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When Malawian artists compromise on rehearsals

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King of pop Michael Jackson was an artist who always wanted to bring out the best during his acts; he strived for quality and the best and in all his performances. There was usually that wow factor that could stun the audience and bring out questions of how he did it.

Even in his music videos he had his own style and today people still continue to watch his works and borrow a relief.

For those who have watched Michael Jackson’s documentary titled This Is It then you will attest as to how much effort the King of Pop put in his work.

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This Is It is a 2009 American documentary–concert film directed by Kenny Ortega that documents Michael Jackson’s rehearsals and preparation for his concert series of the same name that was originally scheduled to start on 13 July 2009, but cancelled due to his death, 18 days prior on 25 June.

In the film which I have watched over and over again highlights Jackson’s rehearsals. In the documentary Jackson rehearses musical numbers, directs his team, and has additional behind-the-scenes footage including dancer auditions and costume design.

It is something which gives you that clear picture that art is a serious business which demands one to think outside the box to impress the masses. If say you are a guitarist, practice your guitar to the best of your knowledge; learn new stuff such that when you hit the stage you should give the audience a surprise type of play.

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A musician needs to perfect his or her stage work so that he or she brings the roof down and excite the audience. But this can only be done when artists take their art seriously and that includes rehearsing.

The one million dollar question I wanted to ask the creative industry in the country is how much time do we invest in rehearsals? The answer would simply be a little time and all this comes up because most artists do not value their work.

Many of the artists in the country compromise on rehearsals and this is why the outcome is not good for the audience.

Last Sunday Zimbabwean songstress Rumbie performed at Robin’s Park in Blantyre during the launch of Thoko Suya’s double CD and DVD for her album titled Adzandinyamula and she showed with her backing time the importance of putting much effort in your work.

Her set and stage management was perfect on the day and her songs were not that strange because through music she communicated with the audience.

It was a performance that kept the audience on the dance floor although it was for a short time and no wonder Ndirande Anglican Voices’ Dennis Kalimbe heaped praise on the Zimbabwean artist and at the same time said “we need to do more as local artists, our work is below par, we give people a raw deal.”

“I felt embarrassed with Rumbie’s performance, she beat us big time and surely we need to do more,” said Kalimbe, whose group famed for the hit ‘Ndasaina,’ also performed at the concert.

Kalimbe also hailed Suya for working extra hard to put up a mature performance during her launch having stayed out of action for sometime.

“I think it was a launch that lived up to its billing and it taught me one thing, that rehearsals are important. In most cases we take things for granted and do not value our audience. We need to change as artists,” he said.

The singer even generated debate on the gospel musicians’ forum where he highlighted the successes of Suya’s show. Several musicians giving out their views admitted that local artists to some extent have a long way to go in terms of perfecting their performances.

“There are times artists organise shows and would never rehearse but they go ahead with performances. This normally compromises work and in most cases the outcome is poor. I wish I was there to see the performance by Rumbie and Thoko Suya,” said one gospel artist sharing his views on the forum. Renowned US artist, producer and song writer Akon said during the Airtel Trace Music competition grand finale which involved several countries, including Malawi that for one to produce the best performance rehearsals need not to be compromised.

“An audience will always be happy when you are creative on stage and give out your best. When you are on stage you need to give it your all and blow me up,” he said.

There are, however, times when local artists have come on stage unprepared and their body language is poor something which has come out clear that they do not rehearse.

It is even the same with other arts platforms citing drama groups which do not have time for rehearsals. They come out with plays which need panel beating.

Zimbabwean artist Stella Chiweshe also showed when she performed in the country with ethnomusician Waliko Makhala that an artist needs rehearsals to offer the best during performances. Chiweshe is over 60 years but she danced with energy which means she loved what she was doing.

According to Makhala, Chiweshe had rehearsed for a month before coming to Malawi and even when she was here, she had a full rehearsal with Makhala and Band.

There was even a time when Ivorian artist Dobet Gnahore performed at French Cultural Centre in Blantyre now Blantyre Cultural Centre, she too showed how an artist needs to handle themselves on stage to win the hearts of the audience.

She actually stunned the audience when she sang energetically, she then at one moment moved out of singing and showcased her West African dance skills and as this was not even she also played the percussions and then at another moment played the guitar. She actually offered a one hour non-stop performance and by the time she was moving off the stage she was drenched in sweat.

There was also a time I visited Lusubilo Music Centre in Karonga to appreciate how artists are drilled, in one room I found singer Rebecca Mwalwenje working on her vocals in a room. This was an isolated room and Mwalwenje was simply practising to perfect her voice.

She worked on her voice for sometime before she moved out and later joined fellow artists to practise as a group.

So Malawian artists need to jack up and it is only through practice and massive rehearsals that they can to give wow performances.

“We have become lazy to some extent because we always have a very big line-up of artists and we do not put much effort. We surely need to change,” says singer and guitarist Patience Namadingo.

Makhala says miracles on stage only comes when you practice your set.

“Most of our artists shun practices and yet they want to attract the audience, you cannot have the best when you do not practice because practice makes perfect. We need to build on that as artists, let us take time to practice, learn from our friends what they do,” he says.

He adds that many artists in the country take the audience for granted.

“The audience is what builds an artist, if you want to be up there then practice to show miracles on stage but if you want to remain stagnant then don’t practice. There are times people have complained that artists in the country always bring out the same act with the same line-up of songs. This happens because we do not rehearse, if we practice we would not move within the same line,” says Makhala.

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