The Sunday News
ARTS Focus with Raisedon Baya
COVID-19 has really had a serious effect on the arts sector. (Well, every sector has been.) The arts sector has been closed for a long time, well until the recent green light to open given by the President a few days ago. The lockdown and subsequent closure of the many performance spaces in the country actually meant no income for artistes, many of whom had no savings and relied on their daily or weekly performances to put food on their tables.
Some artistes got some relief funds but we all know those didn’t last a month. So the lockdown and closure of spaces had been terrible to say the least for many artists.
We know of many artistes that have actually left the sector and are now hustling somewhere else away from the arts.
The lockdown and closure led to many artists migrating with their performances to digital spaces — YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and others.
This has been good in the sense of continuing to practise their art, continuing to share experiences with their fans and other artists but the reality on the ground is that save for a few artistes who have managed to make money on digital platforms a lot of our local artistes have actually been donating content to the platforms.
Imagine the cost related to rehearsal, costumes, venue, filming, editing and then just putting the content on the platforms just for a few likes and shares. Is this even sustainable? How many artists can do that – pump content into digital spaces without any returns? The numbers one has to reach to get paid are unattainable for many.
Anyway back to the Presidential reprieve. The sector is now open. Performances can happen across the sector.
However, this reprieve has conditions. A show or performance cannot have more than 50 people in attendance. For small shows and genres that generally have small crowds the reprieve is welcome news and should be celebrated.
It’s now business as usual. On paper it also means book launches, poetry performances, some theatre shows and performances by solo artistes can go on and make a difference — give people hope, make them forget for a while. A few of the events could even be profitable or at least break even.
However, it’s going to be tough for music bands and big artistes the likes of Jah Prayzah, Winky D, Macheso, Iyasa and Jeys Marabini. These have serious cost before even going on stage. Will a show for 50 people be worth it? How much will they charge to break even?
While we really want the sector to open up and be at full throttle we cannot ignore the new normal, that we are operating in the middle of a pandemic and that the safety of both artistes and the general public is very important.
Covid-19 regulations need to be observed, even with a 50 people audience. People still need to sanitise, social distance, mask up and do everything that keeps them safe.
While the sector has to survive and the artists need meaningful engagements the safety of the general person cannot be over emphasised. The hope is that things will improve soon. Actually sooner than later.
This past week Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) released the top 20 list of their royalty earners. Very interesting that only Jeys Marabini and Lovemore Majaivana were in that list.
Remember Majaivana left the music business some 20 years ago and it has been difficulty for young musicians to walk into his shoes. The list just proved we need to support more local musicians.
We should request their songs on radio, we should buy their music on the many platforms that are now available.
Our artistes can only go far if we support them.