Camping for the arts
The creative industry has been sidelined for a long time and yet it has contributed a lot in the development of the country.
For a long time artists have called for support from the corporate world and the government but they have received little attention.
But despite the so many challenges, artists have continued to work hard using the little resources they have and step by step some have gone on to do the country proud by notching up nominations in some of the international awards.
There are also other organisations in the country which are doing their level best to help uplift the creative industry by coming up with different programmes.
This then brings us to an initiative known as Pakhonde Ethno-music camp which is a brainchild of Music Crossroads Malawi in collaboration with ethno-musician Charles Chavwalamangwere Mkanthama.
It is a project that has just been started but the organisers have vowed to sustain it and that with resources permitting they want to be holding it every year.
After thorough preparations the Pakhonde Camp finally debuted on Monday at Search Private School in Ntchisi bringing on board several artists.
Music Crossroads Malawi Director Mathews Mfune said on Wednesday that they were happy that the project has come to pass.
“It all started like a dream but now it’s a reality, we started on Monday and this is a project that will help change the face of music in the country. We are not only talking about music but we are talking about traditional music instruments which have been neglected,” said Mfune.
He said that being the first event, more artists have made it and that since they started on Monday, they have networked and that they are eager to do more.
“We have artists from Malawi, Brazil, Mozambique and Norway among others. So it’s a camp that is there to help uplift the creative industry. We are talking about changing the face of music,” said Mfune.
He said that Music Crossroads is very happy to participate in the documentation, revival and development of ethnic/ traditional music by among other things coming up with innovative initiatives.
This is not the first time for Music Crossroads to embark on different arts programmes; they have also been involved in exchange programmes which has seen children choirs travelling to Europe.
Currently there are youthful artists from Malawi who are on exchange programmes in Mozambique and Norway.
One of them is singer and guitarist Rebecca Mwalwenje, who is currently in Norway learning music and has been involved in different projects including organising festivals.
The singer, who is a member of Karonga-based Lusubilo Band said on Wednesday that she has gained a lot of skills in Norway.
“I am doing fine at the moment and just making more songs plus working on some projects. I am currently part of the Move project,” she said.
According to her, the Move project is an exchange programme for musician volunteers and that it is spearheaded by JM Norway, FK and Music Crossroads Malawi.
She said she was a representative of Music Crossroads Malawi.
“We work with the government project called FARK which helps in managing events and also if we can create any events they help,” said the singer.
Mwalwenje said next month they will be involved in holding the Mosaic Festival.
“The purpose of the festival is to share different cultures in Norway from other countries. These countries include lndia, Nepal, Ethiopia, Palestine, Malawi and USA. As I said I am representing Malawi,” she said.
Mfune said they were happy that they were excelling in the arts with several projects and that through the current one – Pakhonde they want to hit the top.
Having started on Monday, the camp will run up to tomorrow and that it will also be spiced up by a concert.
Mfune said throughout the camp, artists have been appreciating local musical instruments, some of which were being forgotten including Bangwe, Kaligo, Sansi, Gulewamkulu drums, Mkangala and Mangolongondo.
“We did deliberately to hold it in the village because we want artists to concentrate but we also wanted them to get a feel of the village,” he said.
Mfune also said that the artists have during the camp been learning local folk songs by local people from Ntchisi villages and that Brazilian artists have also been teaching local artists local Brazilian instruments.
He also said that local artists have also been learning folk rhythms from Norway and Mozambique.
“So far the camp has run in-depth workshops on each of the instruments; practice, tuning and repair of the instruments and by the time we get to Saturday (tomorrow), many will have learned a lot,” said Mfune.
He also said that the camp has also had workshops for school children.
“All these activities will be documented both on still pictures, audio and videos and will later be edited and packaged to promote the project at local and international level,” said the Music Crossroads Director.
He also said that the materials will be used for research, learning, preservation and promotion.
“For this year, this is a pilot project and we hope that we will have massive feedback and encouragement to make a better and bigger one next year,” he said.
Mkanthama said recently that the young generation was in danger of not knowing how to play the local instruments and that it was important that they learn such instruments.
He said many of these instruments are being played by the older generation which was now past their prime.
And true to his word, the young generation does not know how to play most of these instruments and as ethno-musician Waliko Makhala put it, there was need to do something.
Mfune said it is because of such gaps that they came up with the camp in order for artists to learn playing some of the traditional instruments and that this was part of passing on information from generation to generation.
With technology engulfing the world, local instruments have now been rendered useless with artists relying heavily on modern instruments.
But the challenge now has been that the coming of modern instruments has brought about laziness in terms of performances where artists do not practice to their best whilst with local instruments one needs to practice hard to produce perfect sound during a performance.
Mfune said that they were hopeful that this was in line with the Cultural Policy that was adopted recently with artists now looking forward to the National Arts and Heritage Council Bill that will bring about the formation of the National Arts and Heritage Council of Malawi.
“Therefore as a stakeholder we should start making positive actions towards realising the dream. We at the moment do not have sponsors but we would love if we had more sponsors supporting us in this cause,” said Mfune.
He said that Malawi Commission for Unesco is also part of this programme to take up the role of the documentation.
“This for sure is an innovative approach to collecting and documenting not only the materials but also the processes,” he said.
“This is a very exciting project with the vision that it will become an annual and international event taking place in the rural areas with local participation. We hope also that it can be put on the annual calendar and be marketed as such.”
This for sure is a project worth supporting so as to put traditional instruments back in the picture.
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