Musasiwa’s rich journey in arts, culture

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LOCAL arts guru, founder and executive director of Lively Entertainment Thrust in Talent Harnessing and Empowerment of Minors Trust, an organisation that runs the annual schools arts festival, Chido Chemoyo Musasiwa was recently honoured in Malawi for her exceptional contribution to the showbiz industry. NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Winstone Antonio caught up with Musasiwa (CM), who takes us down memory lane and below are excerpts from the interview.

ND: How did you get involved in the creative industry?

CM: My passion was always music, drama, poetry and watching movies. I started piano lessons in Form 1 when we were in Australia. I was always desirous to be involved in the music industry. I remember getting the main part (Greece) of Sandra D in Form 3 when more often than not, it would have been a senior role. I used to sing and act in church plays. I remember when I was eight years old telling my cousin Ellah Wakatama that when I grew up I wanted to be a famous singer or actress.

ND: Were you persistent in that pursuit?

CM: Somewhere along the way, I took a more sporting role and played national team basketball from 1991 to 2000 when I tore my Achilles tendon and my dream of turning sportsperson came to a halt. I studied travel and tourism and then started a marketing degree. During this time, I was working for John Christou who was a musician from Bindura.

I would sing on most of the jingles we were contracted to do. More often than not, I would sit in his band rehearsals.

ND: I understand that was when your path crossed with Tuku, can you take us through that.

CM: During that time the late music superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi also used to come to rehearse at his place and I would arrange for the late Chiwoniso Maraire to also rehearse there. I found myself slipping more and more into a connecting and managerial position because, quite frankly my voice is okay. Well over 40% of my friends were musicians. It is funny how even in basketball those wannabe best players that are average make damn good coaches and think that is where I am at. I am good at coordinating and I have a great ear for music and eye for artistic things.

ND: What is involved in this kind of occupation?

CM: Day-to-day responsibilities that involve developing career strategies, developing an artiste’s vision, guiding them through the industry. You oversee marketing and publicity, including public relations plans, new bios and radio tours. The responsibilities also involve overseeing bookings and tours and at times travelling with the artiste and doubling as tour manager. Gain funding, that is, grants, loans, investments, endorsement deals and sponsorships. There is also production of music, videos, merchandise, overseeing single, album and other product releases, music publishing, register songs and publishing rights. Also negotiating agreements and work with publishers on new strategies and manage schedules.

ND: With all these responsibilities on your plate, do you have time for yourself? How do you wind down?

CM: My work is kind of a wind down of performances, events, launches so it is great. My son is in boarding school and my nephew is a weekly boarder, so during week days I can grind hard. Weekends that don’t have performances or events are spent binge watching TV, YouTube, reading a book or catching up on my schoolwork that I often am behind in. I am now studying systemic therapy with Connect and all things being equal I should complete the programme this July and be a registered counsellor. I believe our industry could do with this.

ND: Do you think local musicians have an appreciation of the role of a manager beyond organising shows?

CM: I believe most do not have. It is important that in most instances finances are so prohibitive that most artistes are expecting or looking for what is more of a booking agent than a manager. There is also a perception that the manager is to take care of rent and food for artistes when in actual fact, the artiste is the chief executive of the company and the manager is under their employment.

ND: What are some of the challenges that come with managing artistes, and how have you dealt with them over the years?

CM: The biggest challenge is managing expectations. Some artistes want to do as little as possible, but expect you to pull rabbits out of a hat. If everyone pulls their weight there are more chances of success. Dealing with promoters that don’t want to pay or want to pay on their own terms is another big challenge. At times we build relationships with promoters and companies that want to book our artistes, but end up shafting us or not delivering on the promises.

ND: Musicians have in the past complained about being paid peanuts when they share the stage with international acts. What impact do you think this has on the music industry? Are artistes justified to raise such concerns?

CM: There is a huge difference in some of the fees that are paid to local artistes, but I think we need to put things into context. What is the artiste’s usual fee? What are the numbers they can pull (at shows) that is their contribution to what they will earn, their social media numbers and how sought-after are they internationally as artistes? We may want to make issues of the international artistes, but even locally, artistes are in tiers where they command a very different performance fee. Artistes focus on building up their brand equity and commanding the fees they want. We need not worry about the numbers we have in Zimbabwe, the internet has now given all artistes a level playing ground, so the world is now everyone’s oyster.

ND: In 2010 you featured in a local series Small House Saga on national television. Can you share with us your journey in acting?

CM: I sort of touched on this from school plays and then my first ever TV experience was as an extra on Neighbours.

Our neighbour, Linda Hartely, arranged for some people in my school drama club to be extras and I was one of them.

To be on the Small House Saga was purely fate. I went to ESP Studio wanting to record a jingle and met Mrs Mthupa who asked me if I could act, so I said yes very confidently and she asked me to read a script and from that day I was now Michelle the main act. I was also in the Cook Off as one of the scandalous neighbours.

ND: Acting, artiste management and other responsibilities, how do you juggle these altogether?

CM: So let me break it down like this, Chido Advertising is my core business and in this business I try to incorporate as many artistes as possible and not just artistes I manage. We do roadshows and events so it’s a perfect space to incorporate the arts. This was one of our unique selling points as an agency as we were offering alternatives that most advertising agencies were not.

ND: And how did artiste management come about?

CM: Artiste management came as a result of the advertising agency, but I heard Junior Bantan perform at Mannenburg with Transit Crew and I fell in love with his voice. We then met a year later and he had started his own band and that is where my journey began. Sniper Storm then came to me saying he wanted to have more of a corporate appeal and could we work together? Then Ammara Brown since last year… I also assist other artistes, but not in a managerial role.