Local acts lose out

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHEN Government announced on October 5 that bars and nightclubs would, for the first time in over a year-and-a-half, be able to open their doors to vaccinated patrons, many revellers heaved a sigh of relief.

For the first time in what must have felt like forever for the average drinker, they would not have to play “temple run”, as the game of hide-and-seek that they played with law enforcement officers was now termed, as they tried to drink in new and old illegal drinking haunts.

Some had found solace in shebeens, those illegal drinking spots mostly in the western half of the city that had been born in pre-independence days out of necessity instead of desire.

Now, as lockdown started to bite, revellers were turning back the clock and these same joints were making a roaring comeback. The announcement that they could go back to their old drinking spots, while observing relevant Covid-19, restrictions, came as much needed relief.

Yet while revellers found instant joy at the news of bars opening, perhaps there was another group of individuals whose sigh of relief was perhaps even heavier than that of the drinkers.

For artistes, the announcement meant the reopening of taps that had, for them, been closed for far too long. For over a year they had been thirsty, searching for any kind of relief as they watched from the sidelines while other sectors of the economy reopened gradually. Now that the bars and nightclubs, their natural playgrounds, had reopened, they could once again swing into action.

At first glance, all looks rosy for artistes, especially musicians. As clouds gather for another rainy season, there seems to be a deluge of shows on the cards in the arts as well and posters are going up on the sides of cars and promotional videos are floating on social media timelines.

Already Major League DJz, Vigro Deep and DBN Gogo performed in highly anticipated shows in Bulawayo that pulled impressive crowds. Even in a city that has always had a love for South African acts, the current wave of shows is unprecedented, with a major act performing in the city almost on a weekly basis.

A combination of the amapiano craze, now spreading well beyond Mzansi’s borders and sweeping across the continent, and the hunger for live entertainment spurred by the lockdowns seems to have pushed fun-lovers to the limits. At a time when most households are belt tightening, Amapiano shows are oversubscribed, despite the fact that the cheapest tickets are going for as much as US$10.

However, this great boon has not trickled down to local artistes whose names are still as absent from posters as they were when the lockdown was in full force. As the festive season beckons, and more shows featuring South African acts continue to fill up the calendar, some local acts are already counting their losses.

“So, basically with all these South African led shows in Bulawayo, I see it as a business move,” one of the city’s high-profile performing acts, rapper Asaph, told Sunday Life.

“The promoters in Bulawayo have a history of doing shows that only make business sense in terms of numbers. This is why you will see shows like, just for example, an amapiano headlined show with a dancehall opening act or something like that. This is because they are just focused on making sure things make sense in a numbers point of view.”

Asaph was one of the stand-out performers when he curtain-raised for Major League DJz, putting up a crowd rousing performance that justified his worth. It is thought that on that occasion, Major League DJz had been paid as much as R200 000 for that showing, which some felt was all the more reason why a local act should also “eat”.

However, according to Asaph, even that particular outing could not be attributed to local promoters as he was only put on the roaster by a Harare promoter that had seen him perform before.

“The Major League show that I performed in was done by some Harare guys. I had met the guy when we did a show with Stavo in Harare. I remember AKA was one of the headline acts. It was telling that I only got on that gig because I knew the promoter who was from Harare. All these shows that are being done by Bulawayo promoters, really don’t consider us.

They don’t care about us.

The first Homecoming poster that came out there was not even a single Bulawayo act, then they did a revised poster with acts from this side because of the backlash.

So, you can see that Bulawayo promoters are not really worried about us, because that is also their hustle, that’s where they get their bread. It’s simply a money move on their part maybe,” he said.

According to the wordsmith, promoters had abandoned their core task of promoting as they went for the easy bucks.

“Maybe we could put something together ourselves as Bulawayo artistes and say this is our total local show. But we would need the promoters, the backing and the funding. It is what it is.

December is yet to come but there are already shows that have been scheduled for that time. Maybe as we get into the month, they will start to put a local artiste here and there opening for Kabza, Maphorisa or Boohle.

“Deejays are the ones that are getting some joy because people want to dance. However, if they are still getting the normal US$50 then it’s a problem. Bulawayo promoters really need to get serious about promoting.

“There are artistes in your city, if you promote them, you won’t have to wait for December for the South African acts to come.

You can have your Bulawayo acts that you have been hyping all year doing shows but unfortunately, they don’t see it that way,” he said.

Local promoter Joe tha OG said for promoters, it was sometimes a simple issue of avoiding expenses as shows by their very nature were always a risky venture.

Joe Tha OG

“From the promoter’s viewpoint, the promoters are already putting on local acts but maybe not enough. I have already seen the likes of Mzoe Seven on a few shows and I have seen most of the local DJs being featured in these shows.

“The money aspect can also be a bit of a mess in the sense that budgets might not allow the promoter to put as many local acts as they want because they have to pay them.

“Budgets are usually strained especially after clearing an act from SA which is very expensive. I have been the seeing the DJs and a few acts that have been featured. However, more could be done, especially looking at how bad things have been for artistes recently.

It’s just that when looking at just a solo promoter his main worry is to make something out of the gig at the end of the day.

“They make losses these guys and sometimes they make profits so they try to avoid as much as possible to put too much baggage that will end up worrying them at the end,” he said.

Local acts lose out