Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, is full of talented people who excel in anything from theatrics to music, poetry to dancing, and pretty much everything else related to the arts.
As if that weren’t enough, the city is also full of intelligent people, people with vision, people who think beyond the box, but who aren’t taking advantage of their abilities due to a lack of opportunities. The City of Kings and Queens really has it all, but the question on everyone’s mind is…
“What is it about the city that it isn’t flourishing in anything?”
It’s a simple question, but it’s also one that’s both true and profound, so the response is…
Well, there isn’t a simple or straightforward answer to that question; rather, it can be broken down into a number of variables that are worth addressing.
Since this is such a broad subject, I will only discuss aspects of the arts sector because I am a serious arts addict:)
This needs to be at the top of the list because many talented artists are crying foul, claiming that they are talented enough to be recognized, which is valid in most situations, but the artists’ brilliant efforts are not recognized due to dishonest people in the system.
For eg, a musician wanting to get their song played on radio or some other broadcasting service/media outlet needs money to tip the DJs/people in charge, but the musician is broke, and in situations where the musician is a woman, she must pay in kind if she cannot pay in cash, which we all know what that means.
And for those musicians who do get to tip the DJs, their music gets played on the radio, they get live appearances, and they get pretty much all the contacts and good things that come with publicity. As good as it all sounds, it’s troubling that most of these “Paying Artists” aren’t particularly talented, let alone worthy of the promotions, endorsements, and favors that they receive.
Piracy has been a huge roadblock for artists since the dawn of time, and it has only gotten worse with the advent of the digital age, when almost everything can be found with a simple internet search.
Yes, people can pirate music by downloading it from the internet, but artists can also pirate their own music by sending it to their fans for free through WhatsApp.
(Kudos, however, to those who sell their music through WhatsApp.)
Some also go so far as to release major musical ventures such as mixtapes and albums on WhatsApp groups without receiving anything in return. What’s the point of spending money on studio sessions and beats, or taking the time to carefully word each song and record afterward if all of that work is done only so anyone can give away the whole project on WhatsApp without making a penny?
- Artists have little or no support.
Most musicians in Bulawayo claim that if they want to make it in the music industry, they need to travel to Harare or across the border (usually to South Africa), but is this true?
What are the advantages of those places over Bulawayo?
Except for one thing…
Artists in Harare help one another because they have a certain passion for and need to inspire one another (same in South Africa), but in Bulawayo….hmmm, it’s quite unusual.
Bulawayo has everything it needs to maintain a smooth and secure business climate for the arts, but the problem is that no one wants to celebrate or encourage their own on the rise because they are afraid of being outshined or because of a lack of funds, among other factors, which is ridiculous in my opinion.
- Language and cultural beliefs
Only Matebeleland North, Matebeleland South, Bulawayo, and some areas of the Midlands have a Ndebele speaking population, meaning that at least 35 percent of the population speaks Ndebele and the remainder (at least 65 percent) speaks Shona.
So, based on those figures, an artist who exclusively creates music in Ndebele faces a 35 percent reduction in anticipated audiences, excluding those who are simply uninterested in their music, the deaf, and the elderly.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to make music in one’s mother tongue, in this case Ndebele; rather, if one feels compelled to use their mother tongue in their music, it’s better to mix Ndebele with English (which almost everyone understands) and/or some other language that the rest of the world understands.
This is a very broad and interesting topic, so let’s make it even longer right? 😉
Be on the lookout for volume 2 of this article, until then.