For a long time, Malawian artists and organisers have strived to bring international acts in the country. Only a few make it happen as at times some of them have not gone past through adverts.
No doubt, the influx of international acts in the country gives exposure to local artists.
Of late, one artist has been hitting the headlines for bringing to Malawi some top reggae international musicians.
His first catch was Jamaican artist Fantan Mojah who performed in Malawi in October 2014. In March 2015 it was the turn of Luciano rocked Lilongwe. Just weeks ago, Jamaican top reggae
band Morgan Heritage, whose performance though, raised eyebrows from most fans.
Whether his popularity as a musician is big or not, one thing is for sure—the artist has made quite an effort to push Malawian music to the edge.
Born Afrikan, real name Nelson Chimango Shaba, is Malawi’s roots and conscious reggae artist based in South Africa.
There are not many Malawians that do these subgenres of reggae music. What people enjoy here is the moderate reggae which very common across the globe.
However, Born Afrikan is one of the few Malawians artists that and continue to make a name out of roots reggae.
He released two albums in 2014, one of which Mission Possible, features Fantan Mojah.
His albums were recorded in Jamaica by the Fire House Crew, the same band that has worked with the country’s top reggae artist Sizzla Kalonji.
Born Afrikan has also worked with G’iovany, another Jamaican artist and recently, the Morgan Heritage.
He runs Khoisan Lounge, a club in Johannesburg where he normally performs with his band, One People. At his club, he has hosted artists such as Skeffa Chimoto, Lucius Banda, Black Missionaries, Chibade, Katelele Ching’oma, Maskal and Lambanie Dube.
Over the years, he hardly got the recognition he expected as a Malawian musician.
He then started creating links with international artists with the aim of bringing them to Malawi, giving birth to his entertainment firm.
“Born Afrikan Productions started when I realised I was not getting booked for shows and decided to organise my own shows which means, of course, I had to buy some equipment to make life a little easier for myself.
“At the moment I’m still based in South Africa where Born Afrikan Productions does shows too and, as far as Malawi is concerned, we’ll do shows when first and foremost finances are there and when my calendar schedule allows,” he said.
Through his shows, Born Afrikan seeks to stimulate local musicians to be self-reliant.
“What I want to achieve with the shows is to inspire as many artists as possible that they can do things for themselves. There’s nothing wrong working with other people though. I also want these shows to market Malawi to the outside world as a country whereby people should want to visit.
“In other way, we will generate income apart from the support that comes in form of these visitors buying Malawi music and sharing it to the world. I also hope other international show organisers will take interest to come and book Malawian artists to international shows,” he affirmed.
For many, the over a year he has been in the business of organising shows, Born Afrikan has triumphed in the area of truly bringing the booked artists to Malawi, an area where some have failed. But for him, it is the prestige that comes with pulling fans from neighbouring countries.
“We got reports that at the last show there were people from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania. That already is mission in progress cause these people brought income into the country and also learnt a bit of who Malawians are and they will carry it to the world,” he said boastfully.
However, the recent Morgan Heritage in Lilongwe show sent tongues wagging due to the arrangement three artists who came as a fraction of the 17-piece band used. They used a sound track system—a backtrack which they sung and performed over.
Almost at all local shows, artists perform with a live band and that has been the case with international stars that have performed in Malawi recently hence that’s what local fans were expecting.
This has prompted the promoter to schedule another gig which will see the whole Morgan Heritage band performing in April.
“This year we doing the Music Unite Festival with The Strictly Roots Africa Tour which will also features reputable local artists such as Tay Grin, Black Missionaries and some artists from Malawi who are currently based in South Africa and might not be known here.
“At first the show was supposed to be in October because Morgan Heritage have what they’re calling the Ijam Music Festival touring Africa. At the same time, the countries that postponed last year when we had the band in Malawi came on board and said they would like to host Morgan Heritage between March and April. So, we thought it will be wise to do the show also around that time considering the costs of flight tickets which in this case will be shared amongst all the countries involved,” he explained.
However, after the reincarnation show, Born Afrikan Productions does not have any shows as it stands.
Said the artist: “I can’t say how many shows Born Afrikan Productions will be hosting this year. Like I said, it all depends on the availability of finances and space in between our busy schedule bearing in mind that we are based in South Africa as much as we have a branch here home.”
He says the months he has been around can best be summarised as a mixed bag as there have been both good and bad times.
Lessons learned from the Morgan Heritage show?
Born Afrikan notes that the biggest lesson is that not all places in the world are receptive of artists performing using backtracks.
“With every show that we have done home and abroad, there’s just something’s that you can’t get 100 percent right and we always go back to the drawing board and work on them. Event management is as hard as writing a song, putting a band together, finding a good engineer, a good producer and releasing a hit song.
“Look how many songs are recorded, but only a few become hits, and it’s not that all the times the songs are bad, but it’s the whole package it can be your managers not doing the right thing, the marketing strategy, bad timing of releasing the song, targeting the wrong market among others. You can spend millions on a show only to get a handful of people just like a song, you can pay experienced, expensive musicians, expensive studios only to find your song is just not a hit and you just get up, dust yourself and move on,” he said.
Born Nelson Shaba in Malawi on October 12 1974, Born Afrikan started singing in church at Sunday school. He moved to South Africa in 1995 looking for better recording facilities. When he ran out of funds, he resorted to selling arts and crafts at different flea markets in South Africa. n