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Musicians brainstorm

Musicians especially those in the Southern Region yesterday met with their president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango where they discussed several issues affecting their career as well as the creative industry.

The meeting was held at Chrich Gardens in Chitawira, Blantyre and it came barely a day after Mhango also met Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) Southern chapter executive committee.

One of the key issues that was discussed during the meeting with the executive members was the sour relationship between Mhango and Southern chapter chairperson Papa Mtume which was a concern to members.

The issue which saw Mhango writing the board of directors that he does not want to work with Mtume because of several differences citing among others insubordination, has since been resolved following Mtume’s apology.

Now coming to yesterday’s meeting, not many musicians attended but despite that, it was a fruitful encounter that so members discussing issues aimed at uplifting Mum.

Mhango during his speech called on musicians to work together for the betterment of the union.

He also took time to share the progress of the union and the projects they are working on.

“There is a lot that we are doing although we are in need of funding. We have been relying heavily on the Cultural Support Scheme run by Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) and funded by Royal Norwegian Embassy but it will end this year. Lucky enough we have now the Cultural Fund spearheaded by Hivos and we have sent in our proposal,” said Mhango.

He said they were in constant touch with different international organisations for partnerships and that starting next year they want to have a strong secretariat that will have proper offices with fully fledged employees.

“As a union we need to do more and so by 2017 we want to have a proper secretariat and we are optimistic that we will get the funding. We are also looking at conducting trainings and workshops for the members and this is part of capacity building,” said Mhango.

Veteran musician Patrick Simakweli said the union has been in existence for many years but still does not have structures let alone its own properties.

The former Southern chapter chairperson also said it was worrisome that the creative industry still does not have the Arts Council in place.

“We need the Arts Council, the government needs to hasten this and help us because it will be beneficial,” Simakweli said.

Mhango said there were strides made on the set up of the Arts Council but he was quick to point out that consultations are currently being made and that things are moving the right direction following the approval of the Cultural Policy which was the first phase in the process.

The Mum president however, said they were concerned with the move of having the Arts Council incorporated with heritage adding that this would mean being sidelined once again.

“We are against having the National Arts and Heritage Council because we feel arts will be overshadowed once again. Let arts be on its own otherwise we have suffered a lot and we don’t want to experience it anymore so we hope this will be looked into critically by the government,” said Mhango.

Earlier on Mhango also zeroed in on musicians’ welfare which has been a challenge saying they were in discussions with Nico and that they were also looking at prospects of musicians being on medical aid.

“As musicians we need to be on medical aid as well as insurance and so the challenge has been to convince our members to make contributions but we will come to terms,” he said.

He also said that as musicians they were still seeking an audience with President Peter Mutharika to outline some of the challenges the creative sector is facing.

“We were making progress with Grace Chiumia but now with the cabinet reshuffle which has seen her go to another ministry; it means we have to start again with the new minister,” Mhango said.

Patricia Kaliati, formerly minister of information is now Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development.

“We welcome her appointment and we hope she will continue the projects her predecessor started. The only concern is that culture continues to be tossed around from one ministry to the other which is not healthy,” he said.

The other issues which were tackled during the meeting include piracy, music distribution, Mum studio which is currently not operating, foreign artists, who come into the country without the knowledge of the music body, media houses not playing enough of local music, royalties and absence of awards to motivate artists.

Some of the other notable artists who were present include Favoured Martha, who is Mum vice president and Joseph Tembo, who is Cosoma board member and Wycliffe Chimwendo.

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