By Sam Banda Jnr:
Playing any type of musical instrument in the past in the country was all but a male territory. Female artists were restricted to vocals and dancing.
No female artist would dare hold, play a keyboard, a saxophone or any wind instrument, let alone play the drums during.
Instruments were a man’s game and a hard job that women could not manage, hence, building their own terrain in vocals and dancing.
But this mentality has now died and female are artists have stepped out of their comfort zone of playing vocals and dancing to stand toe to toe with male artists playing different instruments.
Some female artists in the country have even made huge steps to challenge male artists in playing the violin.
There is no boundary in music. Musicians, male or female, can choose to play vocals and stand out as lead vocalists or take the path of starring in vocals and playing instruments.
Today, the country has pride in having several female musicians standing out in both vocals as well as playing instruments, thanks to institutions such as Music Crossroads Malawi which have been in the forefront to empower women to take up a leading role in playing different instruments and not only restrict themselves to vocals and dancing.
“Gone are the days when female artists were restricting themselves to vocals and dancing. Female artists can do anything in the music industry and that includes playing different instruments. This is why we came out to create an all females band – Daughters, which has so far been doing well,” Music Crossroads Malawi Director, Mathews Mfune, said.
Since its establishment, the band has shown the best of its talent performing in different platforms including at top festivals such as Lake of Stars, Tumaini and Sand Music.
Daughters Band bassist, Phalyce Kumdana, said the band will continue to show the world that women have all it takes to shine in playing instruments.
“Some people still do not believe that female artists can play different instruments and , as Daughters Band, we want to remove this mentality and encourage fellow female,” Kumdana said.
With Kumdana playing the bass guitar, other members of Daughters are Prosperia Ng’oma, who plays the lead guitar, Chikondi Macheso, who plays the drums, Grace Gama (keyboard) and Chifundo Sandy (vocals and percussions).
The other all-female group that has shown the best of women exploits in the arts is Krazy Colours which is also based in Lilongwe.
Krazy Colours has also been on the move holding gigs in different places although restricted to the Central Region due to financial constraints.
The group has members such as Cynthia Phiri (lead guitarist), Kester Kunje (Drummer), Christine Nayar (bassist), Felistas Phiri (lead vocalist), Carol Fatch (keyboardist) and Deborah Msuseni (vocalist).
“It has been quite an experience for us as a group. We want to do more and show that women artists have all it takes to conquer. Our target is to grow the group and continue learning,” Cynthia said.
Gospel musician, Ethel Kamwendo-Banda’s sister, the late Beatrice Kamwendo, was one of the female players who showed that female artists should not be afraid.
She played different instruments which have over the years been deemed to be only for males.
Beatrice was a reliable drummer and starred with Ben Mankhamba.
Following her death last month, several female artists mourned her, saying she was talented and was one of the few female artists who challenged male artists in playing instruments.
“Some of us started showing interest in playing instruments after seeing Beatrice do it with much ease and losing her is a very big blow. We were counting on her that she would train a lot of us,” Favoured Martha, a gospel singer, said during her burial in Machinjiri, Blantyre.
Beatrice may have left early and created a gap but there is still hope in that several other female artists have come out.
Last Saturday, people who patronised a show at Twenty Four Seven at Kameza in Blantyre, featuring Billy Kaunda, Alleluya Band, Paul Subiri, Coss Chiwalo and Charles Sinetre also saw the best of female talent.
During Sinetre’s set, two female acts showed the audience their skills with one playing the keyboard while the other handled the bass guitar.
The two female artists have in the past outings been restricted to dancing but now they have been empowered to play instruments.
They might not be there yet but they have taken a step and for them to come out on stage playing the instruments live to a big audience is a clear indication that women are no longer afraid of the musical instruments.
Sinetre said this is what Alleluya Band has embarked on now, empowering women to play instruments to be complete musicians.
“You can see how they are playing the instruments. This is something great, not so,” Sinetre asked the audience before a heavy answer of “Yes”, came out.
Alleluya Band has started a very good thing to have its female acts learn instruments although they could have started this move a long time ago.
“We believe, with time, we will have more female artists playing instruments and all this is about improving the band,” Alleluya Band former leader Coss Chiwalo said.
The music landscape is changing and having more female artists playing instruments is something positive although there is still more to be done.
“Through Music Crossroads Academy, for instance, we want to give more opportunities to female artists to learn instruments,” Mfune said.
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