For years, he rocked the airwaves, churning out hits that have stood the test of time and still sound as good as ever, but veteran musician, Patrick Mkwamba has nothing to show for his great contribution to the Zimbabwean music industry.
BY PROBLEM MASAU
The man, who is now way past his retirement age, says the going is getting tough and even made a passionate plea to this reporter to organise shows for him.
“Times are hard my friend. Now I don’t mind if someone invites me to perform just for a plate of sadza. If you have access to the promoters, please organise something for me,” the veteran musician said, as he wiped his sweaty face.
The wrinkles on his face tell the story of a man who has seen it all in life and showbiz, but he has nothing to show for the years spent strumming the guitars.
Last Monday the 66-year-old performed at a local bar in Harare where he was paid $20.
Ironically, Mkwamba’s most famous hits include the 1984 song Bhonasi, released during the time the country used to afford to pay bonuses and Usambonyara Kusekwa.
Government is yet to pay 2016 civil servants’ bonuses. Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a free-fall and like other ordinary people in the country, musicians have been hard-hit.
Mkwamba’s case is not an isolated tale of misfortune, but a sad reality that both yesteryear and today’s musicians face.
A month-long investigation exposed a web of deceit by the promoters, who are taking advantage of musicians and how musicians are desperate for gigs as the going gets tough in the music industry.
The investigations revealed that even big brands like Jah Prayzah’s Third Generation, Alick Macheso’s Orchestra Mberikwazvo and Sulumani Chimbetu’s Orchestra Dendera Kings were feeling the economic tremors and shocks.
Attendance was very low at Macheso’s show on Sunday at a bar in Warren Park as compared to what he used to command in the past years.
“The bands are no longer paying as they used to do. The big guns are also struggling. That is why you see high-riding musicians such as Jah Prayzah being dumped by senior band members because they are failing to pay wages,” a music promoter said.
Jah Prayzah has been deserted by senior band members such as Pamela Zulu — popularly known as Gonyeti — and Braveman Chizvino aka Baba Harare.
Meanwhile, sungura great Nicholas Zakaria’s new album is gathering dust in the recording studio as he has no money for its launch.
“I finished recording the album a few months ago, but I haven’t released it yet. I am planning to launch it and I am talking to well-wishers and sponsors,” Zakaria said.
Urban grooves singer, Taurai Mandebvu has hit rock bottom and is searching for any kind of job to keep him going.
Things have not been well for the Better Man singer, who has had rocky times in the past years, with legal battles constantly hovering above his head.
Mandebvu is also struggling to get show bookings.
“I cannot pretend as if everything is okay. I am struggling and I am looking for any job to keep me going. I don’t mind to work in supermarkets or trenches. What I need right now is a job,” said the singer, who was once Roki’s dancer.
Investigations also showed that Utakataka Express frontman, Peter Moyo is struggling to keep the band afloat, with a massive exodus looming after long-term manager Suko Dube left.
At one point, Moyo reportedly gave his band members $5 each as weekly allowances.
The situation has cascaded to the gospel genre, with traditional gospel heavyweights such as Charles and Olivia Charamba as well as Fungisai Mashavave-Zvakavapano failing to attract shows during the past festive season.
Dancehall, which has been on an upward trend, has reached stagnation, with top artists such as Shinsoman, Tocky Vibes and Sniper Storm struggling to secure shows.
In an audio recording of a phone call leaked last year on social media, Sniper Storm was heard begging a promoter to allow him to perform.
The promoter then offered a measly $50 for the performance.
Economist Charles Chizvino said the music industry was being affected by the economic crunch and it was high time musicians found supplementary income.
“Zimbabwe’s economy is in the doldrums and what the musicians are experiencing are ripple effects of a badly managed economy,” he said.
“Radio stations can’t afford to pay royalties and people are not attending shows because they don’t have money.
“It is high time musicians started to diversify so that they do not struggle.”
Music promoters have also been accused of taking advantage of the plight of musicians.
When dancehall ace Soul Jah Love was given an expensive vehicle by his supposed sponsor, Courage Zikali, the media was invited to cover the “generous” gesture.
Little did the public know then, that Soul Jah Love had signed a contract that stipulated that he was going to remit 90% of all revenue from his shows.
The contract also stipulated that the singer could not engage show promoters without the knowledge of Zikali.
“When I signed the contract, I was so excited to the extent that I overlooked some of the contentious issues. I only realised later that I was being used,” Soul Jah Love revealed.
Zikali later divulged that it was all about business rather than the will to help the singer.
“I saw potential in the singer and I thought it made business sense to engage him,” he said.
Mystery shrouds the Mercedes-Benz that Jah Prayzah received from Mutare businessman and Dangamvura/Chikanga MP Esau Mupfumi.
Jah Prayzah has maintained that it was a token of appreciation from the businessman, but close sources divulged that the singer was contracted to perform at Pick and Save Joint, owned by Mupfumi, as part of the payment of the vehicle.
Sungura singer Gift Amuli, who was given a vehicle by businessman Edias Mavedzenge, had the vehicle taken away from him because of some contractual misunderstanding.
According to reports, the well-wisher took the vehicle because Amuli “did not deliver on some promises”.