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Stage for musical stories

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By Sam Banda Jnr:

The idea of Sounds of Malawi Acoustic Sessions did not come from the blues; it was hatched through a performance at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC) in Blantyre.

It featured several artistic disciplines on one stage with a common goal – to bring out the best on the night.

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And, true to that, artists were creative in their performances on the night and, most of all, they worked in unison to come out with a set which was rich and mature.

This set saw a performance from, among others, Agorosso— real name Lloyd Phaundi— Solomonic Peacocks and ethno-musician Waliko Makhala.

On the day, the audience saw the best of music, theatre and dance, a collaboration that showed that organisers of creative events can move away from the usual.

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This is something which has lacked in most of the performances in the country, where artists offer the same routine with no meat to satisfy the audience.

Times have changed and people are longing for performances that not only entertain them but also bring out that woo factor.

The Sounds of Malawi Acoustic Session, which has been created by JCC, is a unique platform that has been well presented and keeps on bringing fresh things to the audience.

Taking place every Thursdays, the sessions have, so far, brought on board Agorosso, veteran player Snowden Ibbu and Goma Nyondo, who was expected to star yesterday.

The session started on a slow note but has now started gaining momentum.

JCC Director, Luc Decshamps, said they are happy to have created a unique platform that aims at bringing people together while giving local artists a chance to showcase their talents.

“We are doing it differently in a serene environment where people can sit down and enjoy music to the fullest but also at the same time get to learn more from the artists. For instance we have a question and answer session where people get to know the artist and get deeper to know as to why they composed some of the songs,” Deschamps, said.

He also said the platform will also strive to give a chance to artists, who are rarely on stage.

“We have had artists such as Snowden Ibbu, who does not perform frequently. These are artists that have done a lot, in terms of promoting music, in the country. Through his session, people were taken through his journey of music and even had time to learn that he started playing a four stringed guitar before graduating to the six- stringed guitar,” Deschamps said.

He said that through the platform they were also hoping that artists would build networks and even end up working together to produce quality music.

“Through this platform we are also looking at attracting the corporate world to come and appreciate talent and even take up a role of supporting some of these musicians, who are struggling to produce their music and yet they have the potential,” he said.

During his session, Ibbu, said he has never experienced a show where the audience paid a lot of attention and were curious to know more about him.

“I have performed in different places but this is a unique stage and I would like to commend JCC for creating it. It is a platform that will help uplift our music but also at the same time initiate projects,” Ibbu said.

Through the platform, Ibbu, famed for songs such as ‘Ndachita Mwayi’ and ‘Chibale’, said he is also looking forward to working with up and coming musicians.

“Songs which I do are different from those up-and-coming musicians are doing now. Things have changed with technology where urban musician has taken the space but that does not mean that we are out of the picture. We still have our own good side and that is where the old and the new can work together and it is only through such platforms that we can develop all these concepts,” the legendary musician, who only has one album to his credit Africa My Africa, said.

Ibbu also said that, with many artists struggling to raise funds to hold shows on their own, the Sounds of Malawi Acoustic session has also offered an opportunity to those who cannot afford other expensive venues to star at JCC.

“For me, it’s been sometime since I held my own show, It’s not that I don’t want or I have run out of musical ideas but rather I do not have enough to do that. So it is my call to the corporate world and the government to support initiatives such as Sounds of Malawi Acoustic session,” he said.

In other countries, artists have created platforms such as jam sessions where musicians come together and play different instruments and at the same time perfecting their skills but also learning from each other.

Apart from hosting legendary musicians, Deschamps, said they will also strive to bring up and coming artists so that they too show their talents.

“We have amazing talent in the country but some of the acts do not have the platform to show that talent. We have good artists in the streets but they do not have the stage so we will strive to make sure we bring these artists on board,” he said.

Agorosso, who is looking forward to an album after working together with Zimbabwe’s legendary musician Oliver Mtukudzi, said, in most cases, some of the shows they hold do not accord them the opportunity to tell their stories.

“Apart from entertaining them through music, people have to know the other side of you. I am happy that I have had that stage through JCC to tell my story apart from performing. It is always good to perform to an audience that knows the journey that you have travelled and why you composed some of the songs,” Agorosso, said.

He said this is also a platform that will be able to challenge some people in terms of embracing good music.

“There are times people have asked me as to why more people have not embraced my music and yet people from outside love it? But this is all because we do not have the right platforms for them to understand the music. I hope people will take time to embrace the session,” Agorosso said.

Former Big Brother Africa representative, Code Sangala, who used to star with Kapirinitiya before going solo, is the host of the session.

He said he is happy with the initiative and that it is all about giving Malawi sound the platform.

“There is too much of foreign stuff out there such that soon or later we may end up forgetting our music. It is high time we gave our sound the limelight. We have several traditional dances out there we can tap into. This is why we have the Sounds of Malawi Acoustic Session,” Code said.

The artist has of late also taken time to rebrand his music by concentrating more on traditional sounds which has seen him revisiting some of the old songs which were originally done by other artists.

Ethno-musician Waliko Makhala, who has been in the forefront of promoting traditional instruments, described Sounds of Malawi as one of the projects that will help in bringing the country’s music to life.

“We have spoken a lot on identity that as a country we need to have music which has our identity and this has come about because our friends in other countries such as Zimbabwe are known with their sound. We are not bad, we are there only that we need to put up another gear and make sure that we utilize all our resources to bring out good sound,” Makhala said.

He said there was need for artists to also embrace the use of traditional instruments which give out unique sound.

Recently, Rick Deja, who is a music lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said the country has talent but artists need to be themselves and bring out the best within them.

Deschamps said the Sounds of Malawi Acoustic session will eventually expand to having a festival where artists will even collaborate and perform together.

“We hope that, through this, we can have more artists embracing international platforms and get to sell Malawi music to the world,” he said.

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