MALAWIAN musician Emma Masauko, who became popular while she was with Malawi’s leading act, Zembani Band some years ago, is back on the block. She lives in the United Kingdom but has not forgotten her Malawian roots. She was in the country recently and talked to Africa Briefing’s Joseph Kayira about the past, current and future plans in as far as her music career is concerned. The excerpts:
Briefly, who is Emma Masauko?
I was born in Balaka, a town in southern Malawi on December 22, in a family of 6, I am the only girl. I am a lot of things: a mother of three kids – two boys and a girl; a wife, a sister, an aunt, a health carer, a support worker, as well as a music entertainer. I grew up a Catholic girl in Balaka, the best time of my life when I discovered the magic of music and dance through Alleluya Band. I was introduced to the stage at the age of nine. We were lucky to have youth groups then, where you were able to train and have a go at all kinds of skills and talents including drama, singing, dancing, netball, basketball and football. Music composition and dancing were my favourite, a whole different world. Luscious Banda, now a legislator in the Malawi National Assembly, was always a great choreographer. So when Zembani Band was born, I was there, just doing what I loved best.
Your name is synonymous with music. Are you still in music?
Yes, I am still active in music, though not full time as I have to fit other parts of my life around it. I still do live performances here in the UK as much as I can. I also still do write/compose and record my music. At the moment I am planning to launch my new album which I have recorded in Blantyre with Ralph Records. Of late, apart from live performances in the UK through AFRICA COMING UP, self-promotion has been through the Internet via websites such as YouTube.
How has been your career in music?
It’s been very interesting, in that, the people’s attitude and support towards my music has always been positive, which also gives me the courage to keep going – giving it my all. Still, I feel that I completely neglect my fans back in Malawi for so long as I haven’t been keeping in direct contact with them. I am working so hard to completely change. I want to regularly engage with my fans; share myself musically as much as I can. It has also been challenging at times due to the fact that I have to kind of mix my music with a busy family life, work, as well as my studies. Regardless of all the challenges, it has been mostly rewarding to me in that, with music, life is always beautiful.
Do you find the music industry rewarding, especially for the Malawian musician?
Depends on what you mean by rewarding. I believe the industry is a bit rewarding in that through music, people communicate. It also allows them to express and share their inner thoughts, happiness, worries and frustrations. At the same time, the music industry in Malawi is draining for Malawian artists. There are no proper channels to guide and protect their work. There is lack of well-established record companies to promote the artists to international level. Piracy is an evil that is stifling the music industry.
What challenges do you face as a female artist?
Validation and acceptance. As a woman, you are completely labelled or valued differently to male artists. The public’s perception greatly biased against you. You slowly get accepted. This challenges your ability to up your game and thrive since you are kind of second best.
I believe self-acceptance and knowing your worth is paramount for female artists as this only helps you to believe in yourself first. It guides you in what you are good at and what you need to achieve musically.
What should be done for Malawian musicians to prosper?
Passion for what you do, what you stand for and what you believe in is key.
Should Malawians expect more albums from you?
Of course I never stopped writing songs. I have only lacked time to record and release albums due to family life needs. This time it’s all different as I have kinda more flexible time to myself than before due to the fact that I got more time to focus on myself since my kids are
a bit grown up now.
You moved to the United Kingdom sometime back. What exactly are you doing there?
Moving here [UK] has been a great adventure for me. The plan was to stay a few years and head back home, but due to the opportunities the UK had to offer, I decided to take advantage of that and build myself more. I am a holder of a nursing diploma. Currently I am at university, studying general nursing, pursuing a nursing degree. I work as a support worker for young adults with learning disabilities such as autism, down syndrome etc.
I also work with adults for supported living in their homes especially those going through challenging health situation including mental health issues and old age. I am also a healthcare assistant working in general hospitals as well as nursing homes. I am very passionate about my career path. I love the job I do – especially the difference it makes to other people’s lives. It teaches me, and allows me to see and understand life as a whole on a different level where only when you get to that point in your life, do you understand how life, living and being alive should really mean.
How do you mix music and what you are doing now?
It’s really tricky, but I guess that only adds excitement to my everyday life. I get to have something to look forward to, thereby keeping my brain on the go, chasing deadlines and swapping dates.
What is your advice to Malawian youths in general and girls in particular?
The youth generally need a lot of support. They need to be well informed regarding life in general and choices in life, so they are able to make informed choices on paths they want to take as adults. Poverty limits those choices though. So, it’s still a challenge. Every girl should be made to understand the importance of aiming high. That life is not a race, that it’s alright to dream big and your dreams should never be to fulfil other people’s expectations of you,
Girls should always be made to feel empowered, and not be looked down upon. Teach them to believe in themselves that they can be or become anything they want to. That though marriage is the cornerstone of every society, it should not be viewed as an achievement, or be forced upon them. You can be a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher as well as a wife and mother at the same time. That’s just my opinion as a mother. I want to see my daughter spread her wings and fly up the sky, as much as I want to see her fall in love and raise her own kids.
What should be done to have more girls in school?
Parents, the church and the community should make it a priority for our daughters, just as much as our sons to thrive and achieve and aim high academically.
Do we see you coming back to Malawi and continue from where you
stopped? Or what are your future plans?
Oh yes, regularly, as often as I can. I am launching my album in December, but my plan is to spend as much time with my fans – and make up for the time lost.
Your last words
Live life on your terms; don’t waste it on other people’s expectations of you. Be you, be good, be honest with yourself, your heart and mind. Live, love, laugh. Live for something that will please God. Respect and preserve life. Once you are gone, you are gone. Don’t be too hard on yourself – GOD isn’t. We are all here by God’s grace.