A Norwegian man going by the name of Karstein Grønnesby announced recently that he has established a record company called Ujeni Records early January this year. I know of the several record companies that have been established in this country with no story to write home about.
At least hearing Grønnesby story, one would be tempted to split a smile hoping that long at long last there is something good to come for the Malawi music industry, more so when this man is a volunteer at Music Crossroads Malawi. Grønnesby is a music teacher imparting modern musical skills. He is also involved in some acts I heard for the first time like Pakhonde Ethno Camp in Ntchisi, Nkhotakota Festival, Malawi Music Project, Malawi Folksongs Project being done in collaboration with UNESCO, REI—whatever it is—Malawi National Library and of course the Malawi Music Crossroads.
Now what he says about the objectives of the Ujeni Records is what really made me keen about it. He says he wants to promote Malawi music, something I have heard before from anyone starting such initiatives. Grønnesby says he wants to put Malawi music on world map through internet by using such platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Tidal as well as Youtube.
So far he says they have dished out a sample in form of a recent production called Live In The Bus which features five local artists that include Faith Mussa, Ernest Ikwanga, Rebecca Mwalwenje, Patrick Chimbewa, O’ta as well as Mbanaye.
To just state it matter of fact, ‘Live in the bus’ is some acoustic performed production that shows that Grønnesby has already made it up in his mind what he wants, musically. He knows where he wants to go with such music or better still what he wants to do with it. It’s unfortunately not a representation of what I can define as Malawi’s prevailing talent display.
His likeminded persons before him never said what was in it for them in such a venture. What happened before and what was not said was that those starting up such record companies or music labels always take this as a huge investment. Immediately they discover that the enterprise is not as lucrative as they anticipated, they discreetly exit the stage without fanfare. And Grønnesby sounds like reading the same old script.
Now what can be worse is that our colleagues from the West are too clever for my liking, sometimes they come like good Samaritans when they are bent at exploitation.
Grønnesby is a volunteer and I am tempted to believe Ujeni Records is just some passing fancy while he is in this middle of nowhere of a poverty stricken African country. Is he going to still have such drive once his mission at Music Crossroads finishes and he goes back to either his home country or another different country?
What will become of the artists he is trying to market outside Africa? How much market does the Malawi music command out there and how is he going to make use of it? Malawian musicians have not deservedly benefitted from their sweat over a period of time. Proof is found in all over the place for everyone else to see. Artists like Dr. Daniel Kachamba were made famous in countries like Germany but they died in penury. The question is why should something, or this art of music which makes others instant millionaires fail to bring the same results with the local talent which is said to be most sought after outside the continent?
Until Grønnesby tells us what is in it for him in the Ujeni Records, his tale is too good to be true for the local music industry which has suffered a lot at the hands of his kind. I am sorry I won’t even give him the benefit of the doubt.