IT may never have happened were it not for the Covid-19 global pandemic, which has forced nations to impose lockdowns to flatten the curve of transmission of the disease. We are into our fourth week of the lockdown due to the pandemic. But it has been a time to reflect on the past, and music has that transportational quality.
Local radio stations took to their vaults. Leading the pack was Power FM, formerly Radio Three of yesteryear. That station over the years produced legends such as Peter Johns, Tich Mataz, Kudzi “Cool” Marudza, Eunice “Ms DJ” Goto, Nora “Fly Girl” Chipaumire and Josh Makawa.
It was the number one urban radio station. Well, it was the only urban music station and mostly dominated by imported music of mainly black origin from Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Shalamar, Whitney, Atlantic Star and The Whispers.
Latterly, in the 2000s, young people began to produce urban music based on the American and Jamaican rhythm and blues and reggae/dancehall music idioms, but rendered in the vernacular. That music dominated the then only urban music radio station Power FM.
The music of black origin (M.O.B.O.) has made its mark across the entire world in terms of popular culture, from gospel music to blues, jazz, rock, calypso, reggae and R&B, the music of African Americans. It was a massive music feast for grown folks this Monday.
Thanks to technology, Teddy Riley and Babyface were in full effect sans the glitches at the end on Instagram. Over 500 000 music lovers from across the world were to witness a battle between two music producers of legendary status courtesy of Instagram Live. It is a new form of entertainment in the midst of global lockdown.
Verzuz is the entertainment broached by hip-hop producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland (Tim Mosley). Verzuz is a series of online battles featuring some of music’s biggest names in music history who are usually behind the scenes such as songwriters and producers together with fans in one big virtual room.
There is banter between the artists as they churn out the songs that stole millions of hearts and provided the soundtrack of our lives across the decades … Yep, these days they stream concerts and shows on line. For music lovers, Sunday at 11pm (GMT) was alright for reminiscing.
So, for those of us who were teenagers in the 1980s, 1990s and in 2000 we had a ball as the masters faced off on Instagram playing their hits. Teddy Riley drew first blood with girl group SWV’s Right Here that is underplayed by Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. The remix hit was a monster club jam.
Riley is credited as the producer for that track. Babyface (Kenneth Edmonds) responded with the song he penned for Toni Braxton Love Should Brought You Home after sharing a story about the late king of pop Michael Jackson asking him to call gorgeous actress Halle Berry to ask for a date on his behalf!
On and on it went as the two masters rifled through their catalogue of hits such as Can we talk (Bayface), Just Got Paid (Teddy Riley) and many more. Fans were posting their comments and showing appreciation for the music and rating the rounds in favour of either artist.
“We want to celebrate the architects of good music,” Swizz Beatz said. The Verzuz started last month on March 25 with the music producers squaring off via a series of Instagram posts till they switched to Instagram Live.
On Sunday, over 500 000 music lovers logged on and that was as much as Instagram Live could afford to log on from a technical standpoint. The reports filtering through say about three million people tried to log on unsuccessfully.
“Someone said it was a Coachella crowd,” Swizz Beatz, a music producer and husband to Grammy award-winning artist Alicia Keys, said.
Coachella is a big-league festival that has been happening in the United States for the past several years, which draws hundreds of music lovers to its live music platform and artists such as Beyoncé and Kanye West.
“The culture won, the people won, the art won, music won … Sky is not the limit it’s just a view. I need people to understand that 500 000 people came …”
The event was a turning point for music and could mark a new way of consuming music alongside fellow music lovers albeit via an online platform.
The success of new media concepts has ever been about their scalability. Scalability in this context really refers to the potential for an idea to be amplified to millions. For example, Facebook’s success lies in the fact it is a “free” platform. Billions of people across the world have a Facebook account.
The business model is such that its owners have access to our data which they package to advertisers etc. Ad revenue is the fuel for this massive data vehicle. The Verzuz platform on Instagram Live can be monetised the same way. But since the music producers behind the concept do not own the technology, which makes it possible for the idea to thrive, they might need to negotiate a sort of split in terms of revenue which might come as a result of the concept.
Of course, in such a case, the owners of the music copyright will want a;6 share of the action. Yep lawyers will be involved and so forth. For now, we music fans are just happy to relive the moments of our childhood.
Post-Covid-19, the world will not be the same again. Many industries have been shattered and the entertainment industry is one of the biggest casualties. I do not have local figures, but according to nonprofit AmericaForTheArts.org the blight upon the arts and culture sector so far is approximating US$4,5 billion.
That gives you an idea of the global carnage. The sector is going to need all its creativity and innovation to survive this tsunami of a disease.
The Verzuz concept is only a few weeks old, but it is a great restart gathering and even scaling entertainment events. The world needs music right now and whilst most of us are reflecting and taking stock of what counts, music counts as was proven on Sunday in the US. We stan.