Masiye Kasaru, otherwise popularly known as Maskal, is one of the country’s gifted musicians who has ascended to an impressive limelight, yet most of his followers do not really know what has taken him this far. On the Arts takes stock of the musician’s career.
In an exclusive interview, Maskal shared his personal experiences, challenges and lessons learnt in his seven-year career.
He reiterated that fame does not come on a silver platter nor it was easy to build a compelling image as a brand ambassador.
The Udalire hit-maker stated that personal growth, self-motivation and development in music were the finest highlights of his active music career, which can be traced from 2008.
He said with just two albums, Nthawi and Umunthu, under his belt, he has been through a wonderful music journey, which made significant strides as well as drawing several lessons.
“When I was coming in the music industry with the Nthawi album, my instant focus was on making an impression on the local scene and this worked perfectly. In fact, this worked beyond my expectations,” said Maskal.
He cited the massive reception of his debut album, music contracts and wide-ranging performances and bookings, as some of most noteworthy highlights of his first album.
On live performances alone, Maskal has brushed shoulders with the biggest artists in the country as well as performed at the Lake of Stars Festival and on the continental reality television show Big Brother Africa.
Maskal broke onto Malawi’s music scene with a bang, a development which can be entirely attributed to his serenading voice. He did not only win hearts of music lovers and become a household name with popular songs such as Udalire and Wa CV, which features Piksy, but also the trust of the corporate world. He clinched a music deal with Nde’feyo Entertainment in 2011 before becoming a brand ambassador for Access Communications Limited.
Having achieved most of the targeted objectives of his debut album Nthawi, Maskal also did the same with his second coming Umunthu, dropped in 2014.
“I am a mission-oriented artist so much that I set objectives for everything I do in order to measure the success of my work and career,” said Maskal.
Basically, Maskal said both the short-term and long-term objectives of his music career help him to review his performance in order to see whether he is on track or not. And with Umunthu, he sought to secure international exposure and improve from his previous project.
“With the Umunthu album, I fulfilled my dreams by landing many deals to perform overseas such as Ireland, South Africa and UK. I also happened to increase my fan base with improved compositions,” said Maskal.
According to Maskal, it was important for artists to set goals in their career so that they gauge themselves.
Asked about lessons that have been learnt so far from his seven-year music career and whether they were useful to other artists, Maskal said:
“First and foremost, I have learnt that artists should develop a culture of researching what they want their audience to hear or learn from their art. This is the most critical aspect of any creative work because it helps an individual artist to connect well with his or her audience,” said the artist.
He also pointed out the issue of ‘image building’ and the culture of valuing art among artists themselves as another area of importance in his music career.
However, he complained that many artists fail because they do not consider ‘image building’ as an integral part of their music career.
“No matter how popular or talented an artist can be, they cannot go far if their image is not portrayed well to the public. What does this mean? Artists should concentrate on both nurturing their talent and image for people to have trust in them,” said Maskal.
He added that the more artists devalue their art, the more chances they expose it to abuse.
The issue of ‘image building’ in Malawi is just another serious problem which haunt many artists and negatively affect their potential deals with promoters or companies. Particularly, there is a growing concern that most of artists do not handle themselves professionally especially during live shows. As some are seen singing while drunk and with bottles of beer in their hands, others are reportedly fighting over women or abusing their wives and girlfriends publicly. So, the question is:
“Which company or organisation can sign a public chamba smoker or a stage drunkard as an ambassador? What image can someone who barters his wife publicly or write nuisance and childish stuff on his or her social media walls portray to the public? What about that extreme fashion? Can a whole company employ you as an ambassador with that weird name or hairstyles and dressing? What will people associate such companies with you being a brand carrier?
Maskal added that reflections on his seven-year music career have also revealed serious challenges that are making it extremely hard for artists to progress. He cited piracy and porous policies and disorganisation among many players in the music industry as some of the evils.
“Where are formal music markets now where people can find original Malawian music and why vendors are still selling fake copies of CDs and DVDs and scot free? Are the laws and policies properly enforced or officials are only excited in pocketing our royalties?” wondered Maskal, who is planning to release two singles from his new album to be released towards the end of this year.