THE only Zimbabwean celebrity that gets me star-struck is Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo, the internationally-acclaimed legend of Chimurenga music.
By TAPIWA ZIVIRA
When he walked onto the stage on Saturday night, and I was watching him for the first time on home soil, I was so dazed that all I could do was jump about and shout “I love you, Mukanya!”
I felt that kind of teenage over-excitement such that I did not even feel the fingers of thieves who were digging into my pockets — but found nothing — in the VIP section that was now packed to capacity.
And there lies the first lesson for show promoters, Entertainment Republic, and any others who will host such a big show in future.
For underestimating the crowd size and the prospects of the barricades dividing sections of the fans, the show promoters not only exposed many genuine VIP fans to thieves, but also, to some extent, put the life of the Zimbabwean legend on the line. At the peak of the show, the stage area was now packed with many people, who did not have VIP tags.
Because of lax security and a poor layout, many people managed to sneak from the general section by simply slipping through the barricades. This is unforgivable. We cannot afford to have such loose ends for shows of this magnitude.
Besides those glitches, this was an otherwise well-organised show, and probably one of the smoothest ever as Mukanya was agog for a good four hours, never showing any signs of fatigue. Age may be taking its toll on him like any other mortal, but his music wires are still live.
If other local artistes were to learn anything from Mapfumo, it is how to give fans value for their money. We have read stories of artistes, who just do an hour or two, or even much less, then walk off the stage, leaving fans begging for more.
Apart from doing marathon shows, local artistes should also realise that the key to a great act is perfect sound equipment. Without naming and shaming them, some local artistes have become infamous for always having shoddy sound systems.
The key lesson here is that a sound system can make or break your show — if not your entire career. One local artiste, after Mapfumo and fellow legend Oliver Mtukudzi, who has mastered this lesson is zimdancehall champion, Winky D. He is one artiste who, on being hired, insists on the best sound system, no matter the cost.
Still on sound, artistes must learn from Mapfumo the importance of a thorough sound check before the show.
Even top local producer and multi-instrumentalist, Clive Mono Mukundu, who is also an authority on local music, was charmed by how the bira was conducted. Writing on his Facebook wall following the show, he said: “Well done Entertainment Republic and Chimurenga Music Company. The recently held Mukanya gig proved yet again that, just like other countries, we can also do our own successful big gigs without foreign acts and stop pumping money out of Zim…”
At his latest bira, the Lion of Zimbabwe and his band took a good three hours working on the sound, and ensuring that everything was watertight. And this was hours before the show! If anything was wrong, it could be rectified well in time before the show.
I have attended some shows, where an artiste and his band pitch up late and hastily lay out their equipment as fans wait, and within minutes, they will be performing and that tends to compromise the sound quality.
Sound remains key, and one of the things that Mukanya is good at is identifying talented instrumentalists and vocalists, and during the Harare show, he did not disappoint,as he brought in a cocktail of great guitarists, mbira players, drummers and vocalists from Zimbabwe, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States.
This investment in talent paid off as the sound at the show was of high quality, especially because the band took 24 hours to rehearse, and local artistes must take note of this, because nothing kills a good show more than a combination of terrible instrumentalists, bad sound system and poor preparations.
The Mukanya bira, in more ways than one, was a huge lesson on how to conduct a musical show and Chimurenga Music Company did justice and lived up to its name.
Entertainment Republic, on the other hand, also did quite well, although of course, in future, such shows could be held at much bigger venues, and more should be done to document such history.
Because, imagine if there was to be a DVD recording of the entire show, would that not be great?