There have been various developments this month that are likely to have a major impact on the status of musicians, their bands and the local music industry as a whole.
Vocalists, dancers and instrumentalists have changed camps in rapid succession in a recent storm that swept through the industry.
Yet amid all the frenzy of band-hopping, there is one important aspect that sticks out like a sore thumb but seems to be receiving little, if any attention at all — this is the issue of contracts.
Musicians have been employed and fired willy-nilly because none of them hold any binding employment contracts with their employers. Whether this is due to lack of knowledge, reluctance on the part of band leaders or plain ignorance is difficult to say.
Guitarists, dancers or vocalists are fired or can move from one band to another without restraint because there are no contracts of employment as in other vocations.
In some instances it is the band leaders that are left dumbfounded because they would have lost their most crucial band members.
One such band leader is Peter Moyo who got to the helm of Utakataka Express after the death of his father in October last year. The young Igwe, as he is fondly referred to by his legion of fans, faces hard times after it was made public that two of his most experienced band members were defecting to Energy Mutodi’s camp.
His musical career is just three months old and he is still enjoying that false start of public sympathy, yet his future looks even bleaker after Shiga Shiga’s departure.
Shiga has been the manager for over two years and if the original Igwe was around, he would have never let him go. As much as Shiga’s departure might have been justifiable, it was rather abrupt, all because there was no binding contract to hold him back. The only obligation he had in all earnestness was nothing beyond moral values and loyalty to his late mentor.
And what does Mutodi do?— He makes the same people sign five-year contracts to make sure they do not choke him with the same medicine they used on Peter.
The same can be said about Alick Macheso’s camp. The only way they are going to have comfort after the exodus of key band members is through making everyone involved in their band put pen to paper.
Some have argued that there really is nothing peculiar about musicians changing jobs. Even Macheso did not start as a band leader, so they say. The honest truth is that the sudden departure of musicians from their respective bands causes significant destabilisation. It means a band has to go back to the drawing board to recreate new routines and worse still, risk losing their following.
In a recent interview with StandardLife&Style after the announcement that two band members were leaving Peter said: “There really is nothing I can do about it. They have made their choices and the fact that they are leaving does not mean the band has died — they are just workers.”
This is the attitude that most, if not all band leaders have, which unfortunately is unhelpful. This only works in a Zimbabwean context where there are few bands that can offer musicians lucrative deals.
It is high time that artistes in general started treating their trade as business and only then can they hope to overcome some of their problems.