OVER the past few months, there has been an increase in the number of people selling gospel music DVDs on the streets of Harare, as musicians adopt new aggressive marketing strategies by appealing to prospective customers’ minds through video projections on city buildings.
BY Tawanda Mupatsi
Although many of the videos carry solid, profound and thought-provoking messages, the quality of the videos leaves a lot to be desired.
Many gospel artistes in Zimbabwe are not doing justice to their video productions.
It must be said that it’s unfortunate that a lot of the gospel videos that we have been exposed to are of poor quality.
It would appear as if some gospel artistes have adopted the habit of cutting corners and giving their followers half-backed products.
For some, it might be a case of ignorance, while for others the decision to work with people that are not professionals is the problem.
Some of the productions are bound to leave you with sore eyes. The songs might be well- arranged, with top-notch vocals and rich lyrics, but everything is messed up by the visuals.
The 2014 hit, Ebenezar—Tirimunyasha 1, by Togarepi Chivaviro, made waves on local radio, but when the video was released, it was a huge let-down.
One would have thought for a video featuring some the country’s gospel greats — including Mechanic Manyeruke and Charles Charamba — a lot of thought and creativity should have been invested in the video. In its current state, the video has no solid storyline. One after the other, the gospel greats popped up in a washed-out visual without setting.
Perhaps some might say lack of adequate resources in creating water-tight videos is the reason behind the production of poor quality gospel videos.
In this case, my suggestion is simple: one must wait and gather sufficient resources and skilled personnel for a video and if this proves problematic, it is ideal to abort the idea rather than taking the short route, which will compromise quality and downgrade the message you want to communicate.
For the record, not everyone, who owns a camera and films is best qualified to translate your vision into a top-rate visual.
Video filming is a profession in which skilled personnel invest passion, years of experience, resources and experimentation into the trade, so if you desire to come up with something appealing, it’s better to consult such professionals.
What then constitutes a good gospel music video?
The answer depends on individual taste, but the basics are universal. We talk of a good script, setting, how best the desired themes are coming out in the video text, customisation, the use of colour to communicate a particular mood in the song, choreography, cinematic touch on the visuals and, most importantly, collaborative responsibility — that is, how each person is assigned to a given task depending on their speciality with the intent of achieving a common goal.
A notable example where all these factors were implemented is the video for Celebration Choir’s song, Toimba Ishe, which came out in the early 2000s.
The storyline is clear. Celebration Choir has been invited to sing at a wedding deep down in Dotito, Mt Darwin, but somewhere along the line their bus heads in the wrong direction and ends up at a certain growth point, where the choir turns the atmosphere electric with song and dance to the amusement of onlookers.
Upon realising that they are in the wrong place, they head off to their stipulated destination where, again, they turn the dull wedding ceremony into an exciting affair.
The storyline symbolically points to the inclusiveness of the gospel and its embedded power to rekindle happiness.
Well-defined settings, costumisation, and odd storytelling through camera angles, all add up to its beauty.
If artistes could emulate such meticulous attention to detail, it would save many from the distasteful scenes of music videos randomly shot in parks, hillsides and backyards out of harmony with the song’s storyline.
Gospel artistes must ask themselves important questions before they embark on video production: what are we trying to communicate?
How best can we translate our themes into visuals? Who is best suited to materialise our vision? Is what we are selling gold or just dust?