NOT very often does creative work generate the kind of buzz that the Bulawayo Show, an animated comedy show created by a collaborative team of local artistes and writers, has done.
As of yesterday morning, the trailer of the animated film registered close to 30 000 views on the show’s Facebook page in 24 hours. To place the development in its proper context, mainstream media news outlets distribute about 20 000 copies daily.
The stats for the Bulawayo Show are, therefore, quite staggering. There is indeed a hunger for local, superlative and relevant content out there.
The high level mobile phone penetration in Zimbabwe does aid and abet the consumption and distribution of popular content. Will the production be able to sustain the interest beyond the novelty element? The signs appear to be positive.
One of the script writers and producers of the show, Zenzele Ndebele, a director at Ingwe Studios, said: “Bulawayo Show is mainly comedy and social commentary. What makes the show compelling is that it’s new and animated comedy. We are talking here about everyday things that people are joking about.
For example, there is a clip in which they say ‘if you want to be a hit with the ladies buy Gumbura Cologne!’ You also have Khulu laba zukulu tackling tribal issues, Amabeats which is a musical duo who fight over which is better — hip-hop or house music, among other characters.
“We also have Elando the General from the comedy club. The people behind the scenes doing voice overs are 13 new artistes from eloxion.
The show is a creation of two organisations — Sean Ndlovu and I at Ingwe studios and Bruce Lunga. Bruce and I went to high school together in the ’90s.
“He learnt animation. I had written a few scripts and wanted to do animation, but didn’t have the know-how,” he said.
“We then formed the name Bulawayo Show as a joint venture. We started creating this thing as a joint venture between Ingwe Studios and Bruce Lunga when we discovered that the show was being shared on social media platforms.
Using Facebook which is one of the production partners alongside Brucik Lungovik (real name Bruce Thabani Lunga the animator and medical student).
“From looking at the graph (Facebook stats) the past week, the previous week we had over 34 000 people.
Because we were preparing for the Bulawayo Show launch, we have recorded a 603% rise in terms of viewership.
The post for the show has reached 28 000 in the last 48 hours since we uploaded the trailer and these people are mainly in the 18 to 34 age demographic. Our age group, however, starts from age 13 right up to 65.
“It helps us in terms of planning by looking at the attention our posts generate. These people use mainly mobile phones to access the content.
We can even go on to ask: ‘Who are these people? Where are they?’ because sometimes the argument is that when you are using Facebook you are targeting the international audience. But much of the support is from Zimbabwe distributed between Bulawayo, Harare, South Africa and others in the Diaspora.
“What makes the Bulawayo Show powerful is the collaborative dimension in its production. I might not be a good animator, but I may be a good businessman and writer.
I am using my journalistic background to promote this show. Bruce is using his animation skills and Sean is using his technical prowess in terms of the sound quality (Sean is an audio engineer).
We also have a graphic designer doing the graphics. Each one of us can keep our skills to ourselves, but we won’t achieve much,” observed Ndebele in an interview with Southern Eye Lifestyle.
Bulawayo is set to cement its position as a cultural hub. Better still, with the kind of numbers the trailer is generating, the producers may just be able to monetise the production by delivering audiences to savvy marketers looking to piggy back on a viral popular culture phenomena.
Indeed Uncle Richie in Harare with his “Zvirikumbofamba seyi” fame is now endorsing products and set to tour with his jokes. Fans that will throng the Rainbow City One venue at Bulawayo Centre today from 5:30pm will get more than their money’s worth.
The producers are also shrewdly selling merchandise based on the show’s characters. Tickets are selling for $5.