Q’S UNDYING LOVE FOR CREATIVE INDUSTRIES
Qabaniso Malewezi, better known as Q, is a man of many faces from being a songwriter, producer and spoken word poet, to running a successful events management company and being a husband and father of two. His easy-going nature is laced with honesty and humor, yet when it comes down to it, he means business.
Safe to say most of us at some point have dabbled in rap, for others it has led to flourishing careers and for others, to dead ends, leaving us to pursue other viable options. Humorously, Q says that he first got into poetry because he couldn’t rap. On a more serious note, he recalls always being a songwriter and producer, happy to churn out hits for other people through his writing and production skills.
With a passion for the arts, he studied at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in England, where he also first got into events management. The plan then was to become a hot music producer and songwriter, however, destiny had other plans. He fell out of love with music and wanted to get more into writing and poetry.
“I wanted to know what it feels like to put my own voice to my words and poetry became the perfect vehicle and craft for me to do just that,” Q says. He didn’t envision he would come this far with poetry especially since a lot of people around him thought he was crazy for leaving a successful music career as a songwriter and producer. That was 10 years-ago and he has never regretted the decision to pursue poetry.
Whilst in England, he started a record company, Abstrak Beatz Entertaiment, with some of his friends and they would host regular monthly shows. When he returned to Malawi, he set up another branch for the record company which hosted events and published a magazine. Then the opportunity to work with British Council on one of their programs called Creative Enterprise set him on the path to creating Qoncept Creative. The British Council program, Creative Enterprise, had an events component called WAPI (Words and Pictures) and every two months they would organize events for both performing and visual arts.
After working with several other organizations on different events and projects, an opportunity came from Standard Bank to organize one of their events, Joy of Jazz. After that, he decided to set up an events company, Qoncept Creative, with his wife, Bridget; their idea was to focus on technical production and operate as a sound company. This evolved into including events production and management which serves as a bonus as Qoncept Creative has in-house equipment and a creative team that executes different events.
Back to his poetic journey, Q relishes the opportunities created by poetry to travel the world whilst articulating his thoughts, putting Malawi on the map from an arts point of view. “There is a curiosity out there when people come across creatives or artists from Malawi,” Q says. This has enabled him to have very honest conversations without fear.
One of his most memorable events as a poet took place when he performed at the City of Stars. He was the next act after a Scottish rock band had hyped the crowd into a frenzy, to which when it was announced that his poetry was next, the crowd jeered. Too late to turn back or back down, Q took to the stage and delivered a 20-minute set and by the time he was finished, the whole crowd was quiet and with the lights being dimmed low he couldn’t see their feedback or response. Turns out, the crowd had moved closer to the stage and quietly sat down to watch his performance after all. It was an epic moment for him. Another pivotal moment he remembers is filling out BICC with 1500 people in attendance for his album launch titled “The People”. A historical moment for poetry in Malawi and across the continent.
His accomplishments have paved the way for spoken word artists and poets in Malawi and he wants to see more poets at the level that he is, however, he feels that his being regarded as the standard of poetry and spoken word acts as a monolith to poets wanting to develop themselves. He encourages creatives to take on the active role of proudly telling their story authentically and truthfully. He believes that poets have been given the gift of truth and that is bound to be uncomfortable. Q’s outspokenness and speaking on various issues without fear has rubbed people the wrong way and at times, he’s been removed from certain stages because of it.
“It’s painful to not be given the chance to express and let out the words you invested in emotionally and psychologically,” he says. He further adds that the experience goes with the territory of being outspoken and that although it won’t be smooth sailing all the way through, it is still a sign of doing something right.
Now, everyone’s journey is not complete until the critics come in with their opinions and “expertise”. Q’s take is that he only takes criticism from people he allows to speak into his soul. He takes their constructive criticism much more seriously than that from people he does not know. And when it comes to rejection, he has experienced it several times in the context of it being a result of someone being uncomfortable with what he has to say, what they think he will say and what he has said before.
Support units are one of the most important tools in a creative’s arsenal on their journey of self-discovery and pursuing dreams. His father always gave his children the license to dream, and that knowledge empowered Q to fuse his creative abilities to become who he is today. Q’s family has always been supportive ever since he made the decision to pursue arts academically at a young age.
Growing up surrounded by security and various privileges, his father, the former vice president, Dr Justin Malewezi, would always tell Q about the temporal nature of their surroundings, urging him to be proud of building his own legacy with his own hands. Q recalls that being one of the most important pieces of advice he’s ever taken to heart and has strongly shaped his work ethic and thinking, not just as poet but as a person.
Q’s long-term focus is to see a vibrant creative industry in Malawi. His plans for the creative sector is to develop and build infrastructures that nurture and gives creatives the platform to hone their skills and craft. A mission that requires a collective effort from fellow artists to realize growth in the arts and entertainment industry in Malawi.