WAITING for a new day; waiting for the breakthrough phone call; waiting for that e-mail, that promoter, that invitation perceived to be a life-changer.
Hoping every day that one day you would become a star and drive a dream car and own your dream house.
So goes the story of many a Zimbabwean artiste and musician. Many a time we try to find ways to succeed and work very hard to achieve great heights. My question this week is simple in its complexity. Are Zimbabwean artistes waiting for success to find them or are they trying to find it?
My observation over generations is that there has been a great shift or thrust when it comes to ways local musicians, dancers, actors, poets and comedians go by their day-to-day business of finding jobs and shows. Yesterday’s artiste in my opinion was proactive. The words promoter, hirer and manager were less prominent especially in the ’80s.
In most cases group and individual artistes of that time had no offices, booking agents and if any of them did have managers, they played a lesser role than they do today.
Sometimes I wish artistes of today could take a leaf from those artistes who came before them. I was young then and even when I started the arts I always believed that the arts were meant to be like that. I took their example. Groups and artistes of yesterday were promoters of their own work.
They did not wait for a phone call or client to knock at their door and book them for a show. Instead they organised their own shows. They went out to perform their shows. Groups like Black Umfolosi, Insingizi, Savuka and Amakhosi became popular not because someone in the neighbourhood or deep down Tsholotsho hired them to perform there.
At the most a booking meant a performance at a wedding or for governmental or non-governmental organisations celebration of sorts. Schools, growth points, villages, business centres, stadiums and town halls did not book and hire the likes of Solomon S’kuza, Ndux Malax, Fanyana Dube and other yesteryear greats to perform at their locations.
Daunting at task as it may seem to have been, these artistes used to organise their own shows. They made their names before their names made them into celebrities, arts and music icons. Even today when you chat to them they tell a story different from the urban grooves era artiste. They narrate stories of how they slept in the open, exchanged the comfort of their homes for classroom accommodation.
They remember how villagers would give them water melons and mealies to see them through to the next dawn. Duty parties were formed.
Some would travel as an advance party to organise venues, market shows and literally infest neighbourhoods with homemade posters.
Every morning they hopped from school to school, gathering to gathering giving highlights of their shows. The same hustlers who did the dirty work to make sure the shows were a success would be the same stars of the shows we watched. The word celebrity donned a different meaning altogether.
What happened to that calibre of musician, actor, dancer, artist, you name them; one who took the initiative? Today’s artistes despite better resources and advances in technology, seem to look to someone else to bring success to them or to take them to it. I do agree that these are different times and a new era altogether and surely things ought to be easier.
The new generation of artistes wants to be booked, to be hired and to be promoted. I once said we are in a dilemma of producing artistes who look up only to being employed rather than creating their own employment.
Our young artistes will not work with you unless you can take them overseas and make sure for every show they are booked in good hotels and fed very well. No offence to anybody, but it would do many of our artistes good to return to the source. Easy come, easy go. Many artistes who made their names the hard way — the old school way — are resilient and have stood the test of time.
Many bubblegum artistes have lived for as long as glory lasted. Probably the time to complain is gone.
We need to learn from the best and go back to old ways. Those were the times when artistes employed themselves, worked together, went out and sold their craft and art.
Maybe it’s time the promoter and hirer shows simply become just a fringe benefit. Marketing and communication have become easier than back then and we should take advantage of that for our own benefit.