Create value in art and make money, US jazz group tells Zimbos

Birkhead said it is indeed feasible to make money in the Zimbabwean environment if only artists add value to what they do.

AMERICAN Jazz Group Birkhead, which was recently in Zimbabwe for the Jacaranda Music Festival and a series of workshops in Harare and Bulawayo respectively, say its feasible to make money in the Zimbabwean setup if artists create value in their craft.

After their performance at Jacaranda Music Festival, the group conducted workshops with young and upcoming artists in Harare and Bulawayo on building career in the music industry under the American Music Abroad (AMA).

The AMA programme is designed to communicate America’s rich musical contributions to the global music scene as it fosters cross-cultural communication and people-to-people connection to global audiences.

In cooperation with the US Department of State, AMA arranges a series of in-person and virtual exchange programs that include live concerts, live-streamed concerts, collaborative performances with local traditional musicians, lecture demonstrations, workshops, and jam sessions.

"We put on a programme dealing with music business, social media and live performances in several places within Zimbabwe," said the group head Brent Birkhead.

Birkhead added that it is indeed feasible to make money in the Zimbabwean environment if only artists add value to what they do.

"The workshops we were doing were about how to make money with music, for the artists to be able to take care of themselves and to be able to feed our families with the craft that we love," he said.

"Many times people expect you to do music for free yet you are expected to take care of the family.

"We talked about how to create value with music, and when we bring value we start bringing money."

"The simple things that create value are the same everywhere. People pay you to perform at their weddings; universities are teaching students what you do every day, we have festivals everywhere, and when you create music you put it on online music stores which are worldwide.

"I think these things are feasible even in Zimbabwe and also if local artists use social media they can reach the American market. "You can get in contact with other artists via social media direct messages and link up, discuss and collaborate." 

The group hailed their experience in Zimbabwe, describing it as professional. 

"We only knew that we were going to Africa, not knowing where and it’s exciting to be in Harare, Zimbabwe," he said.

"It's been a great experience and everybody here has been gracious and the festival (Jacaranda Music festival) we performed at was professional, we definitely felt the hospitality.

"Everybody is professional in Zimbabwe and we did collaborations with some artists and performed at the festival with natives from Zimbabwe, it shows that music is universal and it unites." 

Rebecca Archer-Knepper, public diplomacy officer of the US embassy said the AMA programme supports economic growth and expands access to education.

"With this initiate we use music to support inclusive economic growth and expand access to education and to build more resilient societies," she said.

"In Zimbabwe, Birkkhead connected with audiences and musicians through the AMA program and shared practical advice in the business of music and marketing as well as working collaboratively.”

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