Skyz Metro FM charms listeners

The fabulous ghetto massive was not going to fail to attend a Saturday night gig with such an appetising array of performers such as South African headline act kwaito urban music legend Proffessor, CAL_VIN, Sandra Ndebele and Jeys Marabini, to name a few.

State of the Art with Admire Kudita

Jeys Marabini

Thousands thronged the venue of course. The White City Stadium in Mpopoma may be fast becoming a venue of choice for show promoters. It has its challenges, however. For instance, my colleague Nkululeko Nkala, who was stage manager for the first anniversary gig of the Skyz Metro FM radio station, told me that the stadium’s perimeter fence had many points that had had an “encounter” with many an avid fan’s pliers!

Mzansi love

It can also be argued that the South African Professor was the big drawcard hence the numbers. South African artistes have as much traction this side of the Limpopo — Bulawayo — as Jamaican dancehall music artistes have in Harare.

Besides, Skyz Metro FM has fast become the people’s beloved and that its brand has grown tremendously as to garner this much local support. But the annual Kalawa Homecoming gigs in December have over the years drawn the hardy Bulawayo crowds, while charging premium entry fees.

Music fans seem drawn to these gigs like a moth to a flame. It is as much about genre and quality of the music as it is about “cultural affinity”. I will explain later, but reader please indulge my submission that there is something pyschic and vicarious about the local music fans’ love and enjoyment for most things South African. There is a yearning here . . . there is perhaps a Mzansi dream.

The injiva is part and parcel of local urban legend. An injiva is a Zimbabwean migrant living and hustling in South Africa. He is responsible for feeding the idealised success story of one who crosses the border in pursuit of the Mzansi dream on South Africa’s streets of mythical gold in Egoli and returns with his largesse to rescue his kith and kin from poverty’s clutches. But I digress…

Anniversary against odds

Skyz Metro FM has gained serious traction this side of the country no doubt. When the station launched, naysayers were tumbling over themselves in an attempt to offer reasons why the station would not thrive in a region that has seen countless industries and companies close down.

Where would they get advertising support from? How would they support themselves? Somehow, the radio station is standing. I have personally heard informercials and commercials from local companies that I did not know existed.

The station has been able to galvanise a community and, wittingly or unwittingly, the community has been provided with another rallying point. The other rallying point is football. Soccer has that same ability and almost everyone knows that soccer matches “allow” the masses to vent their ecstasy and frustrations. There was therefore something poignant and serendipitously symbolic about the anniversary gig.

The station’s other achievement has been to bring to the fore a host of local artistes who were hitherto unknown, such GDA Fire and Hwabaraty.

This development is positive in light of regional artists’ lack of proximity to the Harare-based national radio stations.

This has not been a uniquely Bulawayo phenomenon. Small-town artistes plying their trade in their home areas have suffered in a similar manner and I would not ascribe a Machiavellian plot. In the music industry payola and indifference is a more credible reason for some artists’ lack of air time.

Delivered promises?

One of the station’s board members, Cont Mhlanga, about two years ago had made it clear that the station would really be a platform for local artists to showcase their music and for local languages to be given a voice. The station has been delivering on those commitments and the listenership is growing.

“The station went on air on 12 September 2016 but that was signal testing. We then introduced pre-recorded programmes until November 30 when we went live from Pioneer House. Our breakfast and drive time shows continue to be the leaders in terms of listenership. We estimate our listenership to be around 350 000 and the station streams to over 35 countries online. The key drivers for success are the immediacy we provide to our listeners,” said the station manager, Godwin Phiri, in an interview early in the year.

In cosmopolitan city

Before this station set up shop, local urban music artistes had only just managed to penetrate national radio via stations such as ZiFM, which adopted the link up to Bulawayo concept from Star FM.

Yours truly initiated and was involved in the initial venture with Star FM. My colleague Gibson Ncube moved to ZiFM with the concept. The rest is history. That history is part of why the likes of hip hop award winning artiste CAL_VIN came to light. There were several other players in this story and of course success has many parents to quote the adage . . . Suffice to say that my sense in starting what I called the “Hook Up with Kudita Southside” on Star FM during drive time had been that the depth and breath of talent across the arts genres was too much to ignore. The nation needed to know.

There is a reason why this city is a cultural hub and the reason is not self praise. And it is to a nation’s credit to be able to have that scenario. Indeed the city can be a kind of creative nexus or entertainment and leisure hub in the mould of Los Angeles as I have mentioned before in this column.

Competition

The other contenders for local listeners have an uphill task in whisking listeners from Skyz Metro FM. They just have to stop the station from becoming a symbol in the manner that Highlanders football club is. Arguably, the radio station is just another business vying for market share with the other stations namely Power FM, ZiFM, Radio Zimbabwe, National FM, SFM and Star FM.

The main difference here is that these other radio stations are not really “wooing the girl”. They are sending someone else with the love letter. They are half hearted about it almost like they have other love interests. The local girl is not amused.

ZBC the Bunglesaurus

A few weeks ago ZBC staged a ‘Celebrate local’ gig at the Large City Hall car park. The car park was full. “Full” of the artistes who were set to perform. Plus the several cops who were providing security in the event of “rampaging” fans. The Busy Signal show seemed to have to have induced the cop’s presence, as well as ZBC perhaps looking to cash in.

The fans did not turn up. Contracted artists spiritedly performed on the stage and ZBC television captured the content which may have been its cynical aim anyway. How should one explain the lack of a concerted effort on ZBC’s part properly advertise the gig? It was lame an effort as any. I asked on a forum where the local artistes’ fans were? Another retorted that they did not know.

Alas, we have this culture of shifting blame. As it is the artistes have still not been paid and they are seething with anger and feeling used. ZBC’s brand is truly battered and deservedly so. We have this national “asset” which is now psychically a liability. I believe most the chefs only tune in at news time. Whose baby is this dummy? This dummy is bloated and therefore sluggish. This dummy is a dinosaur!

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