The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
THE widespread embrace of the Jerusalema song at a time when local artistes are struggling has led Siyaya founder and veteran arts administrator Saimon Mambazo Phiri to question whether the country’s musicians lack adequate marketing, as corporate giants and citizens jump on the bandwagon sparked by South Africa’s Master KG’s hit song.
Jerusalema has been one of the most celebrated songs this year, becoming a global phenomenon, attaining unprecedented success around the globe. In an interview with the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) Phiri questioned why Zimbabweans had overwhelmingly embraced a dance challenge born from the song, with the corporate world showing rare enthusiasm for a piece of musical production.
“If there were marketeers in the sector, they would be looking at how the Jerusalema phenomenon has caught up with the world. Why are we even celebrating that in Zim? Why are all these corporates even jumping on the bandwagon? Is it because there is nothing local they can jump on? Or is there nothing local or is there no one local that has proposed something to them? Is that the work of the artistes? Is that the work of the creatives? Is that the work of the people that spend time in the studios? No, it’s not. It is the work of the marketeers and when the marketeers meet, they meet with their peers,” Phiri said.
Phiri said it was surprising that the country could not get behind hits by local stars, particularly in a year in which the country’s heavyweight artistes had released new music.
“You’d be surprised all these Jerusalema challenges were proposed by people you know to these companies and companies are paying for them because everyone is riding on a wave. Why are you not riding on Sandra Ndebele’s last release, or on Jah Prayzah’s last release? Surely, you mean in Zim no one has released something that we can create a dance move to?” he said.
Phiri, who is one of the organisers of the Bulawayo Arts Awards, said the award ceremony’s decision to give artistes food hampers had opened his eyes to the true lifestyles of local artistes away from the glitz and glamour of the stage and the red carpet.
“Unfortunately, the artistes have been hit hard. Most of them do not have a steady income. This is a very seasonal sector and this hit us before the big things came like the ZITF came to town, the big Easter holidays, the big Independence celebrations that were coming to the city for the first time. That whole excitement that fed directly into the sector was kind of extinguished by this epidemic. It left everyone confused, lost but somehow, gradually, we are finding our way through it.
“It was very interesting going to these artistes’ residencies to find out where most of our people live. It was quite eye-opening because every time you meet the artistes it’s on stage and there is lights, camera and action. But when you go to the real side of life and see the reality, it is sad.
“It gives you more reason to turn this into an industry because we are losing a lot of talent. A lot of talent goes to waste, people give up, people die. It was sad during that whole period that someone that you were checking on passed on and you never knew. It is sad,” he said.
However, Phiri said he was encouraged by the talent that had emerged in the city despite the lockdown.
“We are a sector that has been in ailing mode, even in intensive care. Something of this nature, an epidemic, is too much for someone that has been in the intensive unit so to speak. Yes, it has been a dent but for me being the person that I am, I like to look at the positives. One positive is that it has helped a lot of people come out of their shells.
“I’m sure that if you follow a lot of online stuff, you’ll realise that artistes are being innovative. There are so many artistes that we discovered during the Bulawayo Arts Festival, the Credisi Shows and some shows done by CITE. There is a lot of new artistes that we have discovered and under the so-called ‘old normal’ we would not have found these people,” he said.