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Musicians’ body is clueless

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Art is difficult to judge because people have their own preferences. It is even more difficult to award artists because the audience seems knowledgeable therefore any decision made would not please everyone. To simplify matters, music awards organisers use some criteria to choose the best.

The different voices coming out after the inaugural Nyasa Music Awards (NMA) at Comesa Hall on May 6, 2017 are expected. The good thing is that when some are criticising the awards, others are praising the organisers for the good job done.

Other than a number of issues already raised, Musicians Association of Malawi (Mum) has criticised the way the awards were conducted. The biggest concern is that the union was not consulted. According to NMA, that is not true and the organisers have evidence of the correspondence with Mum which took place in January 2017.

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I find the musicians’ body clueless. This explains why a number of musicians are not members. If you asked any musician, the impression you get is that Mum just exists in name and it has failed to transform the lives of musicians who face numerous challenges.

Few years ago, Musicians Association of Malawi became a union and the promise made was that this new body would right the many wrongs in the music industry in Malawi. However, everything has remained the same and the only thing that has changed is the name.

Criticism is always good and I expected some criticism towards NMA. However, when such criticism is ill-informed, then it becomes noise that should not be entertained at all.

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The way the NMA was organised, I would not believe Mum. After witnessing a number of local music awards, I believe NMA was well-organised and almost everyone who matters in the industry had a voice.

What more can the union offer to NMA organisers when this musicians’ body failed to sustain its own awards just after two years? Mum used a questionable criteria and the awards lacked credibility. So to pretend to be any wiser today, Mum is only displaying how clueless it is.

When individuals invest in arts, all they need is support and it was very impressive that a number of sponsors came on board. Being truly Malawian awards, the criticism was baffling. Most of such criticism was based on half-truths. With everyone pretending to be an expert, including Mum of course, the many voices would always be there. Perhaps the question should be: “Are Malawians proud of local initiatives and they are willing to offer their support?” The answer is not a bold yes.

As usual, local initiatives are difficult to sustain because most people would want an initiative to fail and not many people would support anything “made in Malawi”. It is a fact that event organisers cannot involve every Malawian but the criteria used should be appreciated first before such criticism arises.

It is quite important to understand that the arts industry in Malawi is very profitable yet not many people are willing to invest. When individuals come together and invest in awards – just like NMA did – what such individuals expect is support.

The arts industry across the continent has become profitable because of the involvement of the media. In Malawi, there are a number of TV and radio stations. Today, once you switch on your radio or TV, you would likely watch or listen to local content. Is that not good progress?

The criticism few years ago was that Malawians were fond of promoting foreign content. What local musicians have cried for is the support from within before we start appreciating content from elsewhere.

Realising that local musicians deserve recognition, NMA came up with the awards to do the right thing. After such a huge investment, what well-meaning Malawians were looking forward to was an even greater event next year. Instead, we go back to the usual Malawian way of doing things to discourage those who want to make a difference.

So instead of Mum joining those criticising the way the awards were conducted, the leadership should reflect on their own failures and look at ways of serving the musicians better. Perhaps Mum should bring back the awards that were badly run. Well done Nyasa Music Awards.

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