Priceless lessons from Winky D

SOUNDTRACK :Winstone Antonio

THE relationship between artistes and promoters has for a long time been a central talking point, with accusations that promoters gave foreign acts special treatment ahead of their local counterparts — even when the locals went on to outshine the visitors.

While appreciating that promoters organise concerts to make profit they must not be impugned for maximising returns on their investments, it has to be asked, what are the artistes doing to invest in themselves before someone else sees their value?

Multi-award-winning dancehall artiste Winky D (pictured) appears to have remained a torch bearer of showbiz professionalism, proving that he knows the value of his craft and this has seen him being among the respected artistes.

The chanter has positioned himself as the country’s most sought-after dancehall chanter who has earned respect among many because of his professional stance in the creative business.

Last week, the Vigilance Band frontman pulled out of the highly-publicised Tuku memorial concert on the eleventh hour because his team was unhappy with the manner in which the show was organised. The concert was organised by Patson “Chipaz” Chimbodza in memory of the late Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi.

The Big Man hitmaker has so much faith in his brand that he did not go ahead with the performances like other artistes who fear that crossing the path of a feared promoter like Chipaz would be committing professional suicide.

It is such fear or lack of professionalism from artistes which has resulted in them hesitating to pull out of gigs even when the promoter fails to meet their demands, which has seen many of them being constantly abused, often getting peanuts for their sweat on stage.

While many artistes have complained about being treated like rubbish by music promoters, sadly they appear not to be doing something to better position themselves because they persistently pester the promoters to give them an opportunity, to perform even for nothing in front of the big crowds they have no capacity to attract.

Winky D is known for refusing to perform for a low fee, giving value to his arts and refusing to be short-changed. In December 2010, he pulled out of a gig that was to be headlined by Jamaican reggae and dancehall artiste Capleton after failing to reach common ground with the promoter on payment terms.

Winky D also “snubbed” former President Robert Mugabe’s inauguration gala held in August 2013 at the National Sports Stadium amid reports that the organisers wanted him to donate his services.

Such a professional approach has kept his brand growing.

However, it would not be fair not to mention the singer’s trusted cadre Jonathan Banda who, as a manager, has continued to play an important role in keeping the brand attractive.

Because of his professional stance, the Ninja President has earned himself a “tough guy” tag and to this effect Winky D stages few live gigs per month if not per year, but interestingly from the few of his gigs with many being from corporates, he pockets huge sums of money than those who toil week in, week out for peanuts.

His business ethics have seen him being endorsed as the goodwill ambassador of many local corporates and has appeared on various television and radio commercials. To his credit, he has also kept a clean image untouched by controversy. Even his personal life, unlike most celebrities and public figures, is a closely guarded secret.

Sadly, in many cases where artistes expose themselves to abuse at the hands of promoters, some artistes especially females resort to social media platforms like Facebook or WhatsApp to vent their frustrations if they are left out of certain gigs they think they should be part of.

We have witnessed many artistes being roped in at certain gigs on the eleventh hour simply because of sympathy, but mortgaging their crafts for less. Songbird Diana “MaNgwenya” Samkange, is among them. She made a lot of noise days before the historic Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo gig held at the Glamis Arena when she complained that female artistes had been sidelined at the gig and the organisers gave in and roped her in.

Let promoters see value in artistes and female artistes should also remember that showbiz is a dog-eat-dog industry. Opportunities are never handed on a silver platter, and one has to prove their worth time and again.

Forcing the gender card certainly gives the promoter more bargaining power, leaving the artiste vulnerable.

While local musicians, who usually perform as supporting acts when sharing the stage with foreign acts are being paid peanuts — apparently because it is assumed they are happy enough to rub shoulders with international artistes, Winky D again in giving value to his brand, has never performed for something not worthy.

In one of the many cases of artistes’ abuse at the hands of music promoters in 2016, a leaked recorded telephone conversation between renowned dancehall star Sniper Storm and Vee Jay, who was representing 2 Kings Entertainment ahead of top Jamaican reggae icon Jah Cure’s maiden concert in Zimbabwe, exposed the ill-treatment of local artistes by music promoters.

In the conversation that divided opinions on different platforms, Sniper Storm was heard making a follow-up to the promoter’s offer as he desperately wanted to be among the supporting acts at the concert.

Answering to the Kwarira Mukati hitmaker’s call, Vee Jay said they had no money and could only afford a paltry $50 (equivalent to the two VIP concert tickets) for just him and his DJ, which meant him dropping his entire band.

Sniper Storm turned down the $50 offer saying he could only settle for $800, which he said was to be shared among his band members, but Vee Jay told him to delete his number because there was no way he could pay that kind of money.

Winky D, however, has managed to be innovative with his craft and has remained relevant. His has transitioned from his early music that had explicit lyrics, violence inscribed and gangsterism that is associated with dancehall themes to themes that urge the youths to shun drugs as he took his social commentary to another level.

Having been born in the ghetto, Winky D’s music speaks about the everyday struggles of a ghetto child. He devoted his music to poor people’s trials and tribulations and pursuit of happiness .

 Winstone Antonio is an arts critic and writes here in his personal capacity

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