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Fourteen years of music production

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PHIRI —Music is a ministry

Music production is such an interesting work.

Lilongwe-based gospel musician Lloyd Phiri is one person who has remained faithful to music for years. He would have quit at some point but, because he is passionate about this career, he continues with it.

Phiri has, with his Happiness Voices, been at the peak producing mature albums that have blessed souls.

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To date Phiri, and Happiness Voices have put on the market six albums namely Musagwededzeke, Ndagwiritsa, Nkadangukhudza, Sikuthekera Kwanga, Assorted and Sachedwa Safulumira.

These albums have been followed by other projects that have done well on the market.

“The last time I released an album was in 2013 and that is Sachedwa Safulumira. I am now looking forward to releasing a new album. I recorded the album two years ago but I do not have sponsorship. If I can get sponsorship now then all will be well, I will release a DVD and CD,” he said.

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His new album is titled Pemphero Silinama.

“People have been on my neck asking when I will have a new album on the market but all this needs resources. Producing an album is not that easy nowadays,” he said.

Phiri’s exploits in music that saw him earn praise on the market saw him take a different direction by concentrating on production.

He is among producers who spend sleepless nights in the studios perfecting songs so that people get the best in terms of quality.

“Focusing much of my attention to production does not mean that I stopped producing albums completely but rather it takes quite a great deal to put together an album. The situation is even tough these days with technology where piracy is rampant. This is why you have well-known artists not willing to come out to release albums,” Phiri said.

He said musicians invest huge sums of money to record in the studio but they get nothing at the end.

“Of course, music is a ministry but you still need to get something to sustain your life and that is not there anymore as regards making money. You spend and operate at a loss,” Phiri said.

Phiri start serious production in 2006 and now he is talking about 14 years doing the art of production through his One Heart Studio in Lilongwe.

Throughout the trade, Phiri has worked with several artists in their various projects and they include Ethel Kamwendo Banda, Wycliffe Chimwendo, Geoffrey Zigoma, Favoured Sisters, Allan Chirwa, Maggie Mangani and Neligo Women Choir.

“There is too much of directing with solo artists and you exhaust more ideas such that in most cases one song takes three days but it is a different story with choirs which are always organised,” he said.

Phiri said production involves different steps including instrumentation, editing, balancing, mixing and mastering.

“For me, music is something that I just love and I do it with all my heart and soul. This is why whenever I am recording I make sure that everything comes out perfect,” he said.

The musician said he learnt how to work with choirs through the late Joseph Tembo and Khathwa Aligiza.

“Joseph Tembo was always in good books with choirs and I kept on asking myself why he concentrated more on working with them and I realised it is because they are organised and easy to work with and in terms of payment they are faithful,” he said.

Phiri said unlike in the past when they were making profits with production, it was different now and that revenues have dropped.

Phiri said technology has overtaken the works of Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) and that it was high time the copyright body adjusted itself to protect the works of artists.

“There was a time I went to Cosoma to share with them how they can go about it to fight piracy. It is work that needs a lot in terms of reaching out to the masses and also at the same time keeping a closer contact with the masses otherwise piracy will continue to grow wings,” he said.

Phiri who a stint in United Kingdom said it is difficult for artists in the country to make headway in that they operate on their own with little support.

“Elsewhere artists concentrate on their work while the rest of the other things are taken care of by the manager. It’s been tough for artists and I hope someday this will all change,” Phiri said.

Phiri might not have managed to achieve what he would have wanted by now, but the 14- year journey he has negotiated has built his character.

“The challenges are there but that will not stop me from pushing, I will keep walking, I will keep crafting, I will keep creating and most of all I will keep enjoying this work. This is the best work for me,” he said.

Phiri is now targeting creating a website to be at par as regards technology where people can access his works.

“I also want to stay focused and improve on online sales but that does not mean I will leave CDs. There are still people who fancy CDs,” he said.

He also said that he wants to concentrate on evangelism with the aim of bringing people closer to the Lord.

“As I indicated, music to me is a ministry and so through evangelism, we will be going in different places to preach the word of God for a short time and through this platform I will also be able to be distributing CDs of my music which they will be buying at affordable prices. But all this will also need resources,” Phiri said.

The producer said he also plans to establish a charity organisation with the aim of reaching out to the needy.

“I want to help others and I just hope I will manage to generate enough, in terms of funds, to successfully do this otherwise I am thankful to God for the path I have travelled to this day,” he said.

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