The word “blast” has many connotations from explosion to mass destruction and destruction, among others.
In this context, organisers for the much hyped sungura show dubbed “Sungura Blast”, seem somehow to have failed to blast the project.
Judging by the performers’ line up, which include Alick Macheso, Mark Ngwazi, Baba Harare, Audinance Kuimba, Nicholas Zakaria, Sulumani Chimbetu and Shantel Sithole, definitely this could easily have been the biggest Sungura music fiesta for 2022.
Or its still is?
Saturday came and all roads led to Rainbow Towers as marketed many had a Coachella mind feel considering that the music genre sungura constitutes more fans compared to other genres.
But that’s a topic for another day, whether it’s gospel, hip-hop or Zimdancehall who rules the roost.
The bottom line is many had high expectations for the show.
For a start, for those that were fortunate enough to see the Sungura Blast adverts on social media as well as on other platforms like radio, expectations were high and they all came expecting a sold out gig complete with a full buffet of pulsating Sungura music.
In fact, the genre this time around was punctuated by a jazzy feel from newbie Audinance Kuimba who actually justified his inclusion with a classy performance on Saturday night.
Shows with top musicians like Macheso, Zakaria, Ngwazi, Chimbetu and Baba Harare come rare and the inclusion of relatively new voices Sithole and Kuimba added the much needed curiosity.
Yes, Sungura shows usually come pegged around US$5 ordinarily and US$10 for the most expensive but for a comely venue like Harare International Conference Centre the US$10 for a standard ticket and US$30 for a VIP ticket was really off the mark.
Somehow, according to some fans discussing at the entrance.
But do not forget arts is also business, organisers saw it fit and justified their price, but some said it was the marketing strategy that needed a rethink. Well, there could have been also an inclusion of the directors, bosses, diplomats who also thought they would want to watch the show in the “comfortable” area of HICC.
But alas, boom, they were blasted.
Not included in the plan henceforth they are the ones that can fork out the pegged prices.
It ended up like a flop, not achieving the goal for the day.
Or should we hurriedly judge to say the sungura fans are much intimidated by the giant venue or they are just myopic?
By the way, researches have shown that Sungura music lovers are generally not big spenders on entrance tickets but prefer to spend more on their food and drinks as well as showering their music stars with hard cash on stage or in crowd chasing acts.
Food for thought.
On the lighter side the Gateway Streams team were also in business, so they chose to go the corporate standard way of having a proper show, good staging (well decorated- a first in the history of sungura having such) and well-articulated programme.
Kudos to the organisers on this note.
They only failed on execution.
Back to the drawing board, that notwithstanding, expectation remained high that Saturday night’s show was going to be the biggest drawcard in Harare especially with some of the big names like Jah Prayzah, Winky D and Freeman performing in faraway Mutare.
The closest competition to Sungura Blast was a Progress Chipfumo show in distant Mbare. However, this was not to be as the venue was literally empty at the scheduled 6pm start time.
Organisers, sound engineers, security and a few band representatives could be seen milling around and inside the venue as everyone feared for the worst.
Murmurs could be heard as people questioned whether the show was going to kick off or cancel altogether but thanks to the bravery of the stage managers, Kuimba was on stage at exactly 8:30pm.
A good two hours after the official start time.
Never mind the few numbers that started trickling in particularly for the upper end standard ticket section, the rising Afro-Jazz crooner had a good day in office with a polished and classy act that left a handful of fans begging for more.
Kuimba’s intro was a Tuku backtrack that had fans sitting on edges as they wondered if the late national hero and grandad of Zimbabwean music had risen from the dead.
To his credit Kuimba who waxed lyrical about his band’s ability before he performed his own compositions and later on capped the act with Tuku’s “Ndima yese Ndasakura ndazunza . . . ”, which rose to the occasion.
With the good sound engineers present, no glitches, this would have been a good showcase and shot at the limelight for the youthful crooner, but now it would be left to verify on video recording as not many fans had to witness this.
Host Ndumiso “Skywalker” Dube of “Ita kuti mhaa” fame sailed flawlessly through his pace.
With a beautiful stage that was adorned with befitting huge portraits of long gone Sungura pacesetters like SystemTazvida, Simon Chimbetu, Bundu Boys, Leonard Dembo and John Chibadura; the platform was set and fans expected the show to get bigger and better as the night wore on.
Around 9pm, Shantel Sithole was on stage with her unique Kanindo blend of Sungura music and for a good hour she did her best and justified why she was representing the female gender at the big Sungura show.
