Clive Malunga

Let’s Support Talented Musicians.

There are some countries in the world that produce celebrity musicians that shoot to international stardom on a continuous basis. The USA is one country where their music industry seems to be a perpetual conveyor belt of music pop stars. Some African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria are also succeeding in producing mega stars on a continual basis. We, as Zimbabweans, must try to investigate what makes other culturally advanced countries manage to produce international music icons so that we can emulate them.  In my view, for the Zimbabwe music sector to prosper, we must devise a deliberate strategy of identifying and supporting musicians who will be on top of their game or who have the aptitude to become celebrity stars. This happens in sport where talent is discovered from junior clubs, is then nurtured in academies until its finally unleashed into senior teams.  In the same manner, Zimbabwe we must rally behind artists who will be showing greater promise or shining more than others. The general public, the media and government and the mass media, especially radio and television must work hand in glove with artists, to develop the arts sector. As I see it , at the moment two young Zimbabweans showing immense  potential to become mega stars are Mbeu and the Mhodzi Tribe and Andy Muridzo and the Jeetaz Band. Please, forgive me if my observation does not agree with your opinion on this. I believe that if these two musicians receive adequate financial and media support, they can become our pride as a country. These two are among the musicians trying to climb the music ladder but due to some circumstances beyond their control may not manage to fulfill their dreams. The onus is on us as a country to nurture and showcase the best musical talents we have. We do so by providing resources that are needed to turn their raw talent into stars  Andy Muridzo, in my opinion, has all the prerequisites of becoming a mega star. He has a beautiful and powerful voice, and is a  prolific song writer and mbira player. He has the stature of a lead vocalist. You can feel his presence when he is on stage performing.  This young man is a music genius.  If he works a bit on his dancing, he can be a real star. He is ready for the international market. This is where he needs financial support from government, corporates or music promoters. Mbeu is exceptionally good. He is original in his type of music. He cannot be compared with any musician in Zimbabwe because of his unique way of singing and music arrangement.  His voice is mellow. He is a great singer, composer, guitar player and dancer although he can do more to improve his dance routines. With his handsome looks, he has what it takes to become an international star.  These two musicians can go beyond the sky because of their sheer music talent. They also have an added advantage that they both play Zimbabwean rhythms. If you listen carefully, you will discover that their music is comprised of mhande , chigiyo , katekwe , chikende and tsavatsava. It is easy to break into the international market if you play local genres. Mbuya Stella Chiweshe, Dr Thomas Mapfumo, Dr Oliver Mutukudzi, The Bundu Boys, Chiwoniso Maraire and the Four Brothers all managed to make it internationally because they sound(ed) Zimbabwean.  From my experience on the international music stage, our most effective weapon when performing is the mbira. The mbira differentiates Zimbabwean musicans from musicians from other parts of the world. The moment you take out your cultural tool ( the mbira) and play whether  njari or nhare or nyonganyonga or dongonda,  you will immediately become a darling of overseas audiences.  All over the world, Zimbabwe is known for making and playing mbira. When Jenaguru Music and Dance Group is on their regular Japan and South Korea tours, we make money through teaching students in those countries how to play mbira. A mbira costs US$100 in Zimbabwe. When we are abroad we sell each mbira for US$500. We also conduct lectures about Zimbabwean musical instruments and dances in schools, charging each school for the lectures. If we are not very careful about preserving and documenting the mbira heritage, within a few years from now, our kids will be flying all the way to Europe or Asia to learn more about mbira at higher learning institutions. We have all the tools at our disposal but we are failing to utilise them to our advantage.  We don’t have confidence in ourselves unless we are first  accepted by strangers overseas. The government must provide support to rising musicians and I have proposed that we start with Andy Muridzo and Mbeu. The government can provide these two musicians with access to the international market through government to government exchange programmes, through Zimtrade, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the National Arts Council. If government provides financial support, it can free artists to be more creative. During the Renaissance in Europe, painters, sculptors and architects received patronage from government and wealthy citizens and artistic expression flourished. As a country we ought to sacrifice resources supporting our artists in order for us to join the big league of musically advanced countries. Every year through a national vote, the National Arts Council may pick a 2 or 3 musicians to support.  Once selected, the musicians must be thoroughly supported to enable them to launch their careers internationally. The strategy of supporting and promoting a group to stardom has been tried and tested. Mbira Dzenharira were first invited to the Jenaguru Musical Festivals as curtain raisers until they became the main attraction of the event. After realising the talent of Mbira Dzenharira, Jenaguru started organising small concerts for the group. I remember one such show was the launch of Professor Claude Mararike’s book at the University of Zimbabwe. The group rose to the occasion at the event. The rest, as we know, is now history. As we lobby the nation to support talented artists, it is their responsibility to put their houses in order. Talent without discipline is useless. The artists must develop an ambassadorial character. Without a good character, an artist will soon vanish into oblivion. As a country we must fight for our space on the international music arena,  for it will not be given  to us on a silver platter. Government, corporates and non-governmental organisations as well as individuals must all rally behind talented musicians for us to build the music industry and our country.