For Malawi’s popular musician Lucius Banda, an award is not a mere additional trophy to his display. It means adding to his popularity, especially when he visits other countries for performances.
Acoustic duo of Edgar ndi Davis, Dan Lu, among other Malawian artists, cite their 2011 Malawi Music Awards in their subsequent releases or performances.
This, arguably, shows that music awards are a pinnacle of a musician’s career.
Possibly, that’s the reason music awards take place every year in other countries.
The American Awards, for instance, have been taking place every year since 1973. So are the Grammy Awards which have been around for half a century now.
These awards are not only popular but they also attract huge numbers of viewership and raise television ratings.
Back home, there was a time when artists and the general public could wait in anticipation for the defunct MBC Entertainers of the Year programme. But with the programme gone, raising a flicker of hope were the Malawian Music Awards which did not go beyond 2011.
This has left artists mourning due to the lack of awards in the country.
“It’s painful as an artist to work so hard in a year and to be awarded with nothing,” Banda said.
Music critic Marvin Hanke argues that music awards can take place consistently in Malawi if they are taken away from individuals or organisations who only want to make profits from such events.
“Organisations which have a stake in the arts such as Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM), the media, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture need to work together and take the music award events as a cultural activity. This will ensure consistency on the events,” he said.
MAM concedes that the inconsistency of awards in the country is partly due to the association’s lack of proactive spirits in conducting the events.
“MAM has not been strong in the past years. As an association, we are supposed to be conducting such events,” said MAM president the Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango.
However, in addition to inconsistency of awards in the country, they are mostly marred with irregularities. The just ended Gospel Music Awards is an example. The event was poorly publicised and was also characterised by disagreements with some nominees pulling out.
MAM president believes that such disorganisation explains Malawians’ lack of expertise in organising events.
Lack of political will to promote the arts through music awards haunts Banda, who was once a parliamentarian.
“People in top positions never understand what it means to be an artist. If those heading arts departments or ministries were artists, they would promote the awards because they would understand what an award means to an artist,” he said.
Despite such problems, Mhango believes not all is lost as his association is putting their house in order.
“This year, we are trying to have our own MAM awards. We will involve the corporate world to help.
“We are also lobbying with MBC to revive such awards. If they can’t manage, we will involve other media houses to partner with MBC,” added Mhango.
Perhaps, when this materialises, artists can again look forward to such events, and add on to their popularity.