With an elegantly dressed backing group, Shantel wowed the fans and showed great composure even with the uninspiring numbers in attendance.
After warming the stage for Sungura grandad and “Senior Lecturer,” Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria, he did what he knows best.
The goat bearded musician and left handed guitarist gave a polished act that would have been a show stopper had the venue filled to capacity.
He did what he was paid for, forget about the cheerleaders.
Fans started drawing closer to the stage as the Senior Lecturer gave a mixed dish of yesteryear hits like “Tsamba”and “Ida Anokuda” as well as new songs like “Alamu” from his 2022 album “Musabvunda”.
Almost to midnight jit musician “Baba Harare” came on stage dressed in all white.
The energetic performer who now calls himself the “Zimbabwean Giant” as taken from the title of his forthcoming album proved why he has grown to become one of the biggest entertainers in Zimbabwe.
Baba Harare received an overwhelming response from the fans.
His drills were on point and the guitar playing skills enchanting as fans sang along even to his solo lines that intoned the popular Baba Harare “Musadaro” slogans.
Baba Harare’s climax was when he surprised his fans with “Nyau dancers” on stage towards the end of his performance segment.
The Nyau dancers’ performances were energetic and music lovers could not resist throwing money on stage in appreciation.
With Baba Harare having set the bar high, some expected the next performer to struggle but that was not to be.
At midnight, the stage was set for “Nyaradzo Yababa” hit maker and Njanja Express frontman Mark Ngwazi whose confidence and polished act proved critics wrong.
The youthful musician who unfortunately has borne the brunt of unfair comparison with the Sungura King Alick Macheso proved why his name has continued to make the rounds in Sungura circles.
The pint sized performer gave a quality act which was well complemented by his dancers and guitarists led by former Orchestra Mberikwazvo lead guitarist Donald Gogo.
The continued top drawer performances by the well prepared musicians could not save the day as the numbers remained average.
Some of the critics could be heard questioning the logic behind raising gate tickets from US$30 to US$50 for VIP, yet alone it was already the wee hours of Sunday and there were no large numbers queuing.
Organisers justified the ticket prices that it was the actual price, the US$10 and US$30 tickets were only for the early bird arrangement.
But they even did not lure any “Jack and Jill”.
Be that as it may, a reading of the situation by organisers would have helped as some fans actually made their way back home upon realizing that tickets were at higher prices.
Queries aside, the show still had to continue and in came the Sungura Virtuoso Alick Macheso around 1am.
Macheso backed by his elegantly dressed Orchestra Mberikwazvo band proved why he is the undisputed King of Sungura with a convincing act that had fans in the auditorium chanting “Macheso Mai Mwana” for a good five minutes. The gifted bass guitarist had to put his act on hold as fans gave him due recognition for his consistency and top performances in a career spanning decades.
Macheso dished hit after hit drawing from his rich discography as well as new songs from his latest album “Tinosvitswanashe”.
So polished was Macheso’s act that some fans could be seen leaving the HICC soon after he left the stage.
The stage was left to the last man standing, Sulumani Chimbetu.
The Dendera crooner showed great character as he dished a quality performance that wowed those that stayed on even after the top drawer act from Macheso.
Hits like “One Way”, “Chauta”, “Mwanawe dangwe” and “Ndarangarira gamba” were crowd favourites as the all-white dressed Orchestra Dendera Kings backing group lived up to the billing.
For those that came, memories had been made and indeed the musicians had done their best to entertain.
The biggest question was why such a high profile show had failed to attract the numbers particularly with no competing gigs in the capital.
One Garikai Muchemwa, an avid Sungura music lover, blamed it on the marketing design of the show.
“This could have easily passed for the biggest Sungura show of 2022 but the organisers missed a thing or two in terms of marketing. Beyond social media and radio, they should have distributed show posters around greater Harare and in the residential areas to attract the numbers. I don’t believe the tickets were too high as fans pay more for even smaller shows than this one,” Muchemwa said.
Muchemwa’s sentiments were echoed by another Sungura fan Stern Zvavamwe who saluted Gateway Stream for organising a big Sungura show in a comely venue.
“Shows of this magnitude come rare and I want to salute Gateway Stream for this gesture. Sungura is our sound and it is true that not all of us can attend shows in outlying areas.
Had the organisers done their homework I am sure we would have had a night to remember because all the performers were on point,” Zvavamwe said.