Malawi is one of the countries in the region that got a national television pretty late.
As a result, the concept of making music videos is still young.
Malawian music videos have been beamed on international television channels such as Channel O and MTV Base but their life span barely exceeds two months.
Exactly four months ago, M-net and Channel O organised a workshop at Bingu International Conference in Lilongwe where music video and movie producers were drilled on how to enhance quality in their films to find a spot in the international television channels’ programming.
60 video producers were trained at the workshop which was facilitated by Callback Dreams, a television production company based in Pretoria.
But since then, only Theo Thompson’s video made it on MTV Base and Channel O but it did not enjoy as massive airplay as Nigerian videos do.
Where do Malawian music videos fall short?
Kalumbu Kapisa, Malawian filmmaker based in South Africa, argues that the problem with local videographers is that they lack originality in their videos which make the channels which are supposed to play the videos judge them on a rough turf.
“Most filmmakers have an inferiority complex so they are not satisfied with Malawian stories so they want to shoot a video like Rick Ross or Lil Wayne and that is a contest they cannot win. So, we are judged harshly based on standards we cannot meet,” says the Safta nominee director.
He advises filmmakers to make sure they sell the Malawian story in their videos as that is the only way Malawian videos can rise above the rest.
Video producer Ronald Zeleza, who is popular known as Ron C, also attended the December video producers workshop and pushes the blame on to musicians, claiming they lack seriousness in their business as they are not willing to pay for a video but want it to have the quality that can compete with videos from the rest of the continent.
“Most artists think picture quality is enough to land you a spot on MTV Base or Channel-O’s playlist, but there are things like nice costume, a creative script and make-up,” explains Ron C.
In addition, the video producer points out that even if a video is well produced with good picture quality and creative and interesting story to it, it could not have a place on the international channels’ playlists if it was not well recorded ad mastered.
“These channels are in business as such they would not lose to their competitors by playing videos that have distorted sound,” explains Ron C.
Chipiliro Khonje, a videographer who worked with Shemu Joyah on The Last Fishing Boat, cites musicians’ meagre earnings as the root of the problem with poor quality of Malawian music videos.
“Most musicians are not making enough money to afford a high quality music video. One needs at least K100 000 to compete with the South African 50 000 rand music videos,” clams Khonje.
Like Ron C, Khonje also argues that the quality of Malawian music leaves a lot to be desired if it is to be played in clubs all over the world.
“If you were watch Nigerian and Jamaican music you would see similar trends—the women in the bikinis the seductive dancers. That is where they beat us Malawians are laggard when it comes to picking and following trends,” says Khonje.
The filmmaker also advised fellow video producers to polish up their skills before working on other peoples’ videos.
Musician Theo Thompson, whose video made it on MTV Bass and Channel-O’s playlists points out that most Malawian music videos manifest lack of identity, hence they do not find their way on international television channels.
“The thing is that you don’t need to make videos like Hollywood artists or like South African, one needs to tell a story that has never been told before,” says the Kuthentha hit-maker.
He also adds that the reason his music video and the rest of Malawian videos that made it to the cannels do not stay long on the playlists is because of dynamics of demand.
“People do not request our songs on TV as they do P-Square or Davido’s. All that is needed for Malawian videos to stay longer on TV is when Malawians start requesting our songs on the channels,” pleads Theo.
On whether there was a follow up on why there has been still a drought of Malawian videos on MTV Base and Channel-O, MultiChoice Malawi marketing manager Chimwemwe Nyirenda says the follow up-will be conducted next week and said he needs to find out reasons why Malawian music videos do not stay long on the playlists.