FOR THE record, 15 years ago, Mpopoma High School Drama Club rose to fame when they compiled a video of the song Woza My Fohloza by Mbongeni Ngema and later their own composition Bump Jive.
– Nkululeko INNOCENT DUBE
Thirteen years ago that group blossomed into what we all know to be Iyasa (Inkululeko yabatsha school of arts).The group went on to release the video of the song Banolila by Solomon Skuza and became a sensation locally and internationally.
I am not about to write the history of Iyasa or brag about its achievements. I am driving to my point for the day, but I feel that the background is crucial.
After Iyasa, many youngsters were inspired and dance groups big, small, male, female, mixed sprouted all over the country and mainly from this region.
Some called them copy-cats, but I refused to see them that way and I still do. Nothing is wrong with inspiring other people to do like you or even better. It’s a legacy I am proud of.
While I feel good that we inspired young people to go out and explore their talents in dance, the truth is I am a very concerned and worried person when I look at many dance groups today.
It’s not easy to criticise oneself, but honestly, I wish I had done more than just inspire some of these young people to go out and form as many groups all over the country.
I feel like I threw these young people into the deep end of the ocean without any means to survive.
Probably most of them thought the dance element was the key to making money — to be blunt.
That is why maybe everybody with two feet felt they could form their own dance group. So be it.
What does one do when a revolution they started goes out of control and loses focus? Does the revolution belong to the initiator long after many other people embrace it?
Yet I seem to notice that every time I point a figure, four fingers point back at me.
That is the reason I felt I should write about this matter even though I am also an interested party.
The dance group revolution has gone haywire if you ask me.
For the fact that most dance groups comprise young people who still require parental guidance I feel that a lot is going wrong.
Most of these groups are led by very young people, who in their own capacity still need guidance.
Youngsters are so vulnerable and as if it’s not enough, many promoters, clients and venues take advantage of their vulnerability and desperation.
Many of these youngsters are hired to perform at venues and nightspots and God forbid, for sorry returns.
Peanuts, to say the least. The truth is that it is not easy even for established groups to live with heads above the water, but when I heard that some venues pay these young people who number from 10 to 15 in a group as little as $30. I was stunned.
My own investigations went on to prove that was a reality.
I went around Bulawayo, found these youngsters dozing off backstage in the wee hours of the night during a break in their “pungwe of abuse” performances and the stories they told me depressed me, literally.
Some of these groups migrated to Harare where they hoped for better fortunes. For the record, some of them have returned in coffins to the amazement of their parents who at times did not have even an idea of their whereabouts.
Harare is a jungle of survival and its jaws have been merciless to most of these dance groups. On one of my visits to Harare a friend took me to where some of the young dancers stayed.
Fierce reality calmed me down.
They live in squalid conditions and in some cases venues demand that they perform for accommodation and food in return.
Males and females share same accommodation, marriages of convenience are born and the worst is that some are even pushed into prostitution for survival.
I am not trying to alarm the world, but I am just looking at the man in the mirror. We did not pioneer this to open abuse of these young people trying to make a living.
I know some groups that play for no fee. The stage performance is just a platform to lure pervert men who after the shows pick these youngsters for a fee.
I therefore challenge promoters and venues, elderly and seasoned artistes and parents to heed my call. Let us support these young people in their bid to make a living out of the arts. Let us advise them where need be. Let us not take advantage of them.
Have compassion, you would rather not hire them than pay them something that cannot even hire them a lift back home.
I know how many of them are eager to succeed. I have seen how much effort they put into creating their work for your shows and venues, your weddings and your functions.
Please have a conscience. I will respect anyone who would rather not hire them at all if they cannot pay decent fees, transport and accommodation than one who hosts an amazing show or event on their sweat and tears.
A youngster is born by two locals, but raised by the whole village. We are all guilty as charged.