Excitement and feel of honour could be read on the faces of hundreds of musicians that thronged the magnificent Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe on Friday night, during the Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM) awards.
It was a moment of forgetting the pains of piracy and music vending and reclaim the lost celebrity face which indisputably has been browbeaten. In the past, being a musician was so inspiring that it was one of the careers students could mention as their ambition. But not today, may be, in addition to the above reasons, the death of musicians’ recognition events such as MBC’s Entertainers of the Year went with the hype.
With regard to the optimism to turn things around, as exposed by MAM, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) and government during the event, the journey seems not too long. Unless, government does not succumb to its pledge to speed up the enactment of the Copyright Bill, and MAM and Cosoma continue to sing against piracy without tangible efforts. Another topical issue raised is about MAM turning into a union whose success also depends on the Ministry of Labour.
The concerns are so many, but Rome was not built in a day. The inaugural MAM awards might be the beginning of the journey, unless organisers lose focus. Apparently, unlike the Sunbird Search for a Star whose winner was also determined by Short Messages Services (SMS) voting, MAM awards have received some criticism from the public. Apart from questioning selection of nominees and placements of artists, the social media has been awash with posts that question how some artists won.
But MAM president Chimwemwe Mhango has defended the results saying they reflect public votes.
“When I got the print out of how people voted, I was even surprised to see some artists ahead of those I expected to make it. For example Konkaraz Band, Lucky Stars, Favoured Martha and Masintha Women’s Choir got highest votes. I believe it is because they sold themselves well,” said Mhango, adding that they used C-Technologies to manage the votes and anyone can verify with them.
The event scored less on sound. There was poor sound especially at the beginning. Highly affected were those that followed the event on TV. Artists were also a disappointment. Most of them did not dress presentable, and it took time for some of them to make it to the stage.When on stage, they took long to start.
“Most artists came late and missed the preparation session and so it was difficult to set up the equipment. I agree we goofed on the quality of sound, but it was a good start,” said Mhango, who said they also failed to show video clips of what each artist has achieved because of late coming of responsible sound engineers.
Graced by Vice president Khumbo Kachali, Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera, Minister of Trade Industry Sosten Gwengwe and Minister of Tourism Moses Kunkuyu among the dignitaries, the event scored high on timeliness.
Tionge Hango won the best up-and-coming award with Konkaraz winning the best up-and-coming band. KB Soldiers won the best stage performance award while the best tradition went to disbanded Fikisa. Masintha received the best choral award and Macdonald Mlaka Maliro got the best gospel artist award. Piksy won the special media and fellow urban music artist Gwamba outshine others in the Hip Hop/Rap category. In absentia, unfading Giddes Chalamanda got the acoustic award.
The audience gave a resounding clap when Alleluya Band was announced the winner of the all time band category. Black Missionaries and Sally Nyundo tied up in votes to share the spoils in the Reggae/Dancehall category. New comer Faith Mussa bagged his first ever award with his hit Desperate on the 2013 song category award. Favoured Martha and Anthony Makondetsa won the Best Female and Male awards respectively.
MAM also recognised Sir Paul Banda, Wambali Mkandawire, Lucky Stars Band, Lucius Banda, Bernard Kwilimbe, Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, The Roots Band, Wedynham Chechamba, Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma and Overton Chimombo as lifetime achievers. They all walked away with trophies and GOtv sets courtesy of Multichoice Malawi.
Kachali donated K1 million (about $2 500) to Mam from President Joyce Banda and asked the winners to be role models.
Among the performers were Black Missionaries, Agoroso,Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Lucius Banda and composers of Airtel’s Mwezi Wawala song.