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Blasto’s music for a cause

BLASTO — Dancehall and reggae is like the air I breathe

Music just like football is a power art discipline which has been used as a vehicle to disseminate different key messages to the masses in the world.

Different artists have come out to stitch songs that have played a crucial role in bringing about change in the world apart from offering entertainment.

It is because of its exploits on the ground that artists such as reggae maestro, Bob Nesta Marley, came out to say that “one good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain”.

Marley was the first international superstar to shatter the negative stereotypes associated with the third world countries and sell over 75 million albums worldwide.

The reggae maestro’s image has become a symbol of freedom and the fight against oppression. Marley sent powerful messages through his lyrics and created spiritual experiences whenever he performed on stage.

This just tells it all about the beauty of music and what it means to the world. It is about offering entertainment but it is a crucial weapon that has helped in bringing unity among people.

Over the years, several artists have come out to use music for a cause and in the country, for instance, musician and former Big Brother Africa (BBA) representative Code Sangala is using music to help fight malaria, which, according to him, has claimed lots of lives in the country including children.

“Malaria nearly killed me when I suffered from it. This is why I decided to take it head-on using my musical talent to fight it and hence creating a Non-Governmental Organisation known as Music Against Malaria with fellow musician Annemarie Quinn,” Code said.

And last year using Music Against Malaria, Code and Annemarie went further with the project of fighting malaria to create a music festival that went on to raise money that they used to, among others, buy equipment to support Chikwawa District Hospital.

FLASHBACK — Blasto performs at one of the shows in Lilongwe

Another artist that has over the years used music to bring about change is dancehall star Blasto.

For those who have followed dancehall in the country, especially young people, the name Blasto is not that new, he has won hearts with his sounds.

The artist, who recalls that his first recording was in 2003 and that he started actively participating in the music business in 2007, made headlines in 2015 when he toured United States of America.

“The 2015 USA trip was my first tour of the country and I learned a lot in terms of music business and I managed to even record some music there. Again, what I learned on the tour was that music was not only about entertainment but rather music can be used to tackle various issues affecting society and, so I thought of doing music for a cause,” Blasto said.

Upon his return home, Blasto played it fast to create what he calls Jamboree in which he has been using music to encourage students, particularly in primary school to work hard in their studies if they are to help develop the country but also have a better life.

“The project is working since we started. We do this at the beginning of each school term where I normally select a school and then I would go there and perform to the learners and then later donate books and other educational materials to them,” the dancehall musician said.

Blasto would have gone with any other genre on the musical landscape but he choose to ride with dancehall which is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s according to available information.

Initially, dancehall was a sparser version of reggae than the roots style, which had dominated much of the 1970s but in the 1980s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably with digital dancehall with raga becoming increasingly characterised by faster rhythm.

It is a genre that demands more energy and one has to have that strong voice.

“Dancehall is a channel to release all stress and keep me sane,” Blasto, real name Otis Chilamba, said.

And back to the Jamboree project, Blasto, said he has managed to reach out to a number of schools with the project including Lilongwe and Biwi LEA schools.

“We randomly choose the schools but we also look at the resources we have and how our logistics will be to get to the beneficiaries. I should also say it here that this is for primary schools within the city and, with resources, permitting maybe we might take it outside Lilongwe,” Blasto said.

He believes, as an artist and citizen of the country, he has a responsibility to help the next generation get all the help they can as they strive to acquire knowledge to build a better Malawi.

“I might not have experienced that myself but that does not mean I cannot reach out to others and, so, for me, apart from entertaining people with my dancehall music. I thought of doing something,” he said.

IN FOREIGN LAND — Blasto stars in USA in 2015

Blasto said all the resources he uses in the Jamboree project are gathered from friends.

“I get them within the country and mostly I get it from young people, who donate whatever they can manage. The thing is we have the capacity as a nation to solve our own problems but that can only happen if we manage our resources well,” the musician said.

He also revealed that, over the years, he has worked with one partner in the project – Teeth Savers International organisation, which he said, teaches students oral health and distributes toothpaste and toothbrushes to learners to the schools they go to.

He described 2019 as a good year where he managed to hold a number of live performances with his Tuff Lionz Reggae Band and that he had time to work on new songs he is set to release this year.

“Dancehall and reggae is like the air I breathe. I don’t see myself living any other life that is separate from music,” Blasto said.

He said he could have done more with music but is quick to talk about several challenges on the market.

“The major challenge is that most artists still do everything on their own and most of the other players in the industry such as the corporate world have little understanding of how to work better with artists. The other challenge is the lack of people to manage the talent and help to take advantage of the global market that has enough space to accommodate what we produce musically as a nation,” Blasto said.

With three collections to his credit so far, namely The Uniepekted Mixtape, Stronger and The Last One Persistence, Blasto is determined to do more to help young people achieve greater things in life by encouraging them to love education.

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