HomeEditorial CommentThe Zima saga refuses to abate

The Zima saga refuses to abate

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Last week I stirred a hornet’s nest when I dared call out the awarding of the music engineer award to Obadiah Matulana.

All week I have been bemusedly following the rara on our paper’s website as well as in cyberspace. What has amused me is the level of anger aimed at me by a few individuals who threw up the tribal card in a bid to stifle the facts.

Not a single one of the angered can fault me on my commitment to local arts and culture. The record is clear.

Worldwide
The following is an example of what has happened for music projects involving artistes as big as the late Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

Grammy Awards of 1974: Best engineered album — Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margoleuff (engineers) for Innervisions performed by Stevie Wonder.

Grammy Awards of 1988: Best engineered album — Bruce Swedien and Humberto Gaticla and (engineers) for Bad performed by Michael Jackson.

Grammy Awards of 2014: Best engineered album — Peter Franco, Mick Gizauski, Florian Lagatta and Daniel Lerner (engineers), Bob Ludwig and Antoine for Random Access Memories performed by Daft Punk.
(Source: Wikipedia, Grammy)

In an industry that generally venerates the singers, some recognition is also reserved for the behind-the-scenes persons in a few categories in international awards.

Clearly, best engineered album awards are not for the performers, but the engineers. All we are saying is that the wrong man got the award.

How does this demean the artiste’s own work? How does one even think it’s justifiable to wear someone’s hat?

Who the cap fits
The hat would not sit comfortably on my head. I was incredulous therefore. Still, I will admit that I do not know everything in this life. But my interest in the Zima awards case is obvious.

As a writer, albeit one who is acquainted with both artistes and moreover one who happens to run a column covering arts and culture, I would be remiss to maintain silence over the whole issue.

I have waited for Zima to take pre-emptive measures to address the anomaly. Zilch. No malice was ever intended on my part though I must admit to being miffed at the development latterly because of the silence.

I am a true witness that I have met Matulana at Joe Maseko’s studio a couple of times. I am also witness to the fact that Maseko engineers the artiste’s work and I am not the only one witness there is.

What does an engineer do by the way? He records, mixes and masters the performance of the musician.

Positive vibrations
The self-effacing Maseko is a bona fide legend when it comes to sound engineering. This is not an exaggeration. His work has taken him beyond the borders.

He is credited with having produced and engineered one of Southern Africa’s top selling groups Culture Spears’ Kulenyana album which sold a reported 500 000 in the 2000s.

The Botswana group is the leading award-winning group in Botswana.

A couple of their albums were masterminded by Maseko alongside the likes of Mexy, another Motswana music legend popularly hailed as that country’s Brenda Fassie.

I met the mentioned artistes a few times on some of their sojourns to Maseko’s studios back in the day. I have met many other artistes and aspiring engineers who Maseko has over the years taken under his wings to learn the sound engineering trade.

The likes of Vincent Gurure, DJ Face (Thulani Nyashanu), Percy Mpofu and other upstart engineers have passed through his place.

The toxic
Maseko never phoned me about the award or queried in spite of the fact that he knows what I do. That is the very truth.

I will not deny that I know Maseko personally and have interacted with him as a brother and fellow comrade in the arts.

I have also dealt with Matulana. He knows what he tried to do at one time which I overlooked. I was naturally not surprised that he tried to pull another fast (dumb) one on Maseko.

Those who are rushing to defend the indefensible will have egg on the face. Let’s simply say that the right thing must be done and not try to play the tribal card. I am happy to shed so-called friends in the arts over this one.

A humble Joe
Perhaps that is the reason why others may try to steal his thunder. He has been content to let others shine and as such, no accolade has come his way.

In the Zima awards scenario, Maseko did not enter the competition so he did not deserve to be mentioned, let alone win an award?

Really? But there was nothing to stop any of his past clients (myself included) from entering his name. Thus, the credit Matulana deserves is that he submitted the album for the awards. But he submitted it for himself.

After all, he may have reasoned that it was his album that Maseko had worked on. Hell if I pay you, I become the engineer! Things don’t quite work that way though.

The juice
If Zima wishes to garner popular support and credibility, its processes must be irreproachable. On the other hand artistes must not perpetrate theft against each other.

Here I dare say that I have been given a plethora of tales about artistes stealing material from others such as songs, plays and television scripts locally. Do you want to play ball?

I didn’t think so. I will end there for now and return to my otherwise usually constructive trajectory.

Parting shot
I must clear a few things with those who are given to raising their voices not their arguments.

A whole week lapsed after the awarding of the Zima to Matulana before I broke the story. I did so to give concerned parties the opportunity to respond.

A whole week. Apart from querying Zima about a matter which had had the arts community’s tongue wagging silently, I was hoping that both Zima organisers and Matulana would do the right thing and correct their mistake.

Nothing happened! Zima officials have yet to make a public statement to correct the anomaly though quietly before going to print I had contacted them.

Meanwhile, Matulana neither “returned” the award nor my call though he did respond to a colleague’s inquiry over the same matter at another paper.

He maintained to my colleague that he deserved the award. I wondered how.

He has chosen to enlist some elders to his cause to cast aspersions on this writer! They reasoned that the two — Maseko and Matulana — worked on the project together and so they both deserve the award!

That is not justice, that is theft. That is not how things function, excuse me, even if it was Saint Peter himself who had filled the form.

The elders also somehow made the leap of not querying why Maseko was overlooked in the award. Why they kept quiet till my article was published to speak out over the issue I wonder.

Did they not spot the mistake if they are really fair minded?

If you star as a lead actor in a movie for example, you are not necessarily deserving of the best film director’s gong.

Yes, you may have given the director some of your ideas, but in the end, the texture and aesthetic of the movie is credited to the director of the movie. With music, it’s not much dissimilar.

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