Talent search programmes have been part of the core activities of our arts industry for many years, yet the pickings of such toils seem to find comfort back in their wildernesses of mediocrity from where they would have been plucked with the hope of polishing them for the lucrative arts market.
REPORT BY GODWIN MUZARI
The music industry has been leading in the hunt for fresh talent in many parts of the country, from the dusty ghetto streets in big cities to village clusters far in remote areas.
Music talent search shows seem to be the most popular among other similar events in dance, theatre and visual arts because of the general popularity of music over other arts genres in the country.
However, there have been very few successful musicians from discoveries made over many years. Leading talent search programmes in the country are Chibuku Road to Fame (which is around the corner) and Music Crossroads.
However, there are a number of other numerous small events, especially in major cities, that seek to discover and expose potential stars in the arts.
Since its inception in 2001, Chibuku Road to Fame has discovered talents from many parts of the country yet none has made it to the list of the country’s top 10 musicians. The only notable product from the project is Romeo Gasa, who won the competition with his Extra Valembe in 2007.
The energetic boys from Chinhoyi outclassed nine other groups from across the country with their classy sungura act and won the hearts of judges, but it took them about three years, after that win, to claim a slot in the ranks of rising musicians.
Despite coming up with a commendable debut album titled Sungura Kompressor, the guys remained in their Mashonaland West town without much to celebrate until a visionary promoter brought them to Harare for shows. Now, Gasa is working his way up and is one of the promising youngsters of the music industry.
Nothing much can be said about Club Shanga because the group is still to make steps in the mainstream industry despite having international exposure through Music Crossroads programmes. But music lovers that attended Chibuku Road to Fame 2005 would be disappointed to recall that the talented female bass guitarist, who mesmerised the crowd, helping her band, Zano Rangu Sounds from Masvingo, scoop the top prize, has no bright story to tell after shining at the Glamis Stadium seven years ago.
Corporates must partner Delta to mould artists
It seems the absence of grooming after the discovery of talent is the major weakness of the programmes. Chibuku Road to Fame assists musicians to record their first albums after winning, but getting in the studio is not enough to mould an artist into a good performer.
Delta Beverages (which sponsors Chibuku Road to Fame) does enough to discover these promising musicians, but other corporates and music promoters should be prepared to take over and ensure that the seeds that Delta is sowing do not die after germination.
Maybe that is the advantage that Music Crossroads has. Because it is an international initiative, the programme exposes participants to the international community and that explains the many international tours that Music Crossroads winners embark on.
But the groups’ success is hardly measurable back home because they mainly perform at international festivals where attendance cannot be attributed to a single group.
The pride of Music Crossroads
Although Music Crossroads discovered Liyana, which produced Oscar winner, Prudence Mabhena, her success was in a different project altogether.
Music Crossroads might have a number of active groups that continue to go for international tours but their pride on the local soil is in Mokoomba, First Farai (although he is a spent force) and Progress Chipfumo.
There is need for more programmes and more investments in the arts to ensure that discovered talent is nurtured so as to close the gap between established and upcoming musicians.
Something that will ensure that talented musicians have an option other than going back to their roots and bask in the glory of having won a talent competition without progress.