The Herald

Another dry concert summer

Leroy Dzenga
It is summer time, as is the norm concert posters are about to be pasted on city trees and walls. Local promoters will once again call foreign acts to perform at one of the many sports clubs in the country or the famed conference centre.

Yet again, a dreadlocked singer of no defined genre is going to be included as a supporting act because he has “local numbers”. But that is not the most worrying element, it is the quality of the concerts from performance right up to presentation.

Dancehall acts from Jamaica are usually the likely recipients of the promoters’ seeds, maybe trying to awaken Marcus Garvey’s dream on repatriation.

But these “brilliant” acts who drag their travelling bags through the arrivals sections at the Robert Mugabe International Airport every now and then can be far from impressive. Those who have given us decent performances have not really packaged mind blowing deliveries which can be remembered beyond a few days after the show.

Jamaican dancehall acts are the most suspect, some of their performances in Zimbabwe have been thoroughly uninspiring. Names like Kalado, Sean Kingston, Popcaan and Mr Vegas come to mind.

Not to say that there are no artistes who have impressed but the country has seen deflated sets in recent times, sadly, they were from the majority of acts whose passports have been stamped by our immigration.

But when you watch their European concerts on YouTube, the same artistes deliver diligent performances. In Spain they have the Rototom Sunsplash where they are treated to top drawer performances, the song projection is almost similar if not better than pre-recorded songs. Even our brothers and sisters in South Africa have also been culpable with performances that leave a sour taste.

Morning headlines of how an act was outshone by locals have become second nature. When will Zimbabwe host its own renowned concert which will be celebrated globally? Capleton fans all over the world worship Paris Burning, a phenomenal 2003 live show in the French capital where the artiste nicknamed the “Prince of Fire” gave one of the best live shows in human history.

Others with a pop inclination may remember Michael Jackson’s Live In Bucharest, a concert which will be difficult to depose as one of the most powerful musical displays in memory.

But what do Zimbabwe have, when will we have a Harare, Bulawayo or Gweru concert being the strongest offering of an artistes’ stage catalogue?

People in other countries are treated to stage theatrics and choreography which makes concerts memorable. Here we are greeted with flat performances which if the promoters are generous can only be punctuated by a few whiffs from the smoke machine. Does it cost more to have a bit of imagination in our shows? Simple things like stage entrances, costumes, lighting can make a huge difference on how a concert is interpreted.

Those who have been in serious showbiz know this. Is our money not enough to warrant proper investment?

In a country where disposable income is under immense pressure from costs, promoters need to take showgoers seriously.

The cost excuse is the reason why most promoters do not survive beyond a decade.

When a field lacks the requisite sophistry even pretenders enter the fray.

The involvement of complex concepts in hosting high profile concerts will leave us with dedicated promoters not those searching for a quick and easy buck.

A paradigm shift is overdue, it can’t be business as usual. Our concerts could be better. Maybe it is time to look local and inspire our own musicians by organising high magnitude concerts where they can hone their performances. Maybe the solutions to our bland concerts lie with the artistes promoters often overlook.

Harare may not be the ideal fast-paced cosmopolitan city for these “global” stars.

Some of them don’t bring their best to our country. Of course after payment they will tweet on how Zimbabwe would have shown them love. It is almost part of the script as revellers wake up asking themselves if they got value for their money.

Maybe one day, promoters, artistes and people involved will decide to up their game as far as concerts and live shows are concerned.

Up to then, they will be short-changing Zimbabweans every summer.