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Tough for Paul Banda but still in it

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Seasoned Balaka-based singer and guitarist Paul Banda was decorated with the title Sir not just for the sake of it but because he has contributed greatly to the development of music in the country.

And although the young generation has taken over the industry pushing old-timers to the corner, Paul’s music will continue to stand out.

He is an amazing artist, who loves music to the fullest and said he will continue to perform as long as he is alive.

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Paul, who has taught several artists in the country including his brother Lucius and recorded several musicians through the once popular Imbirani Yahweh Studio admitted that the industry is tough nowadays compared to the past years.

He said gone are the days when a musician would smile having made sales of their albums.

“With piracy rampant, it is tough to sell your music and this is why many of us veteran artists are finding it tough to release new albums. It is not that we do not have the songs, we do have them and we have lots of issues to tackle but the biggest fear is piracy,” Paul said.

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The guitarist, who started off with Alleluya Band before he went his own way, said it was not only in Malawi where veteran artists were struggling but all over.

“These days it’s all about live performances and so for one to put together a live performance you need enough resources. Again it is not always that you would attract enough people during a live performance,” said the Malilime star.

This year Paul released a DVD.

He started off the launch in Lilongwe before moving on to Blantyre where his launch suffered a setback receiving a poor audience.

But since the release of the DVD, how has it faired on the market?

“The DVD only picked up some sales the time we were launching but nothing moved thereafter. I think after the launch pirates got hold of the copies so piracy did not spare me in this project and I can say it here that I haven’t benefited,” he said.

Despite this setback, the artist supported by Zacharia Jezzman is set to launch the DVD in Mzuzu on October 30.

“It is a show which we have just taken advantage to launch the DVD probably just to remind people that there is this DVD on the ground. Of course others have already bought the pirated copies but they can still grab the original copy,” he said.

The original copy of The Best of Paul Banda DVD is packed with a DVD and a volume one audio CD.

The audio with works from 1978 to 1994 has songs such as Malilime, Mudzisankhire Njira, Konzani Moyo, Chimwemwe, Mtendere, Mudzigona Kunyumba, Zonse Nzabwino, Zikomo Mayi, and Chikondi.

These are the same songs which are found in the DVD which at first Paul was reluctant to work on until he was convinced by Jezzman to preserve his works for the sake of the younger generation.

The cover of the DVD of the old-timer, who used to be called Che Beni has several of Paul’s old pictures telling a story of where he has come from as a musician.

Recently Scotland-based poet John Lwanda donated a house at Mangazi Village in Thyolo set to be used as an art centre and is expected to house works of different artists including Allan Namoko.

Lwanda said it is important that the works of our artists be preserved hence building this arts centre and Paul’s DVD surely needs to be channeled to this centre.

Paul welcomed the passing of the Copyright Bill in Parliament which has stiff penalties among others for pirates and that it would help minimise this challenge.

“It’s a welcome development because the old Act was simply outdated and pirates were not feeling any pain as they were easily paying the fines once arrested and so let’s hope things will improve,” he said.

One of Paul’s songs that has always attracted attention of people is Zonse Nzabwino where Paul used his art of composition to talk about leadership and people’s behavior.

“I always say that I never went to school to learn how to compose songs. This is a God given gift. You can actually go to school and learn how to compose songs but if you are not a good composer then you cannot succeed, it is the same with writing, some are just blessed as good writers and all what you do is just to strengthen this skill,” he said.

The veteran guitarist who has shared the stage with several artists said many of the artists in the country use their inborn talent.

Paul said the life of a musician has always been a struggle and that this has been compounded by the lack of support for the creative industry.

“As a musician despite the challenges I still work hard because it is the only way for me to survive. I still believe that things will change and we will have the government, well wishers and the corporate world embracing us,” he said.

But with the young generation now calling the shorts, does he have any ambitions of working with them to fit into the picture and bring him back to the limelight?

“I have been thinking about this move working with young artists and all I can say is that people should just watch the space,” Paul said.

He also revealed that his latest album is in the final stages although he still maintained that piracy was keeping him off for now.

Paul was born in 1963 in the family of Mr and Mrs Chidampamba of Sosola Village, Traditional Authority Nsamala, in Balaka.

“I was born in a very poor family and our poverty was accelerated when my father and mother broke up and we remained with our mother only,” he said.

His serious music journey started when in 1973 he watched a performance by late Joseph Nangalembe.

“He was praying his guitar and singing where people were drinking. When I heard the guitar I was so fascinated and touched. I sat there listening to him for a long time and when I went home I was thinking of only one thing, to make my own guitar and I did,” he said.

From then on he became so noisy with his hand made guitar.

“That’s how my journey in music started. No relative or parent was a musician; I just developed the interest on my own after I saw late Joseph Nangalembe,” Paul said.

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