Lack of professional music artists, who have gone through formal training, has been a major challenge hindering the development of Malawi music industry.
A majority of graduates from renowned institutions, such as Chancellor College (Chanco) and Music Crossroads Academy have been known to take other career paths other than music, leaving the industry struggling for expertise.
A poor music environment, which is worsened by lack of a formalised market and porous laws to protect artists’ work from abuse, are some of the factors that drive most professionals from the mainstream music industry.
“The music environment is no longer conducive for the economic growth of artists. This is partly because there is no proper music structure which is supportive to such a career,” said Robert Chanunkha, head of Chanco’s department of fine and performing arts.
Chanco offers a bachelor of arts humanities degree with a major or minor in music, but due to the nature of the discipline, which offers learners wider knowledge, they end up pursuing other careers.
Music business, theory, ethnomusicology, instrumentation, voice and choreography are some of courses that are offered by the department.
The Music Crossroads Academy, situated in Lilongwe, offers courses in music theory and business, vocal training, music and event management and sound engineering.
Chanco’s department of fine and performing arts and Music Crossroads Academy have things in common—they both conduct workshops on the specific area. And their courses are aimed at preparing students to become entrepreneurs, sound engineers, songwriters and performing artists and even entertainment or broadcasting journalists.
However, looking at the curriculum of both institutions, their contributions to the industry leaves a lot to be desired.
The music industry is currently dominated by musicians who have not been through formal music school.
Chanunkha said for the past 10 years, there has been a tremendous improvement in the number of music graduates from Chanco—on average, the institution is producing between five and 10 graduates annually, unlike in the past when only one could graduate.
Musicians Bright Simbota and Rudo Mkukupa-Chakwera, who is one of the judges in E-Wallet singing competition, are some of the products of Chanco’s music school.
Other artists who fell in love and utilised the department of fine and performing arts, although they were not students in the department, include acoustic duo Edgar ndi Davis, Faith Mussa and rapper Fredokiss.
On his part, Vincent Maluwa of Music Crossroads Academy said, since its inception in 2013, the music training institution has graduated 26 students whose contribution to Malawi music industry is traceable.
He said some notable musicians who walked through the corridors of the academy include Sam Mjura Mkandawire, who plays in Takula Band and Mafilika.
In both bands he plays the piano and has an album to his credit.
Ernest Ikwanga is another known musician who graduated from the Music Crossroads Academy.
Apart from running a music studio, Ikwanga has toured Europe and China with Mafilika Band.
Another graduate is Jaco Jana who offers part time lessons to musicians and has recently returned from further studies in Norway courtesy of Music Crossroads.
He is now volunteering at Music Crossroads Academy as a teacher.
Maluwa explained: “Most graduates from the academy are top-notch musicians and engineers who are making their ends meet through music. Just recently, some of the Music Crossroads Academy students and teachers volunteered at the Lake of Stars Festival as sound engineers. The students and their teachers managed the Malawi Airlines stage so well that all bands and artists who played on that stage were not disappointed with their expertise.”
However, both Chanco and Music Crossroads admit that the country’s music industry needs collaborated efforts and players to restore its glory. n