If you can’t beat them, join them. The popular saying by Jim Henson summarises the present local music scene where artistes are in a race for international collaborations to break border barriers.
Already, the move has seen local musicians enjoying the limelight on various international television music channels such as DStv MTV Base Africa, Trace Urban, Channel O and Afropop.
Celebrated rapper Tay Grin’s hit Chipapapa is an example. The song, which features Nigerian singer 2Baba, is presently on position three of Trace Urban music chart.
The video is also topping charts in West and East African music television channels after its audio topped charts in various Nigerian radio stations few weeks ago.
Dan Lu is the other singer who has broken borders with his music. In October last year, he flew to Nigeria to record various songs with the country’s superstars Kcee, Flavour and Harrysong.
Early this year, his Sweet Banana video which features Kcee was premiered on several Nigerian television stations before making its way into Trace TV, Channel O, MTV Base and Afropop.
His other song Ndapenga, shot in Cape Town, South Africa, has been on Channel O for sometime now.
However, all this has not come on a silver platter.
“It has taken a lot of hard work to reach this level,” says the Part of Life musician.
True to his words, Dan Lu spent $20 000 (K14.2 million at the present exchange rate) to produce Sweet Banana in Nigeria.
Tay Grin, on the other hand, has parted ways with K5.5 million to shoot Chipapapa in South Africa.
Such exorbitant budgets invite questions on the relevance of international collaborations.
Can’t the musicians use the resources locally to come up with quality videos? Should it take collaborations with international musicians to break onto the international music scene?
Dan Lu says international collaborations are worthwhile if local musicians are to break the monopoly by artistes from West and South Africa.
“It’s difficult to be recognised internationally with local production. We do not have standard recording studios. Most of the cameras for shooting videos are not of good quality.
“The result is that we have poor music videos which cannot compete on the international stage,” he opines.
Dan Lu says that is why he invested $20 000 in his Sweet Banana video to match the quality of most Africa’s celebrated artistes.
“Apart from spending a good fortune on transport to Nigeria, I had to shoot the video at one of the most expensive places in Nigeria. It is a place where P-Square shoots most of their videos. The idea is to match their quality,” he says.
Dan Lu says there is a 20 000 gap of tweets between Malawian songs on the channels with those from other countries which has starved them of massive airtime.
For instance, he says, his song was featured twice last week whereas others have been played several times.
“As musicians, we have done our part to bring the music on the channels. Music followers need to do their part as well by requesting our songs through tweets for massive airtime,” advises Dan Lu.
Tay Grin echoes Dan Lu’s plea.
“Chipapapa is now on position three of Trace TV’s Top 10 African Songs. Music fans need to keep voting if the song is to make it on position one,” he says.
Born Limbani Kalilani, Tay Grin says the availability of Malawian songs on the international channels gives Malawi an opportunity to compete for continental awards such as Channel O and MTV Africa Music Awards (Mama).
These awards are usually monopolised by West African countries and South Africa. Last year, for instance, Malawi missed out completely which gave rise to a blame game between musicians and DStv officials.
Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) president the Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango says Malawi has huge talent in music which lacks resources and support from the corporate world to make it big internationally.
He, however, says this will be a thing of the past as the organisation called Pan African Songwriters’ and Composers’ Alliance (Pacsa) has struck a deal with companies from France, Belgium and United Kingdom (UK) to invest in Malawi’s music industry.
“The companies are willing to invest in shooting Malawian videos. They will also link Malawian musicians with music labels of international repute,” says Mhango who is also a board member for the organisation.
He says the deals were made recently at the World Economic Summit in Kigali, Rwanda where he represented Pacsa.
Mhango, however, admits that the corporate world in the country has neglected the arts in preference for various sporting disciplines. He says this has left the creative sector stunted.