By Trevor Makonyonga
“So I wanted Jah Signal to do a collaboration with this local artist,guess what? Makandinzwa nani yacho USD2500.”
This Facebook post by Jah Signal’s manager, Hillary Matake caused quite a stir on social media platforms with suggestions that the fee was outrageous.
The ever busy rumour mill singled out songstress, Ammara Brown as the artist in question. Her manager, Chido Musasiwa however dismissed the reports stating that no one from Jah Signal’s management had contacted them.
Musasiwa said the following after this reporter asked her they were charging for collaborations, “There’s been this thing, I have been on several groups zvikambonzi ndiLady Squanda. Saka now it’s Ammara. We have never been asked for a collabo by Jah Signal ever. The collabos we have had and I think you have seen them. You can even ask them kuti vakachargwer mari dzakadaro here of if anything at all. I think the issue of collaborations is subjective right now. Like the collaboration with Nutty O most recently there was no exchange of any money whatsoever from anybody. We haven’t yet charged.”
If only her gestures and emotion could be captured in her speech one could tell that Musasiwa obviously felt how outrageous and inhuman it is to charge a fellow artist any money to collaborate.
This issue of collaborations could be Zimbabwe’s only chance of breaking through in the international market. Those who are old enough will understand the whirlwind that hit Zimbabwe in the early 2000s when the Urban Grooves hurricane descended on the country.
Despite the 70% local content, the music was good enough. The Chamhembe and Chigutiro compilations fed the nation with classics that to date are tatooed on the lips of many. Youths at the time would vote for Ex-Q’s Musalala or Decibel’s Nakai over international hits like T.O.K’s Money to burn. There was power in the numbers. Even at the Galas the Urban Groovers mostly performed together in unmatched unity. Most of the big hits in the country like Maidei by Leornard Mapfumo and Zverudo by Maskiri were collaborative efforts.
Trouble hit Zimbabwe with the wave of solo careers and the sprouting of many un-united studios. It would seem far-fetched to suggest that Kenya and Nigeria are where they are today because of collaborations but it is not entirely divorced from the truth. There was a year when Nigerians and Kenyans collaborated so much so that DJs in their countries would play hits by two or more artists (like it used to be like in Zimbabwe.) Some would remember Me Marvin’s Dorobuci or Emmy Gee’s Rands and Nairas from Nigeria and in Kenya, their super artists like Willy Paul, Kambua, Size 8 and Gloria Muliro would collaborate on a way that they were hard to ignore.
For Zimbabwe, since Akon and Sean Paul came to Zimbabwe the majority of the artists would rather seek for an international collaboration rather than have a local act on their piece. This is retrogressive and detrimental to the advancement of Zimbabwean music. Victor D, Tembalami and Xtra Large gave Zimbabwe a hit out of nothing really in Kushamura newe. There is power in numbers and until Zimbabwean artists begin to do this, they will remain stuck. A movement or an industry is easier to have when everyone pulls in the same direction. Look at the Amapiano and Gqom syndromes in South Africa; the two have infected the nation that people will only have to take them in to quench the addiction. Because of their originality and uniqueness, they have penetrated nations beyond their borders and the seas. Now, Gqom and Amapiano have done well but it is because of collaborations.
Imagine what a track with Tammy Moyo, Tocky Vibes, Takura, Noble Styles and Lamont Chitepo will be like. Another sin that cannot be forgiven in these times is the production of visuals. Zim artists should just collaborate like in the days of old. Producers, videographers and musicians should just come together and get this movement going on.
Whoever charged Punchline the money is not deranged but is from an ignorant school of thought that will bite on his art.