Battle for Mam
Seeking better life for artists
Life for an artist is hard in Malawi. Take for instance musicians, they sacrifice a lot composing songs and then go to the studio where they spend a lot but at the end of it despite their sweat, they do not get what is deserved of the sweat,” musician Eric Trinta said, who also owns Nyamithambo Arts Palace in Lilongwe and Nsanje.
For Trinta, it still hurts him that there are artists on the ground, who have done a lot for the country but they continue to struggle with life and yet with their talents, they could have been living a better life.
Beating himself on the chest in pity, Trinta, pointed at veteran guitarist, Peter Likhomo, saying artists like them have contributed a lot to the development of the creative industry but they have not benefited from their talent.
“This country needs to change at the way it perceives the creative industry. The creative industry is one of the sectors that if well managed and supported could have been huge and offered the best but we have not done so,” Trinta said.
But Trinta and other artists seeing the several challenges facing the creative industry in the country are out to help bring about change but also fight for the betterment of fellow artists.
With Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) being at the helm of musicians in the country and having put off Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam), Trinta and others decided to revive the association which they feel is the one which has the responsibility to grow the talents of musicians.
“We have taken steps towards Musicians Association of Malawi revival. We were not supposed to kill the association. If you look back, you will notice that the association has been instrumental in running a lot of activities including music competitions while Mum has only concentrated on the rights of musicians over the years,” Trinta said.
Another artist, who has been part of the team working on the revival, Khuza Rampi, who said he was also a Mum member and that was part of the National Executive Committee (Nec), said they thought of reviving Mam not to fight Mum.
“Mum will still be there and we would want to work with them and for them they are more into the rights of a musician but for Mam we are looking at distribution of music for instance and other areas and this is why we came together,” Rampi said.
Having met twice at Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC), Trinta, Rampi, Anko Layi, Likhomo and other artists decided to go ahead to hold a press briefing and reach out to the world about Mam’s revival.
The team managed to put together resources and held a press conference on Friday night at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) which was combined with a cocktail and performances.
Running under the theme ‘Creative industry needs Arts Council’, Trinta and others also invited other associations in order to unite and speak with one voice as they seek to create a better environment for an artist.
Some of the associations that were part and parcel of the event include Association of Persons Living with Albinism (Apam) represented by its president Ian Simbota, who during his speech bemoaned the lack of support to the creative industry.
“The creative industry is a powerful sector which needs support and yet it gets nothing at the moment. All what politicians and other players do at the moment is to utilise the creative industry for their own gains and not artists but it is now time to speak with one voice and bring about change,” Simbota said.
Earlier on, a member of the Association of Teaching of English in Malawi (Atem), whose body has been out of the limelight for some time but returned in 2020, Dave Mpaso, hailed Trinta and team for bringing associations together to discuss challenges.
“What players, who have revived Mam have done today is something commendable. There is a need to speak with one voice, the creative industry has potential but it is not supported but if we speak with one voice, we can bring about change,” Mpaso said.
Rampi said they would be coming up with a number of activities including the Malawian Unite festivals which they would be holding in different open spaces across the country with the aim of giving a platform to up and coming musicians but also spread messages of love and peace.
“As artists we have a duty to unite people, the country at the moment is going through challenges and so we would like to use the festivals to disseminate messages of peace and love. Again, we want to use the platforms to give a chance to up and coming artists to showcase their talents. We would therefore like to call upon companies to support us by utilising us. This is all about changing the face of our industry,” Rampi said.
But while Trinta, Rampi and others are in the process of reviving Mam, Mum which is currently being headed by acting president, Gloria Manong’a, has come out to stop them from using the name Mam.
In a letter dated January 24 2020 titled ‘Mum still owns Mam’, Mum says it was informing the general public that it still owns the brand Mam as it was not deregistered by the time it was changing to Mum as a Trade Union.
“By virtue of not deregistering did not mean that any grouping or any individual could use the trademark Mam as a brand,” reads part of the letter signed by Manong’a.
Mum further emphasizes in the letter that “if need be to revamp the trademark Mam, Mum shall be responsible for revamping and with proper procedures.
The union also adds in the letter that it was happy that there were many groups that would want to promote musical culture in the country but rather called upon them to use their own brand or trademark.
But Trinta and team indicated during their press briefing that Mam was owned by musicians.
“Mum does not own Mam. Mam is a mother body, we know the trustees, who put the association on the map, the trustees put this up not as their own but for musicians. Let me say it again that Mam is not owned by Mum and for Mum to be there it is because of musicians and so, if musicians say they would want to revive Mam let it be so,” Rampi said.
He said they were reviving Mam not for the benefit of positions let alone fighting Mum but rather to look at the development of artists.
“We want to make sure that we have the Arts Council in place because that is what will push us and then we look at so many things. Again, the letter which Mum has written is coming from someone, who is acting, she made the decision on her own and not Nec and so we are not worried,” Rampi said.
But Manong’a maintained that Trinta and team should not use Mam.
“They should not use the trademark. We work with any grouping of musicians and we have no problems because they use their own trademark,” the Mum acting president said.
It remains to be seen what will come up later but for Trinta and team, they remain faithful to reviving Mam having held a press briefing on Friday where they also had trustees and for them, they are here not to fight Mum but rather to fight for the betterment of the artist.