Malawi established its first television station in 1999. The sole television public broadcaster TV Malawi (TVM) was founded under the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) establishment.
The launch of the television station, now called MBC TV, almost signalled the start of a silent evolution musically. A platform was created where local music composers could experiment their creative ideas by producing music videos.
The question was, however, where do they start from? Minus a countable number of staff from the institution, who had undergone some special training in Namibia, very few people had the requisite know-how in terms of production of sophisticated multimedia content such as music videos.
Another stumbling block was resources. It was a time when artists could hardly part with reasonable sums of money to fund a venture of that nature. Probably it was in part due to the meagre rewards that the trade was offering.
But the station introduced several music programmes which required to be fed with local content. For a while we had to be content with songs that were originally done by artists from our neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
But we had to come up with at least something of our own, not matter how compromised the quality would be. That is when some basic videos, which were shot in front on a blue-coloured curtain in the TVM studios at Kwacha in Blantyre, started gracing our boxes.
No matter how bad they were, they still provided the excitement and entertainment that we had yearned for long. It meant that people could now watch the likes of Austin Sikelemu, Bright Nkhata, Lucius Banda, Collen Ali Matola and others in full flight.
For a period, we had to settle for this. Those raw and often poorly organised video productions were what it meant to watch a music video. But slowly things started to change. The crew at the television station started daring themselves.
I believe some had the hunger to justify their long stay in Namibia and the desire to front the skills that they had learnt while there. And their next stop wasn’t to be far. The grounds surrounding the Kwacha Studios proved to be a better alternative than the in-door studio shoots which had now become monotonous.
That time videos of Ethel Kamwendo Banda’s Amen Amen song. emerged Others such as Evison Matafale’s Watsetsereka followed a little later on. The inventiveness of brains such as Sweeny Chimkango, Maneno Mtawali, Peter Mazunda and others at the institution started to make an impact.
Still we needed to go one step up. But that route wasn’t going to be through TVM anymore. The creativity that they deployed in producing videos at the open space outside Kwacha Studios and such other selected grounds was their final stretch.
The limited resources, both in finances and equipment, meant they could not take a jump higher that they had already done. We needed a way out of the doldrums.
Meanwhile, Mtawali and team had left TVM by then. Mtawali established his own company called Kings Multimedia. It was at Kings Multimedia where standards in video production were first redefined in Malawi.
I recall productions such as San B’s Peremende, Lucius Banda’s Kennedy, among others. These were videos which had at least the required elements of what could pass as a proper music video. And for a moment it, appeared like we had hit full circle.
Fast-forward to today, the landscape in terms of music videos has completely been transformed. The zeal and eagerness displayed by both artists and producers has seen the industry being adorned by very beautiful creations which are of international standards.
Rarely will you see an artist release audios without an accompanying video. Such is the obsession with visuals that artists are showing in the trade.
As we celebrate the gains, let us also recall the journey we trod from a zero point to hitting the sky. It has been a long road.