For a long time, some musicians in the country have been begging from well-wishers and family when they fall sick or to buy coffins when dead. Some musicians have accused their mother body, Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM), of lacking strategy when it comes to their welfare. HOWARD MLOZI (HM) engages MUM president the Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango (CM) on the issue.
HM: What do you make of a situation where some musicians beg whenever they are sick?
CM: This is not amusing at all and as a union we are equally concerned with the trend. It does not reflect well on the entire music industry. At the same time, this is not our intention as union for the situation to be like this whenever a musician falls sick or dies. No one, including me as father of the union, is happy.
HM: Should we say there is negligence on your part?
CM: We care a lot about the health of the country’s musicians. In fact, it is our prime priority, as a union, to promote the well-being of every musician all the time. You may wish to know that every company or industry relies on a healthy workforce to produce results on daily basis. The same applies to the music industry; it needs healthy musicians all the time to deliver their work.
When we have healthy musicians, it equals to good service delivery to such entertainment like live shows and good music that people enjoy on daily basis. Again, healthy musicians help to generate income for their households and contribute to the development of the country as a whole. For example, some musicians own bands that create employment for fellow artists. But if such responsible and reliable band leaders fall sick or die, it affects a greater number of people.
The death of every musician in the country is a big blow because there is unique talent and contributions that are lost and missed forever.
HM: As a union, what are you doing about the situation?
CM: I have been meeting members of MUM to share some of the strides we have made as a union as well as outlining some of our new developmental agendas which include those to do with their health. But, currently, we are discussing with different organisations and stakeholders on the possibility of buying insurance policies for our members. We are looking at the possibility of having a cover that will see members having at least a decent burial.
In terms of medication, we want to see if we can facilitate a scheme that is affordable to our members so that when they are sick, they should not have problems to meet some of the expenses as they have been struggling in the past.
However, musicians in the country should change their mindset if such services are to materialise. This is not a question expecting the union to do everything for them because even companies require their employees to contribute something towards their own health. The point I am trying to make is that musicians should consider their health by being willing to invest in it. First, they must comply with membership fees and other requirements such as insurances and health policies they may require because we will deal with third parties when administering such services.
HM: How are you making MUM vibrant?
CM: Membership, including annual contributions, is key to effectiveness of MUM. What musicians should realise now is that the choice is with us whether to build our union or ruin it. For example, we really need a sound membership to become affiliated to bodies like Malawi Congress of Trade Union [MCTU]. And we urge the musicians to become members of the union. The more we have members, the more we have monetary contribution and power in the country. This may also translate to effective health schemes for members.
HM: Any last word?
CM: The corporate sector should invest in arts, culture and entertainment industries and the public should support the work of musicians. If musicians have a conducive working environment, it will be easy for them to make huge investments towards their career, including health. However, issues of piracy still suffocate the industry to the extent that music lovers today are no longer buying original music, but pirated ones. n