I found a very interesting post on the Internet and I felt it was worth sharing with all Zimbabwean artistes, arts promoters and fans and consumers of the arts in our country.
Once upon a time a restaurant put an advert in a local paper that read: “We are a small and casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their works and sell their CDs.
“This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get a positive response.
“More jazz, rock and smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply ASAP (as soon as possible).”
Then came the genius response to the advert: “Happy New Year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restaurant interested to promote my work to come to my house and make dinner for my friends and me. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get a positive response. More fine dining and exotic meals and mixed ethnic fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply ASAP.”
The writer is anonymous, but I was absolutely touched by this very creative yet daring and on point composition.
For how long will artistes be viewed by clients, venues and promoters as lesser business people whose products can be taken advantage of on the pretext of promoting them?
We have the same problem in Zimbabwe where venues are not willing to pay for shows from artistes yet they need them to play at their venues and events.
We read day in and day out about shows that flop and when they do the artistes are always last to be considered for payment, that is if they are paid at all.
Countless times I have heard exclamations like: “How can you charge so much just for singing and dancing? How can you charge me that much when I will give you food and beer?” “Please charge us less, we paid a lot already for the venue and decoration.”
“We cannot pay you, but this event will be a great opportunity for you to market yourselves and your work so that people get to know about you.”
All these are just a few among many excuses people give just to avoid paying for services of artistes. It appears it’s globally accepted that events, the world and life without artistes is empty if not impossible yet there still is a deliberate refusal to treat those in the creative sector with dignity and renumarate them properly for their services.
Recently we threw pots and pans at each other over the failed Jaiva Gala penned for White City Stadium in Bulawayo that left musicians, DJs and dancers unpaid yet the police and the venue had their bill settled.
Only a week ago Harare hosted Uhuru of the Y Tjukutja fame and they were backed by many local artistes. They got five-star treatment which they probably deserve, but it was the treatment of local artistes that left a sour taste in my mouth.
Rapper Tatenda Nziramasanga aka Tatea Da MC bemoaned the treatment of local artistes at the Uhuru show.
He said when the show closed down well after 2am and after the capacity crowds had cleared, local artistes were huddled by pillars in freezing weather waiting to be paid.
He claims to have seen some back-up dancers barely 18, sitting on a curb looking like street kids or vagrants yet they were the ones who had sent the crowd into a frenzy before Uhuru performed.
Sadly he says the artistes left unpaid having been told to “come tomorrow”, a phrase in arts circles that means you will not get your money and if you do, not all of it.
He even made a plea in his post on Facebook asking promoters to show compassion. Yes, Zimbabwean celebs are broke, but if the people of Zimbabwe do not support them, who will?
He said: “The treatment of Zimbabwean artistes at most of these high profile shows makes a sad reading to say the least and unless something is done and standards are set then the sorry song shall continue to play.”
However, I believe in giving credit where it’s due. Hate him or love him Professor Jonathan Moyo and the Information ministry always do their best to treat artistes they engage with a lot of dignity.
Over the few past years the “galas” standards seemed to be taking a downward trend, but judging by the past independence concert hosted in Borrowdale, Harare, it was clear the main man is back in charge.
Artistes were well accommodated and the show rehearsed to professional levels. Thank you for setting and leading by example, prof!
We appreciate your efforts.