Not long ago, they were the front face of Malawi music. And if Music is the food of the soul, then the musicians are the farmers who cultivate the food. Sometimes farmers have bad seasons whiles others are blessed with consistent bumper harvests. Malawi music has witnessed the noisy entry and unannounced exit of some musicians who deserve mention.
Malume Bokosi was once a vibrant soloist known for his hit Akuvulalira Mkati. He will not respond if the roll is called today not because he is dead,but because he knows he has not been heard in a while.
“I am around and God is still keeping me strong,” that’s how Bokosi responded when The Nation caught up with him.
He has decided to put off music for good. If any, he will be doing it as a hobby.
“Musicians have been making music, but that has not benefited us. I was forced to take this decision because of the ugly face of piracy. People are no longer buying music as they are sharing and listening in their houses because of piracy. You find a very famous musician, doing well on the market but very poor,” he said.
As a result, after six albums with the first three hugely successful, Bokosi is into business.
“I am in the business of selling seasonal crop produce. Despite not reaping much from what I sowed from my 12-year musical career, I benefited capital for the business I am running. I have a full album ready to go into the studios but I am being discouraged due to piracy,” said Bokosi.capital for the business I am running.I have a full album ready to go into the studio,but I am being discouraged due to piracy,”says Bokosi.
If there is one song that defined dancing in Malawi in 2005 just like currently Muyuda by Anthony Makondetsa, then it is Chiphaso by Lawrence Mbenjere. This is a song that secured airtime on national television.
However, fast–forward into modern day, Mbenjere is all but history. He released his seventh album titledChisokonezo in December last year, but nothing much is being heard of him. No shows to promote his album.
“Though it helps to organise shows as it promotes your music, I do not organise shows. I wait to be hired and now there has been little activity, but I am still here,” said Mbenjere in an interview.
Despite earlier releasing two albums, he only came into the limelight with his third in 2005 titled Chiphaso. Then came Biriwita 2006, Sewere 2007 and in 2009 Udzaleka.
While many would love to see Mbenjere still doing music, they are in for a shocker. Mbenjere has joined politics.
“I am contesting for the Mchinji West Constituency on the Democratic Progressive Party ticket. This is a result of pressure I have been receiving from people since the 2009 elections. While I will still be active, my focus now is on politics till after the 2014 polls,” he said.
Famous musician Soldier Lucius Banda recently blamed his choice to go into politics on the pressures to abandon the arts posed by piracy and lack of sales.
Said Banda: “When I released Down Babylon in 1995, I sold over 90 000 copies. This bought me a car and a house. But not today. Sales from an album will only buy you clothes.”
He said piracy has forced some artists into politics and other businesses in desperation for survival.
“We were created to be musicians. But if you see us do other things, it’s because of piracy.
“We don’t wish to be in Parliament, neither do we want to be farmers nor academics. We are contented with music, but because we are not protected from piracy, that’s why we are turning into politics,” Banda told a gathering at a World Intellectual Day commemorations.