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Same old story for shows

People long for music shows every weekend to offer them entertainment.

But gone are the days when one would watch a show that gives you a perfect script that is full of fun and surprises.

Most of the shows these days are dry and empty and one gets the feeling that musicians do not plan their concerts let alone being creative.

What the audience expects when they go to shows is to appreciate the talent that is on the ground.

There are artists who work very hard and when they come up with shows, one clearly notices that they took their time and rehearsed for some time to come up with the best.

But there are others out there, who have gotten used to what they do, they never change and all they do is remain with the same touch and body language without any creativity.

They say art is not cheap. Art is expensive. This is why artists need to dig deeper and show their fans their fullness.

In 2011, I was one of the journalists who covered the Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa which had an impressive line-up.

The Cape Town Jazz Festival is a top gathering and for an artist to earn a platform you really need to show the best of you.

This is the platform where I first saw South African female singer and guitarist Zahara performing and she was not that popular that time.

But the performance she gave was simply out of this world. She conquered the audience and most of the people who watched her performance applauded her, with some suggesting she would go far with her music.

They were right because Zahara went on to shake South Africa and other countries including Malawi with her music.

During the festival, the audience also had time to watch Senegalese singer, songwriter, composer, occasional actor, businessman and politician Youssou N’Dour.

The Senegalese singer, who in 2004, Rolling Stone described him as, “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and much of Africa, delivered an extraordinary performance.

This is an artist, who always wants to give out different performances.

One cannot tell what he would do on stage during his set and this is unlike performances in the Malawi where one is able to tell what is going to be delivered.

The biggest challenge which has come up is that piracy has forced artists in the country to rely heavily on live acts.

Bands are all over holding shows week in and week out and that dilutes their performances which are never fresh. And because they have little time of rehearsing, there is the lack of creativity.

And then there are album launches which have been dominated by gospel artists, who in most cases offer nothing new but the same old stories capped with the auctions that in most cases take off the steam of the performances.

Then there are shows that parade long lists of performers as if they were festivals.

Probably the organisers cannot differentiate a show to a festival. It’s another case to have a long list of artists during a show that runs from afternoon until the following day.

But for an afternoon show, it is something different; you need a small number of artists.

Aggrey Phiri, who has been attending different shows in the country both secular and gospel, said that musicians these days take the audience for granted.

“You can’t be having a show with over 20 artists during a launch that only runs in the afternoon. And most of these launches have nothing new rather than offering the same. It is high time this changed. It is high time artists revisited their acts and gave people mature performances,” Phiri said.

He said many artists have become lazy and that is why some appear in many posters on the same day.

“We all need money but artists need not compromise on quality. It’s high time artists changed this trend because the audience will be frustrated one day and will thus refrain from attending the shows. I should commend some artists, who work very hard,” Phiri said.

You cannot win the audience by having a long list on your menu but rather quality is the key.

Musician Patience Namadingo recently came out with guns blazing when he held his own show in Lilongwe without any supporting acts.

Some quarters wrote him off that he would not manage to pull a huge audience but he believed in himself that as an artist, he could.

Namadingo’s programme on the day was unique and eventually he conquered.

There are artists out there who do not believe in themselves that they can do it. This is why many ride on the backs of others to pull it off.

This is why during shows, they cannot even manage to perform their own songs simply because they do not rehearse.

And then there are bands that do not rehearse, all they do is just meet as members and do things on stage. And with this you would not expect the best.

Most of the shows that have a long list of performers on an afternoon end up with artists offering two to three songs.

Gospel musician Khama Khwiliro admitted recently that artists have to pull up their socks during their live performances.

“We surely need to improve. We are indeed taking the audience for granted. It is high time we reworked our shows,” said the artist.

Musician and producer Joseph Tembo, who has worked with several artists, also said recently that shows have lost their lustre and that there was need to breathe in life once again.

Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) President Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango said as a body they want artists to be giving out the best during shows.

“Audiences need to be given the best and not half-baked performances. As Mum we have programmes that we want to run aimed at training artists so that they learn such things like stage management,” Mhango said.

It is high time musicians started respecting their audiences during shows and refrained from giving out the same scripts otherwise without a change – the audience will be lost.

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