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Like father like son

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Creative products such as music have traditionally been considered engagements of the mind, hardly of the family.

It could be based on this understanding— of creativity being a product of the mind, other than the family— that some musicians, feeling short-changed by the unappreciative nature of an industry where piracy runs rampant and a handful musicians have something to show for their sweat, stop their children or family relations from joining the music industry.

Better to keep family members away from such stressful matters as music for their [family members’] lives to remain delightful adventures that life should be.

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However, Jamaal— son of renowned musician Mlaka Maliro— feels that there are problems with this line of thinking. He feels that the history of music is littered with stories of sons and daughters who have picked a leaf from their parents and made it big in music.

After all, the lives of those born in families that are associated with music have always been full of sounds, vocals or money realised through music, even when the family members are not expected to participate in these events. There is simply no way one can escape the impact of music on their lives.

If there were any doubting Thomases that music can run deep in both the mind and the family, Thursday provided the answer as music emerged as a tool for survival for Jamaal, who is free to use it as a weapon of praise or as a weapon against the absurdities of justice.

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While Malawians were celebrating 53 years of Independence through prayers and a soccer match that has planted painful memories on the national psyche after the death of eight Malawians of good will, youth organisation HipHop4HIV and Miss Blantyre were celebrating the day in style— that is, conferring an award on one of the country’s up-and-coming artists.

In the past few months, HipHop4HIV and Miss Blantyre have been running a music competition which saw artists submitting music entries online.

And, guess what? The winner is Jamaal Maliro who, ironically, had just composed his first hip-hop song. It turns out the song is the winner.

“My triumph has not come as a surprise. I felt it [that I could win] right at the time I saw a message announcing that there was a competition,” Jamaal said.

The aim of the competition was to bring together innovative minds through hip-hop music in order to deliver HIV and Aids messages that would help Malawi “create a genuinely informed community”.

Now that the winning song has been identified, the project has a theme track.

Recently, HipHop4HIV entered into a strategic partnership with Miss Blantyre Hannah Mhone, who, together with HipHop4HIV Country Director Victoria Masanje, gave Jamaal the prize money of K50, 000. The winner was accompanied by college friends from Blantyre International University.

Twenty-three-year-old Jamaal is a second year Counselling and Psychology student.

Miss Blantyre Pageant Chairman, Daniel Ngwira, also attended the event.

During the function, Mhone fell in love with the winning song and simply said “ndiyasharp heavy [it is superb]”.

On her part, Masanje congratulated Jamaal for the feat, saying it, surely, must not have been an easy ride for Jamaal to emerge winner out of over 200 artists who were targeting the same prize.

She also spoke about the partnership with Miss Blantyre and why they settled for the Blantyre Queen.

“Miss Blantyre Pageant is among the very cream and most popular [brands] in the country. At HipHop4HIV, we needed a partner that has showbiz and [applies to] real life issues with appeal to both youths, adults and the corporate world. Miss Blantyre fitted in the puzzle.

Hence, we work with Miss Blantyre as a chief advocate in our activities. She continues to be the face and mouthpiece of our activities to young people across Malawi.

“Being a girl child, she stars as a role model, mostly to young girls in school, which augurs well with her official theme, ‘Keeping the Girl Child in School’. We are committed to complimenting her efforts as she visits various schools in Blantyre, empowering girls,” Masanje said.

Vida Germano, who is a HipHop4HIV founding member but stays in Europe, also congratulated Jamaal, advising him, and other participating artists, to continue working on their music in order to make a difference both in Malawi and beyond.

“Expressing ourselves through music— in terms of how we feel or what we have gone through or what we are going through— is easier than just talking about it,” Germano said.

To arrive at the winner, five committee members, who received 200 entries, listened to each and every song, voted 10 songs in and sent them to HipHop4HIV artists who judged the winning song.

“We wanted a song that was produced well and we wanted to see creativity in there and the song had to be in line with our message,” Masanje said.

On her part, Mhone said time had come for Malawians to work out new strategies on HIV and Aids.

“We realise that HIV and Aids affect almost every home today. If we sit down and watch, our country will thrive in perils. As Miss Blantyre, I can do something about it and, through this partnership, I am asking all young people of Malawi, starting with those from my city Blantyre, to abstain from immoral behaviours that may culminate in them contracting HIV,” Mhone said.

Among other things, the theme song will be used to raise awareness programmes targetting youths.

Speaking in a separate interview, Ngwira urged radio stations to consider playing the winning song in their youth awareness programmes so that more Malawians can access it and utilise its message.

The song will be made available on the organisation’s social media and online pages from mid-July 2017. It is a free song and the winning artist has also been given liberty to distribute it.

HipHop4HIV was founded after noticing that there are a lot of people and organisations talking about HIV. It wanted to reach out to the youth through things they are involved in, notably music, and create a free environment that would encourage them to participate in national endeavours.

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