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Let young artists flourish

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It is difficult for up and coming artists to expand their base let alone get the platform in an industry which is now very congested.

The industry has become so competitive and with technology moving at a fast pace, one needs to be more creative if he or she has to stand out.

With the current situation, some artists have moved very fast to rebrand themselves in order to capture the attention of the people.

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But for others, it is still a challenge.

Up and coming artists deserve a platform if they are to showcase their skills and this is what takes us to a project run by Forde Traditional and World Music Festival in Norway.

Førde Traditional and World Music Festival is the largest festival for traditional and world music in Scandinavia, presenting about 100 acts and 300 artists from all over the world and 25,000 visitors each year.

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The festival is covered by national and international media, and is recognised by the government as one of Norway’s most important festivals.

The Crown Princess of Norway is the festival’s patroness.

Aimed at promoting the playing of traditional instruments is thus an important arena for artists from all over the world to present their music to a Scandinavian audience.

Apart from bringing together different artists from different countries, the festival decided to create a project known as Talent with a special focus on young artists.

Through the Talent project, young artists engage in workshops to learn from each other and create their own pieces before showcasing them during the main event.

The past years has seen the project focusing its attention other countries as well as the host Norway.

But in 2016 the project drafted in Malawi and Kenya, having been impressed by some of its programmes run by different organisations among them Music Crossroads Malawi.

Three young artists from Malawi and three artists from Kenya were then selected and joined three other artists from the host Norway.

Malawi selected its representatives through Music Crossroads Malawi and they were Nsansi player Patrick Chimbewa, percussionist and vocalist Asante Maulidi and dancer and percussionist Thokozani Mdoko.

While Malawi and Kenyan artists had some similar traditional instruments such as drums, it was a different story with Norwegian artists, who were armed with fiddlers.

It was a challenge for them to jell but through the workshops they ended up improvising and came up with Malawi, Kenya and Norway sound.

“It has been an experience working together as young artists. We rarely have such opportunities because we do not have the resources. It was a challenge working together because our friends from Norway were playing different music but we eventually linked,” Faith Wangui from Kenya said.

Wangui said it was not a problem linking with Malawian artists because everything from the instruments to the songs was similar.

The Norwegian artists also said they found it difficult to link up with Malawi and Kenyan artists because they were not using the keys.

But as they say, music has no boundaries, the artists from the three countries finally clicked.

Led by their facilitators among them Ivan Mazunze, they came up with songs in the Norwegian language, songs in Swahili and songs in Chichewa.

They had moments creating performances for their countries before teaming up. They had performances in different places in Norway before performing on the bigger stage during the grand finale of the Forde Festival.

It was a success story which did not end there as the young artists from the three countries met again and this time, here in Malawi.

The Talent team had workshops again perfecting their performances and also took time to share their skills in different places including at Ntchisi Prison where they received massive support.

“This Talent project is really working wonders; we created it simply to give a platform to young artists. We are happy with the progress that we have made with the Talent 2016 team which has been amazing,” said Forde Festival Director Hilde Bjorkum.

Bjorkum said having made progress with their meeting in Norway, it was important for the Talent 2016 team to meet again in Malawi.

“Their meeting here gave them another opportunity to work on new songs but also practice what they learnt in Norway. Here again it was special in that the Talent 2016 team had time to participate in the Pakhonde Ethno-music camp,” she said.

Bjorkum also said the team had time to perform at Ntchisi Prison.

“For the Norwegian artists it was the first time to perform at a prison but it was an amazing experience. As Forde Festival we are happy to play a crucial role in unearthing talent and also give an opportunity to young artists to build their skills,” she said.

Music Crossroads Malawi Director Mathews Mfune said the Talent project is very important in that it has helped shape young artists but also give them a platform.

“We are looking forward to more of these programmes. We have many young artists out there who need the platform to build their skills. The Talent 2016 team from Malawi has learnt a lot and we hope they will pass the skills to fellow artists,” Mfune said.

He said as Music Crossroads they have several programmes targeting the youth and that one of them is the Hear Us Children programme which they have created.

The Hear Us Children has been engaging in different activities and recently some of the members were in Spain for an exchange programme.

“We need more of these programmes targeting the youth. We have talent in the country,” he said.

The artists from the three countries said they will continue to network to progress their music although those from Malawi and Kenya bemoaned the lack of resources.

“We will continue. There is so much to learn and build on. We want to continue being creative and discovering new things but since we are in different countries, the biggest challenge is resources,” Wangui said.

Chimbewa said it was important that the Talent 2016 team continues to grow and that it should not die a natural death.

“It was nice to play my Nsansi and then work together with a Fiddler play and produce great sound. It was also nice that I managed to teach the Norwegians how to play the Nsansi,” said Chimbewa, who was taught to play the Nsansi by Charles Chavalamangwere Mkanthama.

Maulidi missed the gathering in Malawi because he is currently on an exchange programme in Mozambique. He was replaced by Prince Banda.

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