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How are artistes spending their quarantine?

One of the consequences of the recently announced decree by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in which he ordered the shutting-down of music concerts and music places such as sports bars and night clubs, is that there are a lot of artistes cooped up at home at the moment and they do not know what to do with their lives for now. With most events being cancelled across the country right now due to coronavirus, many are facing the stress of their livelihood being taken away and not knowing how or when they will be able to pay their bills. With so much creative energy and so many constraints, we were wondering what people were doing to stay safe, positive, and inspired. I spoke to a few musicians on how they are passing the time.

In the groove with Fred Zindi

Some of them informed me that instead of concentrating on live shows, they are going to take to books and start studying in particular areas which they have often felt were missing in their lives. Others said that they have gone to the online platform to maximise sales of their products.

However, the majority of the musicians I spoke to have decided to look for other avenues which are divorced from music such as money-changing, bus driving or vegetable vending in order to survive. Since most musicians in Zimbabwe depended on live gigs for their livelihood, the banning of such due to coronavirus means that the bands are now on forced leave and most musicians who form these bands might not come back when the virus is gone..

Instead of concentrating on live shows, many musicians have resorted to online platforms to keep their acts alive and to sell their products.

Macheso, who was due to take a break from live shows, said he would use this time to fine-tune his forthcoming album which was due for launch in June this year.

“Our followers will obviously miss us, but this isolation is necessary considering what the virus is doing here and in other countries,” Macheso said.

When I asked Alexio Kawara how he was spending his downtime during this period of coronavirus isolation, he had this to say: “Personally, I am spending more time at home. I have had to cancel one big show that I was planning. My team and I had already toned down on the shows anyway, so my shows were already limited. I’m spending more time practising my mbira and writing new songs. We have agreed to also take this opportunity to work on brand visibility .”
I asked the same question to Rutsman Spice, former Transit Crew lead singer and leader of the Zion Ruts Band, now based in South Africa which is currently under lockdown. His response was: “I am currently trying to put together some studio time so that we have new releases during the course of this time.”

However, according to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement early this week: “The National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nationwide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday March 26, ending on April 16, 2020. Key Points: From midnight on Thursday March 26 until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home. No gatherings of more than two people will be allowed and all non-essential services will be closed.”

Rutsman Spice’s band consists of seven members. How he is going to justifiably prove that recording with seven people in a studio is an essential service is beyond me.

Tafadzwa Marova, who plays bass guitar for Winky D’s Vigilance Band, had this to say: ”During this period, I’m spending time with family. I’m getting my revenue through teaching music, recording sessions… [recording for artistes]… but the revenue is not the same when compared to earnings I make during live gigs.”

Fortunately for Marova, Zimbabwe has not reached lockdown stage yet. He can afford to gather a few students and teach them as well as go into the studio to conduct recordings with other artistes. It is only when the ban on non-essential services is put in place in Zimbabwe that musicians such as Marova will feel the effect of such.

Bob Nyabinde’s son, Aggabu Nyabinde, said he would spend time at home watching cartoons on ZBC while doing household chores.

According to Dereck Mpofu: “The aftermath of any lockdown for any self-employed brothers and sisters is total disaster”.

Many countries in Europe, the United States and Australia are on lockdown due to this virus. Enterprising musicians are now thinking of ways of dealing with the crisis while remaining in isolation.

Last weekend, Melbourne musician Merpire was the force behind the show which took place in Australia. The festival was dubbed Isol-Aid Music Festival. When folks hear about a music festival, their thinking goes to a gathering of thousands of music fans. But alas! This was not the case. The Isol-Aid Music Festival took place over Instagram and featured an “insane” 74 artistes. In an interview by one Australian magazine, Merpire was asked how she came up with the idea.

“I had a big cry Monday night feeling really helpless and sad for everyone and wishing I could save our community,” Rhiannon Atkinson-Howatt, the brains behind Merpire and Isol-Aid Festival, described.

“Tuesday morning I woke up with the idea of an Instagram music festival where artistes could just go one after the other. It sounded crazy to put it on just for one day, for 12 hours at first… Angie McMahon was the first friend I ran it by and she said ‘‘Do it!”

Rhiannon teamed up with her friend Emily Ulman who books the Brunswick Music Festival. Between the two of them, they booked 37 artistes in less than 24 hours. Then, artiste manager Shannen Egan offered her help and the bill grew to 74.

There was a lot of spread-sheeting involved, but it all came together. The line-up of artistes included some well-known musicians in Australia. These included the likes of Angie McMahon, Julia Jacklin, Stella Donnelly and Merpire plus 70 other artistes.

The festival was advertised on television so that people would keep glued to their TVs or to their Instagrams.
The festival took place last weekend from 12 noon to 12 midnight on March 21 and March 22, and everybody who had access to television or Instagram could catch each artiste’s set on their Instagram story. Viewers were also encouraged to buy merchandise from the artistes.

To local promoters such as Chipaz Promotions, Josh Hozheri, 2Kings Entertainment, Divine Assignments, Events Evolution, Unplugged Zim and Xtratime Promotions, this is food for thought. In this moment of time when there is no live entertainment, is it not time to digitally entertain those in self-isolation at home? Zimbabwe is starved of entertainment at the moment.

Feedback: frezindi@gmail.com

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