Open Letter to all Zimbabwean Musicians
I write to you as a fellow citizen and concerned music fan. I may not be the best to express myself well and fully in this small way but as unknown and obscure as I am, my prayer is that in basic English, my message will get to you or at least your handlers. I know it is uneasy to lecture you anything because…you are big anyway.Your bloated team will dismiss this letter as some piece from “some allegory of the devil”. But who am I anyway?
My letter has become an open one not by choice or my insatiable appetite for recognition or publicity. Yesterday we woke up to a screaming but very saddening read about once once popular artist who has hit hard times. MC Villa, the urban groover who seranaded many and brought compassion to many Zimbabweans who fled the country for the diaspora at the height of the economic turmoil leaving behind their loved ones and hoping to reconnect one day.
Many could possibly have laughed at the artist or another and from time to time we keep reading, hearing many similar stories of stardom to doom. Sadly, the cycle continues. Lots of Sungura musicians went through the same situation, Gospel music too, Urban Grooves did too and now we are watching it unfold with Zimdancehall. Interestingly this is not a preserve of Zimbabwe, globally we see the trend but in developed economies there are systems which still support an artist’s livelihood.
I know you once had a hit song. I know you probably sold cassettes and CDs and had full houses at your concerts. Once upon a time there were significant lucky opportunities that saw you being appointed Brand Ambassador and corporates stampeded to get your endorsement. There were times when you turned down collaborations with ” little known ” upcoming and overzealous musicians who were bent on riding on your hard earned fame.
Maybe because as a creative bully and some big headed band leader, your probable prediction as to where am leading you to is as good as mine. But, wait….am not playing the blame game.If you are making a few dollars from your art, then maybe at this material juncture you are not my audience.But at least print and shelve this letter, maybe you will need it.
When things are going on well in your camp,shows coming through and calls flowing in for collaborations, remember that it is all temporary. Like they preach in Church “it too,shall come to pass”.But the problem is not you. The problem is “it”. The crude and naked reality is that this ” it” is cruel.The “it” is why you produced so many chart topping hits,earned rotations on almost every radio station around, made people drink and dance,entertained others as they exchanged vows and wiped away other people’s tears the bulk of whom you will never know.I am one of them.I , too, shall come to pass.
As you continue to sing, your music will fade. Your bloated management team and an excessive number of bouncers will leave one by one. The few girlfriends you amassed will go one by one. Your band members will complain of poor working conditions. They will either form their own outfits or join others who have the “it” in town. Again,as big headed as you are,the whole issue is not your problem. “It” is the problem!
The problem will then migrate and graduate to some social media joke with either your amateur videos or pictures doing rounds.The very same people who enjoyed your music and continue to even buy your pirated Discs, for the benefit of predators that have in recent times robbed you of your future,will mock you.Some will ask for a selfie just to show the world how bad the situation has become for you.You probably will be kicked out of your lodgings… and court cases will continue to mount.Some will take you to court because publicity is free!But again they are part of “it” and “it” is the problem!
Friends and colleagues who once were close to you in the form of scribes will get some free fodder.They will sell papers.They will make calls, visit,take pictures and pray for the next scoop.They are not cruel.They are part of “it”. Infact you even bought them their favourite beers at your peak because they were good anyway.Their headline is simple the next morning though…FROM RUGS TO RICHES AND RUGS AGAIN! They are justified.They too,shall come to pass.
Anyway my letter is now too long,I could go on and on to show you that you are never wrong.That you have the finest brains in town and that the world does not like you.I could go on and tell you that you are the best musician around and these radio stations are now being paid by your rivals to subortage and emasculate you.Space has limited me.
Maybe the world is very cruel.The world quickly forgets that you once performed for charity.The world is forgeting that you even raised your country’s flag by performing outside the borders to other cultures. The world is very cruel and cannot remember that you even donated groceries to the underprivileged and the deprived. Maybe these “morons” are a bunch of errorists who think that you made a lot of fortune and were irresponsible. These unforgiving clueless bunch knows nothing.
Maybe I was going to tell you how your ” haters” are using Juju to underwrite your downfall. Maybe I was going to reveal how these ungrateful promoters are no longer picking up your calls. I was going to tell you how these bar owners no longer want you to perform. I was going to tell you how these underschooled Android 4.0.4 certified analysts are splashing your photos around. Maybe with space I was going to tell you that there are evil spirits haunting you and that your Prophet even confirmed it last Sunday. Maybe I was going to tell you more about your late uncle who is at the centre of all these misfortunes… But again that’s none of my business. Well, a lot will tell you your music lacked the business.
Iam glad iam not the only one sharing similar sentiments and concern for the industry which so much eases our lives and entertains us day in day out. Seasoned filmaker Marian Kunonga says, “There is a lot of us in the arts who have become a pale shadow of who we used to. Its no laughing matter really. I pray he (Mc Villa) recovers and gives us more music. To all the struggling artists I say learn a skill, do something else, tengesa, hustle survive. When the time is right and the stars align in your favour, you shall stand on that podium and the light will shine again on you. Shine on artists, those who have fallen off the grid and those starting to rise. I say shine on.“
My biggest business today is the delivery and actual reading of this letter and let me stick to that. Forgive me for the big letter, i hope this stirs my deep thoughts and generate a conversation and maybe next time i pen down some possible solutions artists may consider. In the mean time i urge every artist to get a copy of Mono Mukundu’s book POOR & FAMOUS it will enlight and empower you.
Till next Sunday! Adios, keep your EAR GROUNDED!
Norman Theodore for #EARGROUND