HomeStandard PeopleWeak economy takes toll on Zim showbiz

Weak economy takes toll on Zim showbiz

The severity of Zimbabwe’s cash crisis that surfaced after the introduction of bond notes last year and the subsequent disappearance of the Unites States dollar coupled with the general poor performance of the economy has taken a toll on the country’s showbiz industry.

By Staff Reporter

Brian Samaita
Brian Samaita

The country’s economy is biting in a big way, compelling stakeholders in the showbiz industry to embrace electronic money in order to move with the times, but many have fallen by the wayside. With no immediate solution to the dysfunctional economy in sight, it looks like the distress will only get severe.

The Standard Style established that the showbiz industry — where the economic cycle is short and heavily dependent on cash — like any other sector in Zimbabwe, was struggling. Crowd pullers like Jah Prayzah, Alick Macheso, Sulumani Chimbetu, Oliver Mtukudzi and Winky D have cut the number of their shows per week.

Some artists are even paid as little as $100 for a band of six or seven members, especially at clubs in the city. The situation is more dire at clubs in the high-density areas where artists perform in exchange for beer or food.

A club owner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed this and said they were caught in between a rock and a hard place.

“It’s true, the artists are getting little from us, but we have no choice. It’s either you play at my club and I give you the little I have or go home. There are instances where some of the artists would perform before seven people. Is that sustainable?” he said.

“We have failed to get these big guys for shows because the money they charge is out of this world, considering we are in this kind of economy. It’s not sustainable and showbiz is in for a fix,” he said.

Jah Prayzah’s manager, Keen Mushapaidze, although confirming that they had cut the number of local shows, said they were yet to establish if their local show attendances had dwindled.

“We are trying to balance international and local shows. We are now having fewer shows in Zimbabwe than what we used to do in the past and we are yet to find out if the economy is affecting our shows. Jah Prayzah is still a crowd puller in and outside Zimbabwe,” he said.

Music promoter and Soul Jah Love’s manager Benjamin Nyandoro said the showbiz industry was the worst affected by the cash crisis because it was regarded as a luxury.

“Promoters need cash here and there to pay for some of the amenities, especially when we hold shows. Yes, we can do bank transfers to bring international artists, but there are times when cash is needed,” Nyandoro said.

“In Zimbabwe, showbiz is regarded as a luxury and it’s true that a number of people are no longer attending music shows because generally, the economy is performing badly. Showbiz is the last resort when it comes to family expenditure and this is affecting the sector very much.

“As a manager, I have observed that most of the guys in the group do not have bank accounts and at times you have to go out of your way to get cash because there are certain needs that have to be paid in cash.”

Dancer-cum-musician Sandra Ndebele seems to be sailing in the same boat with Nyandoro.

“The poor performance of the country is affecting everyone and the arts sector is not spared,” she said. “Of late, our show attendances have taken a nosedive and it’s all because people don’t have money. Like anyone else, we have embraced the use of plastic money and mobile money transfers.”

Music promoter DJ Nosh, who lately has been bringing international artists under the banner Two Kings Promoters, sees it differently.

“The economy is affecting everyone, but we have embraced plastic money and mobile phone transfers, and it’s working,” he said. “We have of late seen an improvement in our way of doing business and we engaged large corporates, which I attribute to the use of plastic money.”

Mutare businessman and sungura musician Brian Samaita said he was forced to suspend some shows in rural areas because people out there had no access to electronic money.

“I have not been performing in rural areas where I have a strong following because they have no cash. Do you think someone getting $20 from the bank can go and spend it at a music show when he has other obligations at home? There is no cash and lately, I have been performing at corporate functions and church gatherings where cash is guaranteed,” Samaita said.

Samaita’s sentiments were also echoed by another sungura music exponent Romeo Gasa, who spoke through his manager Bornface “Chief” Chisvine.

“It’s all systems go. Yes, show attendances have been affected, especially in the rural areas where we usually perform. We used to have sold-out shows, but lately the numbers have gone down. However, people are coming here and there, especially in Chinhoyi and Guruve where we command a huge following,” Chisvine said.

Afro-jazz musician Selmor Mtukudzi said musicians, just like any players in the economic sector were affected by the liquidity crunch.

“The numbers of people coming to our shows have gone down, not only because there is no cash, but because the economy is not performing well. There are no jobs and people cannot spend on luxury,” she said.

“However, we have embraced plastic money and mobile cash transfers for those who can afford to attend the shows,” she said.

Acoustic guitarist Tariro NeGitare said she was not noticing any difference because she does performances for corporates.

“Normally, I perform at corporate events where I charge them and the money is transered into my account. Yes, things are tough out there, but we have to move with the times. Use of plastic money is a trend on the global showbiz scene and as Zimbaweans, we have to catch up with everyone else,” she said.

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