it is not enough to work hard as an artist. That’s why we have seen so many artists in Malawi, working around themselves, marketing themselves using different means and all sorts of technology, but got disappointed in the industry. Lawi sees a great difference between an artist who works hard and an artist who works smart.
He says: “Working smart is identifying alternatives to give you an equal satisfaction where goals, perfection and results are concerned. Identify what makes you feel alive then work hard at it.”
Yet, working smart is not enough. There is need for more. Notably persistence, perseverance and endurance.
“I cut my first pay from music in Malawi. That cheque, however small it was propelled me into the musician I am today. I advise fellow artists not to just focus on the money aspect but to create great art, what that will do is to create a circle or network for you where money will be one of the things to come your way,” he quips.
As it is, it is apparent some musicians are following Lawi’s steps in music entrepreneurship. Lawi says he is not yet there—but still learning and even struggling to achieve some of his projects. But for artists that want to learn from Lawi’s music journey, his little piece of advice is: “Embrace your individuality, divorce fitting in and watch yourself grow wings and fly high.” – JACQUELLINE MBENDERA