Music keeps youths moving
Gone are the days when music genres such as hip-hop were not embraced particularly by the older generation. Things have changed especially looking at how young people are going about the business of fusing their music with different elements including traditional dances.
There was a time when legendary musician Mtebeti Wambali Mkandawire once demanded more from young people saying they were in a hurry with their music.
But later he acknowledged the trends saying young people had discovered that in music they were having entertainment and at the same time keeping themselves busy especially with high unemployment in the country.
Wambali further said that what was needed for the country was to open up to the young people and give them a platform to showcase their music while at the same time pushing them to avoid shortcuts and strive for quality.
Music has found its space in the country and it is one of the talents that young people have found it interesting and this is why they continue to display their creativity in dropping songs now and then.
Zeze Kingston, who is currently promoting his Extended Playlist (EP) titled In My Zone which has tracks such as ‘Mvetsera’, said the country needs to support young people and at the same time give music all the respect.
“Music or art in general is a career worth pursuing and this has been seen by what is on the ground now where young people are finding interest in music. Young people are using music not only for entertainment but they are also using it to bring about change. They are using music to tackle crucial issues such as mental health,” he said.
Associate Professor of English Literature in the Department of Literary Studies at the University of Malawi Ken Lipenga Jr has stitched a book on rap music titled Rap Music and the Youth in Malawi: Reppin’ the Flames.
The book identifies how Malawians have adapted hip- hop styles for their local context and illustrates how Malawian youth use hip- hop music to exercise agency and refutes stereotypes about ‘waithood’ among Malawian youth.
Lipenga Jr said he was motivated to write the book by several factors, starting with his love for the genre.
“I have always appreciated rap music, from within Malawi as well as elsewhere. I have engaged in discussions about the state of rap music in the country with many friends and colleagues,” he said.
The Associate Professor, said he realised that he could express some of his thoughts in a formal manner, through a book.
“The other motivating factor was the realisation, as an academic, that many people outside Malawi do not know about this genre. I have read a lot about rap music from other countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania,” Lipenga Jr said.
On the market today, several young people continue to release songs and other projects and apart from using it to express themselves and also entertain, others are using music to bring about change.
Suffix of the ‘Mkazi Wakumwamba’ fame who recently hailed Lipenga Jr for publishing a book on rap music and how young people in the country were using it, said he is passionate about music and that this is the job that gives him his bread and butter.
“I am happy that people like Associate Professor Ken Lipenga Jr has spoken about the importance of rap music. This will atleast help people in authority and the government to see that talent needs to be supported and it is art that many young people have embraced but the biggest challenge is that they are doing it on their own without proper support,” Suffix said.
He said the impact that rap music has played in the country is huge.
“It has moved in phases and there was a time where many were using English but now we are using our local languages,” the Lilongwe-based rapper, said.
Phyzix, who has also worked very hard to build his brand and continues to use music to motivate others, has spoken highly about music and art in general saying it needs to be supported as it is playing a crucial role in the development of the country.
And in wanting to grow and unearth talent and at the same time support fellow young people, Phyzix through It’s Only Entertainment, an entertainment outfit has kept on introducing different initiatives.
Recently the artist announced that he had signed two budding musicians, namely Tarill and NaeRae420, in his quest to uplift talent in the country.
“We are searching for young talent to develop, manage and promote,” the award-winning musician, famed for tracks such as ‘Wife Material’, said.
During one of the outings at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre during Sounds of Malawi Acoustic Session, the audience was stunned with the performance of a youthful group – Jacaranda School for Orphans Troupe which served a number of songs but perfectly blended with traditional dances.
But with all that said, is the country going the right direction as far as music is concerned and are young people doing music to their best?
Rick Deja, who is a music lecturer at University of Cape Town in South Africa and has worked with several artists in the country including ethno-musician Waliko Makhala and reggae group Black Missionaries, said Malawi music is not just one thing.
And having sampled the country’s music from the past to the present day, Deja, who plays the saxophone, said long gone are the days when artists were going to one radio station to promote their music to a countrywide audience.
“Today there are so many platforms and this has also forced young people to be on the move with music and they are being artistic in what they do,” he said.
Deja said the most interesting music is often created by those, who are true to themselves and those who are willing to take creative risks.
“I am happy with the strides young people are making and the innovations and music has proved to be important to them,” he said.
Deja singled out some of the innovative Malawian artists he has fallen in love with in recent times and they include sansi player Patrick Chimbewa, Faith Mussa and Erik Paliani.
“There is so much that urban artists can tap into especially traditional elements and I am happy that others are doing that and enjoying it. This is the Malawian music to the core and I don’t think more people appreciate how much music potential there is within these traditions,” he said.