It is undeniable that 2020 has been a year of doom and gloom. Covid-19 global pandemic effectively ground all sectors, including entertainment to a halt.
Just like in other countries, the arts sector saw artists cancelling events which is their main source of income.
But Covid-19 aside, challenges for the local arts industry is the slow growth of local artists on the international scene. As we of now handful local artists such as Faith Mussa, Lawi, Tay Grin, Zani Challe, Massa Lemu, Elson Kambalu and Hazel Mak have had the rare opportunity of entertaining fun lovers at events outside Malawi or rocked international exhibitions.
Meanwhile, a number of up-and-coming musicians like Sangie, Shammah Vocals, Suffix and Eli Njuchi have the potential to represent the country at international events.
However, the tricky part is, Malawians artists are simply having it tough to break through on the international scene.
But what could be the reason?
Musician Lawi believes most Malawian artists have what it takes to make it on the international scene.
“It starts with individual initiative. However, it may not be open for everyone and this is because the world art platform takes some and spits out some and funny enough, this has got nothing to do with talent,” he said.
“Firstly, as an artist understanding trends is very important, understanding the energy of the entry platform is also important and that requires some great networking skills and of course a good pocket to keep you in rotation,” Lawi explained in an interview.
In the context of Malawian artists, he argues for their taking advantage of what they have and stand out from the rest of the creations that fans salivate on.
He said: “I think Malawi has got a great potential to shine even brighter on the international stage. However, we have to capitalise on what makes us different from the rest of the world. We may get into the global platform dancing to a Nigeria song. However, what will keep us there is not that case of borrowed culture and traditions, but our uniqueness.”
In the world of conscious reggae music, Sangie has established herself as the empress of melodious voice and creativity on the local front.
She has found a comfort zone in the genre which since time immemorial has been dominated by men. Just like others, she harbours the dream of taking her perfectly mingled melodies well embedded in a reggae genre to the international stage.
Sangie, however, bemoans that “Malawi is limiting.”
“For example, we are in the era of Internet which is very expensive and not that strong here. You always have to go through a lot of channels to get it on international platforms,” she said.
Sangie added that for her and others, the most limiting thing is resources.
“For one to have a successful career, you have to make yourself known which isn’t easy locally. I wouldn’t rate myself as an artist who has broken the international market because I’m still getting myself known,” she said.
Some Malawians artists like Erik Paliani, Zani Challe and Gemini Major have established themselves in their base, South Africa. Following their footsteps are Onesimus and Gwamba who are pulling all the strings to get more connections and exposure.
Still, some have hit a snag and struggled their way out of the most developed music industry in the region.
“It’s all about the foundation. Art without solid development or nurturing isn’t easy to market. Art is like running a business. One has to develop their technical skills before honing their creativity,” said Sangie.
Artists manager and promoter Kimpho Loka said succeeding in music goes beyond being talented.
“They say music is 10 percent talent and 90 percent is marketing which encompasses a lot including good quality production of both audio and videos, branding, promotion both locally and internationally,” he said.
Loka said achieving this is not easy for Malawian artists because of the country’s economy.
And as it is right now, local artists continue dreaming of making it big on the international scene.