Sally Nyundo clinched the 'Best Reggae/Dancehall Artist' award during Musicians Association of Malawi inaugural awards held in Malawi's Capital City, Lilongwe, on Janury 17, 2014. In case you did not folow his path in music, here is something to give you a hint about who he is.
It is not just once, or twice, or thrice, but day after day, that Sally Nyundo- once a foreigner in the land of music- returns to the companionship of the guitar, the drum, percussions, or keyboard. In this new-found world of music, his only nemesis remains hunger, thirst and exhaustion because they take him home.
Yet, Nyundo has not always been this close to music, and is one of the antagonists of the primordial assertion that ‘musicians are born and not made’ because he is one of the many that have been ‘made’. In fact, his continued involvement with music smacks the famous quote made by the American William James (1842 - 1910), who said: “For a national mind differentiates itself whenever a genius is born in its midst by causes acting in the invisible and molecular cycle”.
“I was nor born a musician. I learned and perfected the art,” Nyundo says.
That may explain why, at the time of the Ndirande-born musician’s birth, no ‘actions’ registered in the invisible and molecular cycle. In deed, so negligible was the scene 36 years ago that neighbours had no idea that the dread-locked artist would, one day, shake the nation with his close-to-life lyrics.
Nyundo is, in a way, a victim- and benefactor- of circumstances because it is the death of bread winners in his family that forced him to resort to desperate measures, including the sale of flitters to supplement household income, and, somewhere along desperation’s path, he stumbled on music. That was in 1994, when he joined the Imagez Band.
He spent six years in the band, playing the guitar and providing main vocals, before going solo in 2001- recording ‘Nyimbo’, an album that captivated the nation’s interest with beats such as ‘Ras Amadya Nzimbe’. Today, Nyundo has seven albums to his credit, namely: ‘Nyimbo’, ‘Bimbi Overstanding’, ‘Usadandaule Malawi’, ‘Nyasa Reggae Revolution’, ‘Tingoti Phee’, ‘Sing Pon It’, and his latest album, ‘Riddim’.
If there is one thing that disposes local musicians to an outright sense of submission, it is the desire to go international. Of course, this ambition may be shaken by resource constraints or altered by shambolic productions, but, still, the musicians keep on hoping.
While the Reggae musician is no exception, he has lived his dreams of going international, and has performed alongside the world’s iconic musicians both in Africa and beyond.
“I first performed in Re - Union Island in 2003 and went to Zimbabwe in 2004, where I performed with Ben Michael and the Zigzaggers Band at HIFA festival,” Nyundo says.
He has also performed alongside Tiken Jah Fakoly, Israel Vibration, Baobab Band, Ibo Cooper, among others. These experiences, says Nyundo, taught him to work hard and believe in his ability.
“I have put what I learnt into my career by assembling my (own) band Run Tings so that I should be able to grow musically in my performances and maturity,” he says.
Asked why local music struggles to make the cut internationally, Nyumbo cuts it down to poor quality recordings.
He says, because the problem lies in the quality of productions and not the music per se, he has decided to put these conceptions to rest by releasing his latest Riddim album, Sing Pon It, “so that my fans should sample and taste how heavy and capable I am as one of the greatest reggae artists”.
Nobody knows how he will manage to do that in the absence of a manager to sell outside Malawi, though.
Disinfecting Malawi music
When everything is said and done, the question remains: Is Malawi music sub-standard?
Nyundo has ready answers: “The fact about our music is that some artists are busy creating music by copying other international artists’ music and trying to make it their own. (And), like I said before, it’s our recordings that, sometimes, let us down in terms of quality. In addition, most of established artists are afraid to break the barriers and go beyond the borders.”
He says the challenges could be overcome by composing mature beats and severing ties with fear.
The government also needs to fully support musicians in much the same way as it aids football, while the corporate world should stop investing in music only “when they are promoting their agenda”.
“The greatest threat to our music industry is piracy and lack of originality among some artists and musicians. Piracy is one big disease that is killing musicians because, despite the hard work invested in a project, the one who benefits in the end is not the artist. Piracy can only be defeated if musicians are respected and buyers are willing to pay what the art is worth,” Nyundo says.
On originality, Nyundo implores musicians to be creative and create their won legacy.
New Reggae sounds
And, as if to show that his bid to give the world the fuller powers of Malawi music will not be stifled by the fatal twins of piracy and lack of originality, the ‘made-musician’ has just released his new E.P. album, Sing Pon It.
Talking of the title track’s strange name, Nyundo says and the tittle simply explains that he has settled for riddims which producers in Jamaica recorded and produced.
A peep at the album reveals that Reggae furnishes the theme while religion and politics are some of the issues that breath life into it . Some of the notable tracks include ‘Bless Me’, ‘Make a Change’, ‘Za ku Ndirande’, ‘Sanasinthe’, ‘The Story’, and ‘Moving Away’.
“And, because I have sang on riddims, already it has international potential to make it big outside Malawi,” Nyundo says.
Nyundo, then, denies that his career has been on and off, blaming it on music promotion trends in Malawi.
He says, for instance, that radio DJs who double as music promoters put personal interests first, a development that has created a plethora of half-cooked music.
“And this has led to a lot of bubble gum music being on top, leaving the real long-life music laid back. So, because I am a musician who refuses to dilute his creativity, I stuck to what I know best, thereby enjoying less air play because most of the bubble gum music dominated the airwaves and transformed once great music minds to listen to more of this noise and half-baked music,” Nyundo says.
He adds: “So, as time passed, good music has become heavy for the listener’s ear (and is) not being respected and appreciated as it used to be thereby killing the international potential of Malawi music.”
Still, Nyundo hopes that, with the release of Sing Pon It, it will be easy to discover new international markets for local music.
“I am confident that I will make it and, as long as I live, I will be one Reggae artist representing Malawi at big Reggae festivals either in Jamaica or across the world. The sky is the limit for me and my career,” he says.
Such self belief, may be, could be one of the means of attaining that feeling of vital significance- a feeling that comes only through exposure and experience!