By Fred Zindi
I am receiving mixed views about the recent London concerts by our own Zimbabwean artistes who performed there in August. Wala Danga, my long-time friend who is based in London, tells me that there was a record turnout at the Tuku/Macheso show.
The two Zimbabwean music giants proved to be the biggest crowd pullers by any Zimbabwean artiste coming to London. The venue, Oasis Banqueting, could not contain the crowd and management admitted to have never dealt with such a large crowd before.
The performances, I am told, were the best London crowds have ever seen in years. Both Oliver Mtukudzi and Alick Macheso proved their mettle as they showed the London crowds that they are seasoned entertainers.
However, I am getting a different report about the performances of Wallace Chirumiko, a.k.a. Winky D, and Stunner, Zimbabwean urban artistes who also performed in London. I am told that they failed to please. Below is a report from another friend, Aldrin Makotore, who wrote:
“London is the biggest stage in the world for any music and if an artiste is given an opportunity to come and perform they should raise their game and make a breakthrough that would change their life forever.
“The Sama festival featuring some of Zimbabwe’s best artistes in urban music was supposed to be a selling point of the new music to the world and a life changing experience to the artistes but disappointingly the magic never happened in London.
“We felt a bit sorry for the artistes as they tried every trick of the trade but London crowd was not moved. Part of the reason is people in London are exposed to some of the best shows in the world featuring top artistes who put up incredible performances.
“London Summer this year kick-started with Radio 1 Extra Hackney festival headlined by Jay-Z featuring Kanye West and then the following day Rihanna and there after followed loads of other artistes.
“When Winky D came on stage at the Sama festival using backing tracks, he had lots of energy but no one was moved. It was worse for Stunner. The main reason is that although they were singing in Shona, they were mimicking Jamaicans who can outperform them anytime.
“Our Zimbabwean artistes were seen as fake and the London crowd was not impressed at all. The second concert was at Wembly Arena and was dubbed ‘Africa Unplugged’. It was also dismal.
“Some are saying if MicInity who sings in English was there, it could have been better. We hear great things back home about these guys which means everyone including the fans have not yet stepped up to international standards.”
However, despite these negative comments, I spoke to three of my London-based Facebook friends who attended the concerts and they seemed to have enjoyed them. This is not Winky D’s first appearance in the UK, as he has toured Europe several times and at one time performed at the annual UK festival.
MicInity was supposed to be on the same bill but failed to go. Both artistes were expected to travel with their full bands. Jonathan Banda, Winky D’s manager, confirmed the schedule, but as it turned out neither Jonathan nor his Vigilance Band went to the UK.
Organisers of the concert, 233 Connect, thought it wise to just bring Winky D and Stunner alone without extra musicians in order to minimise costs.
My take on this report is mixed. First of all, if I was in Jonathan Banda’s shoes I would not have allowed Winky D to travel without his band. Alternatively, I would have asked for UK-based musicians to rehearse with Winky D and perform with him on such a big event, but CDs are a No No No No!
I remember advising Winky D never ever to go back to the use of CDs in the place of a live band and I thought he had taken heed.
Using pre-recorded music as backing tracks, to me, always feels like Karaoke. You see, I like Winky D. He is an intelligent and humble young man. He has huge energy and big stage presence. His shows in Harare have always been like a delicious piece of cheese cake, full of yummy goodness with a little cheese on top, and I love it.
The brilliant rhyming lyrics and the nostalgia of foot-stomping rhythm exuded from the Vigilance Band, as well as perfect Ninja melodies all rolled into one sweet Ninja beat, is too good to resist.
Before he left for the UK, I attended his show where he performed along Zahara at the Borrowdale Racecourse. He did not disappoint. He looked fantastic in his white Ninja outfit and his voice sounded crystal clear and strong. His thousands of fans sang along to every tune. In short, he was really spot-on!
Now what is this about Winky D disappointing the London crowd? It does not make sense to me. I am trying to imagine the scenario and I am thinking to myself that maybe the London crowd are “getting on in years” and cannot relate to some of the Zim-swagger Winky D is all about.
Simply put, they could be out of touch with the trends here. In Zimbabwe, Winky D sings mainly for the ghetto youths who identify with the trials and tribulations they face here and it is easy for him to thrill such audiences with “self- aggrandisement” songs such as “Musarove Bigiman” and “Takaipa-Takaipa”, to which the aged London audiences may not relate to.
The London posse may not even know how to react when he jumps on stage with his opening song, “Maninja” or understand why he calls himself “Messi we Reggae”. I hope he did not try to teach them patois as he does the audiences in Zimbabwe or talk about DeMbare supporters. Even if he had gone with Lipsy to sing “Taitirana paFirst Street”, I am sure the reaction would have been the same.
Perhaps the “Ninja President” should start writing more conscious songs on social issues experienced in today’s world such as gender bias, Aids, poverty, war and crime, then the whole world would understand where he is coming from.
Fred Zindi is a professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a musician and an author of several books on music. He can be contacted via e-mail on email@example.com
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