HomeEditorial CommentUmahlekisa Comedy Club hogs limelight

Umahlekisa Comedy Club hogs limelight


National Arts Merits Awards nominee Ntando Moyo, aka the General, is an entrepreneurial artiste whose Umahlekisa brand is gaining traction in the local showbiz arena.

Soon, you will not be able to ignore the young hustler. He has taken his comedy initiative from the townships, to the college circuit and now to the well healed classes.

He is far from rich, but get paid he will, if he remains on his current trajectory of taking comedy to the people and forging strategic partnerships.

The unassuming young comedian and self -styled Ndebele maker, is one artist with a combination of humility and street smarts.

We recommend that he continues to utilise new media platforms to build his audiences. Corporates operating and making their money in the local community, are encouraged by Culture Beat to do the right thing and partner young artistes such as Moyo who are creating employment not only for themselves but for others.

That is way more than can be said for the robber barons mugging the populace and looting public funds. Let’s vote Ntando for minister of laughter. Or the PSMAS boss! Controversy.

Killa T, Thieva T?
Last week we charted the story behind the fast rise of dancehall music in Zimbabwe and also reflected on the urban youth sub-cultures’ musical tastes after the short dalliance with sungura and urban grooves.

Dancehall music, is still urban grooves in the sense that the term in itself is generic and embraces many other strands of music. But the dancehall music machine is not without controversy. Take Killa T, the pretender to Winky D’s throne for instance.

I can submit right now that he may have ripped off local dancehall don Centre Party (Felix Debwe)’s song Matractor released via an online radio station in 2010.

“I got a call from Harare friends telling me that the young man had plagiarised my song” he maintained in a chat with this writer earlier in the week. Incidentally, Centre Party had been set to be a supporting act to Killa T at the Stop Over concert during the trade fair period ! Imagine supporting an act that ripped you off ?

So Killa T may just be running around with a hit song pilfered from a Bulawayo artist. How much that is a clear indictment of the monopoly that Harare acts have over our national airwaves is self evident. It ceases to matter that you are Ndebele or Shona or Nambya for that matter. Devolution.

The politics of pop music
So what is the anatomy of a dance hall music hit record in this industry? First, you need a song, albeit a good one with a populist theme. Bingo, Killa T redressed Centre Party’s song and named it Tirikumhanya. Of course he gave his version his own spin and now has dancehall fans eating out of his hands while touring the world.

Secondly, you have to have a rowdy mob of ghetto youths following you around to your shows as some kind of rent-a-crowd to make the hoopla and to pelt “opposition” artistes on the same bill kuti zvityisise (to create the mystique or cultivate respect.

Soon enough, because of mob psychology, the support becomes organic as it gathers momentum and radio DJs are not impartial to a creature called payola. I can’t impugn them, all but neither can I canonise them. You get my drift.

So the voting platforms and new media are all a part of the machinery, till the Diasporans demand your presence in their pound laden sanctuaries. You are red hot and you are the newspaper, the bill board, the pied piper of the townships who depicts life as it unfolds together with the angst of a listless generation.

It is also a fascination with the proverbial rags to riches fantasy of ghetto youths. It is an addictive narrative.

Thus Killa T runs on and he is clutching his owindi bag with verve as the commuters pay for his ride. Why shouldn’t they pay to listen to the sound track of a generation? Nice story huh? Except that he is just the wrong guy getting paid. Zimura (Zimbabwe Music Rights Association) — the music rights watch dog — should have something to say about this.

“The artist with the complaint must write to us stating the facts about the matter and copies of both songs and then will take it from there. If it’s proven then the artiste will have to compensate the aggrieved party,” Zimura general manager Polisile Ncube said when pressed for comment.

She had yet to receive an official complaint from the aggrieved songwriter. Efforts to get the Mbare-born artiste’s side are yet to yield any fruit. We will inform you as the story unfolds.

Where is the money?
One of the last two real frontiers for artists to conquer is royalties for airplay.

The other is obviously the live shows which are quite tricky because the crowds may not turn up. Now it stands to reason that Bulawayo or Mutare artists must also get air play because that’s how you generate revenue. The fee per play is around $5. But the DJs must also log in the name of songwriter and artiste in the log sheets.

If this doesn’t happen, you will not be paid come royalties disbursement time. So you have to be played and this is where the clamour for fairness in terms of local artistes emerges.

It’s a matter of economics, a right to earn a living and it is constitutionally guaranteed. If it was the States, artists would have a class action suit for unfair treatment and discrimination lodged against the radio stations.

They would win because the facts are glaring. Needless to say though, local lawyers do not yet appreciate the lucrative business of showbiz.

Our artistes need advocates and people who understand the nuts and bolts of showbiz and the protection and commercial exploitation of intellectual property.

Music royalties collection in Zimbabwe
In a telephone interview, I spoke to Ncube, the iron lady and guardian of the Zimbabwean music catalogue who successfully led the charge to get justice for local songwriters about progress so far. Zimura won a famous Supreme Court battle with ZBC over royalties which established a precedent that is whipping the other stations into line.

“The outlook for the royalties collection is good. I have not been in office in the last two months, but I can confirm that all radio stations have been paying their royalties to the collection body.

I can’t tell you about amounts but they have been paying,” Ncube said.

The other stations, namely ZiFM and Star FM, had been holding out on payments perhaps hoping that the case would swing ZBC’s way, but Witness Zhangazha battled senior law gladiator Jonathan Samkange and won the case for musicians.

It was a classic David and Goliath fare.

But I could have told the learned senior that prima facie, ZBC’s case was a lost cause. Alas, someone has to eat! Oops!

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