2013: Hits, misses, gripes, reflections

The 2013 Nama awards were held at the beginning of the year in Bulawayo through a collaborative effort of some of the city’s foremost arts promoters in Jomo Mhone (who incidentally is a second generation arts promoter as his dad used to promote 70s artists such as Dorothy Masuka and others), Siyaya Arts’ Simon Mambazo Phiri, Sarah Mpofu and Babongile Sikhonjwa to name a few.

Of-course the local office of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) and local business persons such as Beauty Bhulu of Glen Lodge came on board to assist in delivering a splendid show of force that made me proud to be a resident.

The awards were glitzy and well choreographed and there was simply nothing tawdry about the whole affair. NACZ decided to give the city another chance to host the awards this year. Hopefully with the new Arts ministry the awards are going to receive their own $88 000 just like the Warriors team. We shall see.

The hits and musical exports:
Pronix proved a revelation on the showbiz scene in Bulawayo. The group fronted by Prosper Ndebele came out slugging with their well-packaged video and CD release I want to be a champion. The hit song threatened to rip apart the national charts, but in the end, the group is based in Bulawayo.

The youthful group showed out on the big stage at Intwasa alongside another serious talent in Bozoe who can be described as a world music exponent in the ilk of South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela. Bozoe indeed referenced the Mzansi giant on stage as well as played his own material.

Female imbube ensemble Nobuntu was another welcome addition to the showbiz scene locally and crowned their debut year with an Austrian tour courtesy of Dumisani Ramadu’s Tenth District Records.

Oskido has to be the biggie in terms of cultural exports. But he is more a credit to South Africa than Zimbabwe in the sense that in economic terms his efforts have had such a positive domino effect on the gross domestic product of South Africa’s music industry.

The major acts over time such as Boom Shaka, Bongo Muffin and Mafikizolo in South Africa’s pop scene owe a huge debt to his musical vision and business acumen.

Durban’s kwaito movement with the likes of Tira, Professor and Big Nuz also owe a debt to Oskido’s co-owned company Kalawa Jazmee. But Bra Oskido, how about you flip things over a bit and use your power to push some of the local acts such as 3 Kings and Djembe Monks?

Berita Khumalo this delectable young muso is growing and she is a media darling in South Africa launching from her Eastern Cape base. Her album rocked the charts and got her a Radio Metro Award for best Afro-jazz award beating established South African artistes in the category.

She graduated from Walter Sisulu University this year with distinctions in her degree in Finance. I interviewed the Khumalo girl and she is very bright. Beauty and brains are terribly hard to ignore. Hopefully Berita won’t go the way of US black music icons Lauryn Hill, Mary J Blige and Toni Braxton who are battling tax evasion cases and possible imprisonment. Maybe they should have also finished college and learnt to count the money rather than lean on and blame shady managers.

The misses:

Local Kwaito act 3 Kings, aka Seqamabhilidi, was nominated alongside Highlanders Football Club in 2012 as goodwill ambassadors. It was a dizzy height for a group only two days in the showbiz arena. Come 2013 where were the boys? Have they had their fifteen minutes of fame? After the city’s public relations officer was quoted as having endorsed the group as one of the “big guns of the city” in the popularity stakes. The Gwabalanda group is signed to Amavulindlela Ultimate Records. But they do have 170 likes on their Facebook page don’t they? Either they are popular or their fans are not techsavvy. There therefore must be another qualifier of their fame. Come on Donara, Maeli and Fraz , nothing shall be handed to you boys. Get on the grind.

Gripe of the year – cultural imperialism:

The local, and indeed the national showbiz scene was inundated with foreign artists coming to Zimbabwe. Nothing wrong with having guests in your home. Just not every day. South Africa is the big culprit of cultural imperialism koBulawayo. Too many South African artists came here and some way past their prime.

I mean who is Freddie Gwala these days. How many hit songs does he have? Dan Tshanda? Come on folks what has he done for you lately? Patricia Majalisa? She is said to be loved locally and boy did she milk “that cow” several times with many visits! Oh, need I talk about the disc jockeys and kwaito acts? Micasa, Professor, DJ Zinhle, Black Coffee (till he stopped showing up), Tira, DJ Fresh and last night Ganyani at Queens Sports Club, have all been part of the feeding frenzy.

Even gospel artists from down South Sifiso Ncwane and Solly Mahlangu came around! Almost every month an eMzansi act was brought over to Zimbabwe exploding the myth that there is no money in showbiz here. We just don’t have local promoters with enough gumption. It seems to my mind they just want to reap. No sowing in local artists. If only Zimbabwe had the likes of Tuku’s former manager Debbie Metcalfe working from the ground up in our cultural industries!


Finally, one of the joyful things that happened was the return of the Professor (Jonathan Moyo) to the Media ministry. It bodes well for the music and motion picture industry having him there. Thankfully, ZBC started paying songwriters their dues after the lengthy court grapple with Zimbabwe Music Association.

The other radio stations have started following suit. The trick is for Bulawayo artists to get their songs on the radio play lists too. Who will champion our cause?

I hear talk about quality in sound production, but quality is not an accident. There must be deliberate effort toward achieving it. Where are the degree programmes in audio engineering? Can’t Nust set up faculties in audio engineering and film-making? Bulawayo must play to its strengths.

Ultimately the city’s Diaspora sons and daughters must be civic minded enough to plough back and set up institutions that push the city forward. They don’t have to settle here, but they can follow the course of the likes of Reason Sibanda who is using his South African base to launch Zimbo talent such as TKP. Now that’s a start.

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