. . . artistes surviving on handouts
. . . resort to ‘selling assets’
Rest Mutore, Entertainment Reporter
LOCAL musicians have come to the harsh reality that they face the worst festive season in memory.
As the country battles the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown restrictions include the banning of live musical shows.
The ban on live musical shows, where crowds pay, has been in place since the beginning on April. And given that live shows tend to start attracting crowds from March every year, it means local musicians have virtually gone for a year without gate revenue, which is the source of their livelihoods.
For the popular musicians, December has traditionally been the most rewarding month in terms of live shows. However, there will be no such pleasure this year, leaving most bands on verge of collapsing.
There are no prospects of the ban on live shows being lifted this month, even after government put a limit of 100 people per gatherings, including parties and church.
Amid the re-opening of the country’s borders, there are genuine fears of a spike in Covid-19 cases.
In South Africa, it emerged yesterday that the national coronavirus command council had agreed to a 10pm curfew in hotspot areas across the country together with restrictions on the sale of alcohol, including trading times.
The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in SA (Saapa SA) called on government to urgently put alcohol restrictions in place ahead of the festive season due to the drastic rise in positive Covid-19 cases.
Zimbabwean artists have been surviving on handouts from ‘well-wishers’ for the past nine months although a few have been fortunate to get shows in South Africa where paying crowds are being allowed.
Some had to sell their possessions and go out their way to cater for the welfare of their band members.
This has resulted in a number of musicians appealing with the responsible authorities to allow them hold shows with limited numbers like other sectors.
Alick Macheso, who is releasing a single tomorrow, is among the hardest hit given the size of his Orchestra Mberikwazvo band.
Macheso told H-Metro yesterday that the Covid-19 restrictions have even seen him delaying the release of an album.
“This situation has seen us delaying to release the album also. We used to capitalise on live shows and recover some of the expenses incurred during production.
“But due to this pandemic (Covid-19) it is a different situation altogether and we decided release this single and possibly the other one in few weeks to come.
“It’s been a difficult situation to us since we used to sustain the band using these live shows. Remember we are also getting into the festive season which is the peak period for us as musicians.
“We ended up getting support from well-wishers, our promoters in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Australia and other countries. They have been very supportive and we really appreciate that.
“We have no option because I can’t live them starve. At times I had to go my farm and get maize meal and slaughter cattle and bring it to Harare for my band members. We then share what we have and make sure everyone has something to feed their families,” said Macheso.
Sungura musician Peter Moyo believes the authorities have been unfair to the showbiz sector.
The Utakataka Express leader argued other line of businesses are seeing big crowds than those that attend shows gather.
“To be honest, my plea to the authorities is to consider showbiz sector. We have gone for more than seven months without shows and the question is they think we are surviving on what?” queried Peter.
“They know the reality and what we are facing. The other issue is other sectors have been relaxed, we are seeing thousands of people in town, at bus termini and other informal sectors.
“I think those numbers are bigger than those that come to our shows. It was better for them to limit numbers at shows than stop us. We will then thrive on hiking charges.
“At the end of the day we don’t have an option, they are doing it in consultations with experts but to be truthful we end up not seeing the logic. Not that I am praying to have other sectors restricted but to also consider us.
“Do they even know that the arts industry contributes a lot to the economy?
“It’s been difficult for musicians to sustain the band. I even ended up selling my cattle at my rural home to make sure the guys get something. It’s a difficult situation,” added Peter.
Killer T’s manager Kudzai ‘Supa’ Biston said the festive season has been the peak period for them but it is unfortunate they are still ‘locked up’.
“This is the period we used to cash-in. Remember we have not been holding shows since March and it’s sad that we were just coming from the break we do at the beginning of the year.
“We are stuck. We are struggling to fend for our families and those who used to depend on us. It’s not only about Killer T but his band and everyone he works with.
“We know that the authorities know what is good for the containment of Covid-19 but truly speaking people are defying the restrictions,” said Killer T’s manager.
The chanter appealed with authorities to allow them hold shows with limited numbers.
“We would appreciate if we are to be given a certain number to attend shows. People are gathering everywhere; we are even seeing more numbers than those that attend our shows.
“I think what needs to be avoided is having many artists at one show or themes that attract bumper crowds. But we can be allowed to do shows as individual artists. There are also the issues of Covid-19 relief fund which I believe was only availed for one month. Some of us couldn’t even get it.”
Jah Prayzah, speaking through his manager Keen Mushapaidze, said Covid-19 has been a huge blow.
“This pandemic has been a blow to us and I think the whole industry. It’s not a secret that most of us survive on live shows.
“Apart from that, the festive season which has been the peak period for us over the years, remember we have been ‘locked’ since March,” said Mushapaidze.
He said their coffers are running dry.
“We had to adapt to the new normal and this has affected our earnings, including the welfare of our workers.
“For now, the coffers are running dry, we have been managing to back up with small events but they are not enough,” he said.
Mushapaidze, however, said the authorities know what is good for the country in as far as the containment of the virus is concerned.
“But I would say the authorities know why they are being tough to showbiz industry. Well, we might argue that other sectors are relaxed and thousands are gathering but we are not in a position to comment on that. The experts who are helping to contain the virus have good answers for that. And in as far as we are concerned, we remain committed to the rules laid out though we would be happy to see an end to this,” he said.
He also said, though it is a blow, this has helped them penetrate the digital space.
“I would say this has been a blessing to us in terms of digital uptake, we have made strides and even if we are going to return to the normal, I don’t think the numbers will decrease.
“This, however, doesn’t mean we are equating it to live shows. Obviously the atmosphere that is brought by having fans with you is totally different.”