The measure of just how local musicians are doing materially is perhaps exemplified by the recent album launch of Winky D (born Wallace Chirimuko), the bonafide king of Zimbabwean dancehall. The event took place at Rainbow Towers last Friday and reports filtering in indicate that he managed to fill up the venue.
State of the Art with Admire Kudita
Zim dancehall king
Winky D is arguably Zimbabwe’s leading musician in terms of crowd pull. He proved this assertion with his recent show. But he is also king of dancehall music. Perhaps that is where the challenge lies. Will Winky D transcend Zimbabwe and export his music in 2018? “Well we can’t divulge much, but this is in our plan,” said Jonathan Banda, Winky’s manager. Winky D has launched the new project, Gombwe, to wide critical acclaim. The album title means “guiding spirit” and features collaborations with vapostori acappella group Vabati VaJehova on a track Ngirozi.
As has become the custom with Harare album launches, local tycoons Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure and “Chief”Albert Ndabambi placed US$40 000 and US$30 000 bids in an auction of the new CD. The CD will eventually find its way into the hands of pirates and be sold for a measly dollar. Actually, pirates are having a field day selling their illicit copies of not only the Winky D album, but those of other musicians. Piracy thrives and my sources indicate a sinister and intricate web allegedly involving corrupt “law and order” elements. Somehow the business thrives . . . Still, the CD auction is a curious innovation. I suppose the idea is to support local artistes. How much “support” do local musicians require? I have been thinking about the phenomenon.
Gazing into the past
The musicians who have lived decently off their music in Zimbabwe do not exceed 10 by my reckoning. In the early days, Zex Manatsa and Safirio Madzikatire lived it up, with the latter being a serious commercial juggernaut, a pioneer brand champion for corporates such as Lever Brothers.
Using his Mukadota alter ego, Madzikatire was Zimbabwean showbiz’s all-time greatest singer, comic and actor. They call such legends a triple threat in showbiz parlance. He was perhaps the hardest working creative with a highly popular television show and stage act that gripped the popular imagination for the longest time.
Lever Brothers saw it fit to partner Madzikatare’s showbiz brand with their own “Surf” detergent powder brand. Madzikatire afforded a sizeable retinue of artistes who were part of his revue: actors, musicians and dancers.
A Madzikatire show was pure family entertainment bliss. He was peerless. Most importantly, he lived a comfortable life off his craft, with a house in Cranborne and at the time drove a high-end BMW.
Manatsa was also very popular and if one considers his lavish Gwanzura Stadium wedding, he was not doing too badly.
The point? Times have been somewhat good for local musicians. One may throw in Oliver Mtukudzi’s name. Mtukudzi clearly came into the money much later. chimurenga music icon Thomas Mapfumo had his moments.
Hard way up
Because our economy is badly battered, local musicians may continue to struggle and need the “support” of flamboyant local tycoons. Ultimately, the entertainment business suffers the most when consumers are struggling with putting bread in their children’s mouths. The way of the local musician, for all the hooplah that surrounds their celebrity and the joy they bring into people’s lives, is hard. The combo of piracy and pitiful crowds that attend music shows compounds the misery of musicians. It is not even funny.
Across the border
South Africa’s creatives tend to fare better than local ones, given that country’s economy. The following is a list of some South African artistes taken from a report by Independent Online, with the likes of Rebecca Malope reported to be worth R68,25 million after a career in which she has produced over 30 albums and reportedly sold 10 million units. Black Coffee, an award-winning DJ and record producer, who is perhaps that country’s greatest music export, having collaborated with artistes such as Alicia Keys and Usher.
He is a regular of some of America and Europe’s hottest entertainment spots. He is believed to be worth R27 million alongside Oskido the Zimbabwean-born boss of Kalawa Jazmee which helped shape South African urban music from the dawn of that country’s independence in 1994, shepherding groups such as Boom Shaka and Bongo Maffin.
What to do?
When all is said and done, (to borrow a cliche) the best barometer for the state of a country’s economy is best mirrored in the lives of its creatives. Of course it does not follow that they must lead lives of unbridled excess, contrary to what one is wont to believe from watching their music videos.
Moreover, I also do not know why it became standard for artistes to feature in videos “fronting”, as if they actually own the palatial homes and expensive cars. It places unnecessary pressure on them and creates illusions that cannot be realistically materialised.
Maybe artistes are not doing so badly. Maybe the measure of their so-called success is largely informed by unreasonable expectations of what they should own or how they live. That two tycoons pledged to give Zimbabwe’s leading music artiste US$70 000 is not a bad thing in itself. Besides, they may well be fans.
“Everything is in order,” replied the artiste’s manager in an interview with IndependentXtra regarding whether the money has been given to the artiste.
Across the Atlantic, hip hop artiste Drake just gave a US$50 000 scholarship to a University of Miami student, Destiny James, according to Billboard magazine. Different strokes for different folks.