By Trevor Makonyonga
Nigerian superstar, Burna Boy, will be making a return to Zimbabwe this year on the eve to Zimbabwe’s Independence Day. This will be his second time coming to the country after making his maiden appearance about five years ago.
Funny enough, the first time he came was for the opening of Pabloz. On 17 April 2020, he comes back a very big international superstarthat has collaborated with such megastars as Beyonce and Damian Marley. He was also endorsed by none other than Sir Elton John.
The catch in this whole equation is that on his first solo album titled“On a spaceship”, the artist worked with Zimbabwean producer Simba Tags. Simba Tags produced three songs on that album. In five years Burna Boy has crossed leaps and bounds to become the big act he is today whereas in Zimbabwe things are slow.
In the past five years, Zimbabwe’s big artists have been Winky D and Jah Prayzah but both have not really hammered open the international scene. Because of this lack of growth and movement within our music and art as a whole one is compelled to question where we could be going wrong.
Bustop TV talked to producer Simba Tags who said that it is not impossible for Zimbabweans to make it on a world stage. He said that Zimbabwean artists have more to focus on especially their livelihood and that distracts them from excelling with their careers.
“When I worked with Burna Boy it was his first solo project but he had previously worked on some project. Nigeria has managed to sell their culture from their music to their movies. I do not think it is impossible for Zimbabweans to make it on the world stage. We have Zimbabweans who are doing well in America. For Zimbabwean artists based in Zimbabwe it is a different case. Indeed we are talented enough to compete on the international scene. Artists in Zimbabwe cannot afford the basics in the industry like PR. PR firms charge at times over £1000 pounds. An artist in Zimbabwe has to focus on bills and food then art also,” lamented Simba.
What Simba Tags said about Nigeria selling their culture is supported by the sounds and visuals we encounter in Zimbabwe. Big artists and big productions have had their art infused with a Nigerians influence. Songs such as Kwatinobva by Tamy Moyo, visuals for the song Dzamutsana by Jah Prayzah and even the hit ZBC series Tunga are proof positive of the impact of Nigeria haswithin our art.
The lack of a well-structured industry could be the cause for our artists to also lack a definitive sound because to them, fitting into other structured industries then becomes a motive. Such a thought is supported by what one of Zimbabwe’s DJs, Abra Simz, did.
Speaking to this publication, renowned producer Abra Simz admitted to have left the country for South Africa owing to lack of money in the industry. He also lamented about lack of “structures” that are supposed to guarantee sustainable growth of the artist and the industry.
“We do not have an official industry. There is a certain structure that has to be built. If there is no structure there can never be growth. You will have individuals growing in popularity but even those with hit songs will not last. We need to come up with structures. I hear they are trying to bring back royalties but without structure it is futile.
“We should have official structures like official chats, royalties and actual music labels. We do not need the Mbare scenario because a proper record label pays artists. We do not have that. We lack branding and sponsorships. At the moment individuals are pushing and this is unsustainable. We just have to come up with some structure. It hurts that now I am part of the SA because in Zimbabwe we worked and never had money,“ he said.
By this, it can be seen that a serious conversation has to be struck to try and define art in Zimbabwe. People have been complaining and workshops have been done but the structure has to come up. Going forward, things have to be done that help the artist so that our artists can transform into big artists within a few years like in Burna Boy‘s case.