Jazz artist Wambali Mkandawire has decried the lack of cultural consciousness among Malawians and cited it as a major stumbling block to vigourous marketing of local artistic content within and across the borders.
Speaking in an interview at Kwa Haraba Arts gallery before his Blantyre concert at M-Theatre, the veteran musician argued that good music is an expression of culture, an ingredient which keeps on haunting local music.
“Good music has potential, but what we do not have in Malawi is a strong stand on our culture. I have said it a hundred times that we are not culturally conscious. If we approach music as music or just like any other product that we are supposed to buy, then we are missing something very important because music is an expression of culture that is supposed to be celebrated,” said Wambali.
As someone who has travelled around the global and interacted with different people culturally, intellectually and artistically,
Wambali said culture is the foundation for thriving industries, including music.
He said unless people are culturally-conscious and passionate about their country, they will not support or incorporate elements of their culture in their artworks such as music.
“It’s like Malawi has no market for its music, but we are fond of appreciating things from outside than from our home. We don’t just have the right mentality towards our own things. For me, the question is why we should spend so much money to convince Malawians that their culture is the best. In fact, it’s a taste, if Malawians love their culture they will discover and support it, if they don’t, others will,” said Wambali.
He said as an individual artist, he does not market his music vigorously, but rather does the right thing and sits back.
A majority of artists in Malawi organise shows now and again as a way of marketing their music to make ends meet.
Asked why this was not the case with him, Wambali described his music as conceptual.
“This depends on the mission driving an individual artist. Mine is conceptual music. I pursue a concept. To me, music is like food which ought to be enjoyed. So, imagine, eating all the time. You may end up abusing yourself,” he said.
Malawi is blessed with abundant talents such as bassists and guitarists, but the music industry saw Wambali importing talent from outside in his new album Calabrash Breath.
Was this calculation or coincidence?
“The best guitarist I was working with was bassist Godfrey Mbizi who was playing in Ma Nyasa by then, but I was unable to work with him in Calabrash Breath because he was contracted to Mibawa the time I needed his services. As a result, I sourced talent from a Congolese whom I felt could do the job the way I designed it,” said Wambali.
During the recording of his album in South Africa a lead guitar was played by Malawian based in South Africa Eric Paliani. However, during its official launch in Lilongwe last year the Congolese bassist also brought his Zambian friend who played a guitar.