There are no short cuts to success. If you want to do well in life and achieve the desired goals, then you have to work hard.
We are all born with different talents that God bestowed unto us but some simply do not utilise those talents while others choose to destroy them.
The journeys we make to get to the final destinations are long; where you meet several obstacles but, as a people, we need to learn to stay focused and persevere.
Music is one of the great forms of art that God gave us. It is an interesting trade that has seen many shine and create great brands.
For some musicians, it has been all about going to school, learning and sharpening the skills.
In Malawi, many musicians have not gone to any music school to succeed in music but rather their talent is inborn.
This is due to the absence of art or music schools in the country where such talented people can go and have their skills developed.
University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba has been the main hub of developing the creative industry in the country as it has the Fine and Performing Arts Department.
But for one to get there, you have to have the best grades in your Malawi School Certificate of Education examinations.
This has been a difficult mountain to climb for many, hence trading with their raw talent.
But the trend is now changing with the coming in of other private music schools, among them Music Crossroads Academy where many of the already established stars are now enrolling to advance their skills.
One of the musicians who have made progress with barely inborn talent is Lawi; real name Francis Phiri.
Lawi has made strides in his music journey despite experiencing different challenges.
“I think everyone’s journey is filled with adventure and mine is no exception. I have had my fair share of fun as well as pain. But I just chose to always focus on the positives. I also chose to share the positivity as the world needs it more,” Lawi says.
Lawi says developing talent in Malawi is challenging because there is lack of resources most of the times.
But the singer and guitarist, who made headlines with his album Lawi, which is packaged with songs such as ‘Whistling Song’, ‘Amaona Kuchedwa’ and ‘Lilongwe’, says the few resources available must be put to good use.
Lawi says he has ever been told he cannot do it and he has been mocked when he shared his dreams with peers and even family about music.
“This affected my confidence as a human being but I did not let it discourage me. Today, the story is very different, the story has changed and the dream came to life,” he says.
Lawi adds: “The thing about people who do not believe in you is that they will say hurtful things to discourage you from pursuing your dreams and aspirations before you make it and when you make it, they will continue to attack you. It is all up to you to let that negativity get to you or ignore it and prove a point.”
Now out with his second album Sunset in the Sky, Lawi is even dreaming bigger and encourages all young people in Malawi to remain positive always.
The youthful musician, who comes from Balaka and is a mixture of Ngoni and Lhomwe, says people think Lawi is only a stage name but it is a family name given to him when he was a child.
“I titled my first album Lawi because it was nice to call it that. It was my first step and I could not find any other name suitable for it,” he says.
Lawi will be launching Sunset in the Sky on December 2 at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe.
Speaking on Sunset in the Sky, the musician says the 25-track album has a song ‘Ubale’ which encourages the spirit of love and respect for family.
“It is said blood is thicker than water and the song just goes a little deeper in emphasising this point,” he explains.
In the album, there is also ‘Diso’ – in English ‘Eye’.
‘In Diso, we are reminded that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind and that the same measure you use on others is the same they will use on you,” Lawi says.
In ‘Musanagone’, a young man pleads with his grandmother Ananyoni to tell him a tale before they all go to sleep and the musician describes the song as very deep, communicating subliminal messages.
‘Ndilemba’ talks about the memories of each day and every second being engraved on the walls of a human’s heart.
“Whatever situation he passes through, he finds himself writing on the walls of his heart that by looking at him, you realise he is an open book full of wisdom and that his story can inspire and transform many,” he says.
In Sunset in the Sky, one will also sample ‘Ngati Maluwa’ and Lawi says this is a song for the Holy Spirit.
In the song, a man finds himself at a place where he is giving praise and worship; however, he cannot thank God enough as everything he owns is but rags that are filthy and flowers that wither.
A few songs are on air for air was ‘Zonena Kuchuluka’.
The song has a traditional beat which some quarters feel is a carbon copy of Allan Namoko’s.
The song appeals to people who love to dance and it replicates ‘Amaona Kuchedwa’, which had the audience speaking so highly about it that they forgot other beautiful songs in Lawi.
Let us hope it might not be the same with Sunset in the Sky, where people will end up forgetting other equally good songs in the album.
Lawi has surely made an improvement in this album and listening to ‘Timalira’ and ‘Therere,’ one cannot only smile.
‘Timalira’ tackles issues of mental health.
“Where we come from, we have been told that men do not cry and if you are a man and seen crying, you are perceived weak. This saying has put a lot of men under pressure. Some have fallen to deep levels of depression from failing to express themselves in the required time and, sadly, it is the same society that brands them names,” Lawi says.
He says crying is a form of expression and that it was okay to cry as it helps overcome or come to terms with certain situations in “our lives”.
“I wanted to share, especially with Malawi, since growing up, I have heard this saying that mamuna salira (men do not cry) but I have also witnessed its negative effect towards many young men of my generation,” Lawi observes.
In ‘Therere’, one sees how a mother rises above all tides just to provide, love, care and food for her children regardless of what life throws at her.
“She is a beautiful mother who has not let her children miss out on happiness even though certain things that are desired are not present due to poverty,” he says.
Lawi says, as a musician, he is still learning and discovering new things but owes part of his success story in music to the late Ray Phiri.
“Uncle Ray was a true gentleman. I regard myself as the luckiest young man from Malawi to have shared my life with such a great man. I learnt a lot from him, we discussed a lot of things from the science of music to life in general. We laughed and cried as sometimes days were sad. He inspired me to appreciate little things in life and to always stay sharp,” he says.
On whether he has managed to give people good music in the second album, the musician says: “Everyone can define good music in their own way; however, generally you want to think of good music as music that gives you something to always benefit from. You cannot dance for many hours, you will get tired,” he says.
Not married yet and with no child, Lawi, who loves travelling and sightseeing, ends by saying Sunset in the Sky is a gift from the bottom of his heart.