Malawi seems to suffer from a lack of music producers, a malaise which has created room for studio engineers to masquerade as music producers.
Baffled by this scenario, On the Arts visited a number of music selling points in Blantyre to study compositions inscribed on the music covers. An acknowledgement that never misses on the credit section of every CD, DVD or cassette cover is that of a producer. Nonetheless, this indicates that the musician or sound recording engineer performed the roles of producer.
Veteran musician Lucius Banda says Malawi has a few music producers.
Nonetheless, he says, the term is being abused by some music players who do not understand the role of a producer.
“I have also observed on music covers that a musician or studio sound engineer is being labelled as a producer. We understand this on special occasion, but the fact is that most producers that we know today are not producers. Malawi has very few producers. A musician cannot become a producer even after releasing two songs, it goes with experience. For instance, I am a producer of some of my songs, but this goes with experience,” says Lucius.
He adds: “Like in videos, a music producer plays the roles of a director. The producer does not touch any instrument or add voices to the song, but guides both the musician and sound engineer for the success of the songs. They observe the quality of the sound and tell the sound engineer to change some tones. Producers can also advise the musician to redo some parts of the song until they are satisfied.”
Lemekeza Phiri, who has produced several songs, says despite the confusion on the roles of a producer in Malawi, the country has some music producers. He mentiones Nyimbo Music Company director Daud Suleman as one of them, citing the idea behind Fikisa and the music genre the group performs.
Malawian musicians have a reputation for copying from foreign music.
But, from between the shuttles of this syndrome, Nyimbo Music Company came up with an exceptional genre which Phiri attributes to proper use of a producer.
“When you listen to the hits in the album, it shows the position of a producer and that the idea was that of a producer and not only the artists and sound engineers,” he said, adding that other producers are Mervin Hanke, Mhango and Wambali Mkandawire whose music style is also incomparable.
He added that Malawi music industry is not growing because some people monopolise roles in music production.
He notes that the key sections that need not to be tampered with are that of a producer, session artists and sound engineer.
Concurring with Phiri is renowned producer Tapps Bandawe, who says what people know as producers in Malawi are infact not producers. He says a producer is the one who picks a visionary idea for a music project and picks the right musician and sound engineer to work as a team to produce a song.
“A music producer is like a coordinator; one who gives advice and insights based on vision until the production is complete,” says Bandawe.
In circumstances where there is an executive producer, it is different in that he or she looks after the whole production.
Bandawe says music is business and in circumstances where the two are working together for a production, the producer concentrates on the studio work whereas the executive producer looks after the business point of view of the production.