THIS past week a sister paper reported that approximately 400 people attended the Martin Sibanda and Ndolwane Super Sounds album launch at the Amphitheatre on 6 May. The launch came after there was some controversy around the album.
Rumour doing the rounds before the launch was that someone, within the inner circles of the band had leaked some of the new songs to the public.
At the album launch Martin was not alone but with fellow friends and big guns like Clement Magwaza, Zinjaziyamluma and the man of the moment, Madlela of the SaMamo fame. It was supposed to be a night to remember — if you ignore the weather on the night. So it was really shocking to hear that only 400 people attended the show. Perhaps shocking is a stronger word.
Sad makes more sense. How can Bulawayo’s top bands attract a mere 400 people? Is 400 the biggest crowd Bulawayo can pull for such a high profile album launch?
This again brings us to the question: what needs to be done to get Bulawayo people supporting their own? Or is it really a question of quality. That our local musicians are not producing the quality that the general consumer expects from them? Or is it a question of local artistes not getting enough exposure?
This debate is not new. Artistes continue to cry that their own people do not support them, while on the other hand the people say most products are not good enough. But what is good enough? Who says the product is good enough? The musician or the consumer? Does that mean the likes of Jeys Marabini, Sandra Ndebele, Martin Sibanda, Clement Magwaza are not good enough? If they are good enough why are they not pulling the crowds?
Just recently Oliver Mtukudzi was listed among Africa’s bankable artistes — in other words artistes that any promoter can take a risk with and be assured to get his/her money back. Will a Bulawayo artiste ever make that list? Will a Bulawayo artiste ever make the big numbers? Numbers are critical. They translate to a good bank account. Numbers mean business.
Perhaps time has come for local artistes to up their game — they need serious audience building strategies. Strategies to start pulling the crowds. Perhaps it is also the time to know that the business of arts is not about recording music for the radio and waiting for royalties at the end of the year. Royalties alone will not take you anywhere in this country — seeing there is some underground grumblings around how these are collected and distributed.
The business of arts is about bringing in crowds, selling products and proving beyond reasonable doubt that you are worth the attention you demand. In simple terms big artistes must pull big crowds. We should all be worried if our big artistes are not pulling in the numbers.
Away from music Arts Focus would like to say thumbs up to Gilmore T Moyo, Mbo Mahocs and the team behind the television programme Thatha Wena. It’s a breath of fresh air on the screen. As an independent production Thatha Wena has proven that there is talent and interesting ideas out there. It is also good to see ZBC willing to engage with independent producers to bring in a fresh and interesting look to television. Bravo!