POSTERS are up all over the streets and what is left is for the foreign acts to arrive as the bringing-in of international artistes has become the business of the day for a number of local promoters.
REPORT BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Zimbabwe is undoubtedly becoming a favourite hunting ground for foreign artistes who are stampeding to host shows here, particularly in the wake of the country’s adoption of the United States dollar as the currency of choice in 2009.
Two foreign acts are billed to perform in the country with Jamaican dancehall star Kalado (real name Eton Gordon) being the first to perform on September 13 at Old Hararians Sports Club while in October another Jamaican reggae artiste Luciano (born Jepther McClymont OD) is expected to stage a performance at Andy Millar Hall at the Harare Showgrounds.
Digital One International is behind the coming of the Make Me Feel singer in Zimbabwe while Chipaz Promotions are responsible for the Luciano show.
In November, R’n’B singer John Roger Stephens, who goes by the popular trade name John Legend, was billed to perform in the country at the Harare International Conference Centre as part of his All of Me Tour before cancelling the show.
ZIMBABWE NOW A FEEDING TROUGH
The great trek to Zimbabwe by foreign artistes has turned the country into some kind of feeding trough for those musicians who hope to strike gold and return home with healthy bank balances after their stints in the country.
Popular international stars that have performed in the country in recent years include Jamaicans Capleton, Beenie Man, Turbulence and Sizzler, Nigerians P Square and D’Banj, Americans Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, Nicole C Mullen and Don Moen as well as South Africans Solly Mahlangu and Winnie Mashaba.
At the height of the country’s runaway inflation — before the adoption of the multi–currency regime – Zimbabwe never used to attract foreign artistes in such huge numbers.
Local music fans, however, say it appears as if the international artistes are attracted by the opportunity to milk local fans, who paid for entry in hard currency, unlike in many African countries that use their own local currencies which are relatively weaker than the US dollar.
Such shows, they argue, are of no benefit to local musicians who usually perform as curtain raisers for peanuts because they are simply attracted by the idea of rubbing shoulders with renowned international acts.
“These foreign artistes are just flocking to Zimbabwe to collect outrageous amounts of money with some of them putting up poor performances and departing the country smiling all the way to their banks at the expense of our local artistes,” said Shadreck Ayiwero of Kuwadzana
Nelvine Katsoka of Hatfield, however, feels it is good to have many foreign artistes performing in the country because they challeng their local counterparts to up their game.
“Although we might be angry at times with these foreign acts I think they have helped to market and expose our music as well as our country,” said Katsoka.
The increase in the number of foreign artistes’ trekking to Zimbabwe has, however, spawned an increase in dubious promoters out to dupe music lovers of their hard-earned cash.
Just recently a “fake promoter” trading as Novel Enigma Management was exposed for advertising a bogus show which they claimed would be headlined by Nigerian crowd pullers P-Square.
WHEN LOCAL IS LEKKER
In October last year Nigerian musician D’Banj — born Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo — proved to be more of a studio musician than a stage performer after dismally failing to live up to his billing before hundreds of Zimbabweans who thronged the Glamis Arena for the Lion Lager Summer Beer Festival.
His performance on the day was reduced to some porn show during which he got up close and personal with female fans and spent most of his time talking about how local women were good at gyrating. He then invited 10 female fans — including local artiste Amara Brown — to join him on stage one after the other.
Regardless of some of his tracks such as Fall in Love, Pop Something, Why Me, Mr Endowed, and Oliver Twist being popular in the country, receiving massive airplay on local radio stations and rocking night clubs, D’Banj was outdone by local dancehall chanters King Shady, Guspy Warrior and Winky D whom he shared stage with.
There have been countless incidents during which local supporting acts clearly outdid the foreign musicians that they were supposed to support.
LOCAL OUTFITS DESERVE
In November last year, Media, Information and Broadcasting Services ministry secretary George Charamba lambasted music promoters for supporting foreign artistes at the expense of local talent.
Charamba made the remarks in his speech as guest of honour at the premiere of the second part of the popular comic drama Sabhuku Vharazipi that was held at Ster-Kinekor in the capital.
“You pay $30 000 to mediocre international acts and give $100 to local artistes. We need a sense of self-belief in our own talent,” Charamba said.
The debate about how local artistes should be treated when they perform with their international counterparts on local stages has been one of the central talking points on the local music scene since 2010.
A number of artistes have complained that local music promoters give international artistes preferential treatment when some of these visitors perform dismally.
There have been cases in which an international artiste was paid more than $200 000 to perform for two hours with a band of less than five people while a local supporting act pocketed a paltry $500 to perform with a band of eight people for three hours.
Information and Communication Technology minister Webster Shamu, who is also the patron of the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians, is on record calling on arts promoters to treat and pay foreign and local artistes the same when they shared the stage.
Shamu told guests at a Zimbabwe International Carnival cocktail organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in April last year that Zimbabwe had an obligation to celebrate its own music heroes.
“Local artistes should get equal treatment with their foreign counterparts. If the foreign contingents are booked into five-star hotels, the same should be done for our local artistes. They should just be paid the same,” he said.
His remarks drew cheers from musicians present including Suluman Chimbetu, Guspy Warrior, Sniper Storm, Stunner, Roki, Leonard Mapfumo and Allan Chimbetu.
Some artistes who spoke on condition of anonymity said the government should give local artistes these funds as they deserve better treatment.
“Not taking anything away from the international stars, I believe as Zimbabwean artistes, we must be given such huge sums of money that are paid to visiting foreign acts.
“Our poverty is being worsened by local corporates and promoters who prefer to hire international artistes at high prices and pay us peanuts, sometimes, nothing at all for the same performances at the same venues for the same audiences,” he said.
“The corporate world should support local artistes instead of promoting the already established and rich international artistes where local musicians have been used as supporting acts to these foreign artistes and when it comes to payment, they received peanuts.”
PROMOTERS DO NOT EXPLOIT ARTISTES
Regaining National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) promoter of the year Biggie Chinoperekwei who has brought in some of the foreign artistes such as Motswana sensation Naledi Kaisara, better known as Slizer in the showbiz circles and South African musician Freddy Gwala dismissed allegations of exploitation of local artistes by promoters.
“As promoters we are not there to exploit our local artistes, but we are there to nurture their talent and expose them for international performances and they must not cry foul.
“The problem is that some artistes want to be paid what is not equivalent to their profiles and their capacity to draw crowds when staging shows. Even if we look at our local artistes when they stage shows, they are not paid as equal because of their profiles,” Chinoperekwei said.
Chinoperekwei said the coming of local artistes has contributed a lot to the growth of local showbiz with both the nation and artistes benefiting.
“The biggest beneficiaries from these international acts are the artistes themselves as they get the opportunity to exchange notes and some have done collaborations with these celebrated foreign artistes.
“The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe also benefit from the coming of these foreign artistes to perform in Zimbabwe.”
With local artistes appearing to be running out of steam and promoters trying their luck on foreign artistes, but with only a countable number living up to expectations, Zimbabwe is becoming more like a country of choice to most Jamaican musicians proven by the number of those who have performed.