By Bruce Ndlovu
While the crowd waited for Cassper Nyovest to turn up on stage, a Bulawayo-based promoter, after taking a glance at the less than impressive crowd that had turned up to see the rapper put up another stellar performance, remarked that Harare promoters seemed to have money to waste.
This was not just because Bulawayo seemed to have snubbed Nyovest, who went on to have a remarkably well attended show at Glamis Arena in the capital the next night, but because the organisation for the gig had been pretty shoddy.
As one of the young African urban music princes vying for the top spot, Cassper Nyovest does not come cheap. Any promoter that wants the Tito Mboweni hit-maker to perform on any given night has to dig deep into their pockets.
So when word got out that City Hall Car Park was to host African music royalty, many showbiz insiders expected announcement of the show to be accompanied by a publicity and marketing blitz from promoters that wanted to make the most of their investment.
Instead, the marketing and publicity drive was pedestrian, with only a few posters, some half torn down, glued to trees announcing the imminent arrival of a man who clearly enjoys a large following in Zimbabwe, as Harare showed the next day.
Little effort was dedicated to pestering showbiz journalists, as promoters of old used to do, for publicity.
“The organisation of this show has convinced me that these people aren’t interested in recouping their money. The Harare promoters really don’t care from the look of things. I mean look at the stage,” said the local promoter as he pointed towards a stage that seemed fit for an amateur concert rather than an event boasting one of 2017’s hottest acts.
Also on the bill were Zimdancehall’s man-of-the-moment Souljah Luv and Freeman, who both performed after Nyovest. To underline the shoddy preparation surrounding the gig, the barrier separating the VIP and the rest of the crowd collapsed midway through the rapper’s set.
The shambolic organisation of the concert is not a new trend. With show after show flopping and promoters barely batting an eyelid afterwards, many are beginning to question whether promoters are genuine about making money from the shows at all.
Some are speculating that the shows are now mainly a front for faceless, unscrupulous businessmen desperate to clean dirty money and escape the wrath of tax and law men.
Money laundering is the process by which a person or organisation converts cash and assets gained through illicit activity into a form that can be used legitimately and openly without drawing the attention of the authorities.
If this is indeed happening, it would not be something unique to Zimbabwe alone.
In Guatemala, former vice-president and co-ordinator of the studio centre, Eduardo Stein said that money was being cleaned through concerts a few years ago. He said this was because it was difficult to verify audience attendance against concert earnings hence promoters were laundering money with little oversight.
In the aftermath of shows, promoters are never upfront with either profit or loss, closely guarding their success and failures.
Last year when South Africa’s Mabala Noise began signing all the best local talent for millions of rands, opposition politician Julius Malema claimed that they were laundering money, daring them to sue them if he was lying. They never did.
“He brought Chris Brown in Durban during Durban July, paid Chris Brown R10 million and he never made back that money, why? Because they were launching that Mabala Noise to go and capture celebrities in the name of them being registered under a progressive company called Mabala Noise,” an accusatory Malema said.
One city promoter confirmed that as the country went through tough economic times, many registered promoters could not afford to do the actual promoting themselves but were instead doing the bidding of a few business heavyweights who wanted to remain in the background, silent and unknown.
“They bring the finance and you make the preparations on the ground. So in essence you’re a runner. I can’t tell you how they recoup their money but what I can say is some powerful people are involved.
“Just look at the shows with dancehall stars in Harare and tell me how any ordinary promoter can afford that. I mean Jah Prayzah and Winky D are already expensive on their own so how does one get a international in addition to those two? What are the chances of getting back your money?” he said. B Metro