29 May 2018
…Diary of a rumba fan
…Lessons for promoter
Fally Ipupa performed for the first time ever in Harare. In other circles, this might warrant a ‘so what’ response. After all rumba (Lingala), again in those circles, is considered a has-been genre, more like what sungura is nowadays.
However, for rumba lovers, this is a big deal. A big deal because Fally is one of the top rumba artistes; probably one of the few with a techno, or rather youthful appeal at the moment. He has won and has been nominated for top accolades including BET and MTV awards. He has done collaborations with top international artistes such as R Kelly, P Square, Wizkid, J Martin among others. Therefore, when it comes to him performing for lowly Harare, then this is nothing but BIG!
Rumba lovers had been starved for a long time. I know people might say that another giant artiste, Werrason, performed last year. But his stage was for a totem-less carnival pushed by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, which as the adjective refers holds no identity and attracts all sorts. So no matter the deep love for Werrason, a lot of fans stayed away.
But back to Fally. The marketing of the event was low key. A lot of the mature crowd who would frequent the old Chez Ntemba were not there. Businessman David Govere, one of the biggest rumba fans, was not there. A lot of the mature crowd just did not have knowledge of the event, maybe except Zvishavane MP John Holder and Harare East MP Terence Mukupe. Social media was almost quiet except for a few tweets around the promoter himself. It didn’t help that the concert fell on the same day as the UEFA Champions League Final. A lot of marketing effort was needed to assure fans that football supporters would still be accommodated. Nonetheless, for a rumba ensemble, the crowd was actually quite good.
The advantage that rumba has over other genres is that it is an ensemble of music. Use is made of percussion instruments such as conga drums, maracas, scraper, flute or clarinet, all of which have to come out distinctly and in rhythm with the beat of the drums. It’s actually the drums that direct the flow of any rumba beat and to get a clearer rhythm a fusion of guitars is used from the bass to the lead and the acoustic. Rumba, whichever type between Brazilian, Cuban or Lingala (also known as Soukous in other quarters), is probably the only genre currently, which does not rely on computer-generated beats. Rumba makes real music. The point of this explanation? Well, Fally’s sound depicted this description where real music won at the end of the day. Sound system was perfect. Every note and beat came out, just as it does on the recording.
There was really no difference when Fally played hit song Eloko oyo. It was as if one was listening to the original recording. What made it better, was he had the same traditional costume as in the video. Now there was a lot of murmuring in the crowd on whether by donning the traditional attire (the equivalent in this country is associated with zvigure or nánga), Fally could have been performing a ritual on the people. But that is not true as the song actually translates to his achievements as a musician. In Eloko oyo, Fally speaks of what music has done for him, the plots (land), the cars, going overseas etc. And when he says Lego Lego… it is actually Let’s go, let’s go.
He also played hit song Originale but largely his playlist was poor. He focused on slow songs, which killed the tempo of the crowd and which only showcased his gyrating. And when you hear slow rumba songs at 2am, just know you are being serenaded for sleep. Not that the songs were bad, but just that he needed to add a few more dance hits. And he does have those hits, most of which are quite popular in Zimbabwe. Ideally, what promoters should do is brief musicians that they bring to this country on what’s popular and what’s not. Slow (soulful) rumba is very deep. Unfortunately for Zimbabweans, this features in the boring category. As a result, most people retired before the show finished. On any other day, in private when you are having a romantic moment, even his soul collab with R Kelly would do.
The choreography was superb, though it was just a complete testosterone party. Zimbabweans generally like half-dressed ladies shaking everything and shaking everywhere. I am sure it was underwhelming for neutrals who came to realise that there were not going to be thigh wonders on stage! But Fally and Werrason to an extent, rarely use women. Instead Fally allows you to marvel at his flexible waist and marvel we did! I am sure the women were happy. He invited some women to the stage but none impressed. What’s worth pointing out is how he would pick a woman from the crowd, whom his bouncers would then take to the backstage probably for use afterwards (and we say use sparingly). Guess he shouldn’t have made it too obvious!
But enough said. Fally Ipupa is a great artiste and Genius did well by bringing him at the shortest possible time.