By Mtandazo Dube and Takudzwa Chihambakwe
The grand launch that never was!
This statement best sums up Jah Prayzah’s disastrous outing in the Midlands capital of Gweru last weekend, which he had billed as the launch of his Military Touch Movement (MTM).
With a fine line-up of artistes, consisting of members of the new music posse, and Midlands State University having just opened for a fresh semester, this was no show to miss for any music enthusiast.
The MTM anthem “Chekeche” has been fairly received by fans and is doing pretty well on local radio charts. So, this was definitely a chance to shine.
Having “swallowed” his perceived major competitor on the local scene, Andy Muridzo, who he signed up for his label, Jah Prayzah looked all set.
But things did not work out.
The “Watora Mari” singer chose to experiment, dumping promoters to go it alone for what seemed like a slam dunk. This was the moment Jah Prayzah wanted to show the world that he had come of age.
Midlands Hotel was the venue and judging from JP’s previous high-profile events, anticipation was that there would be heavy MTM branding to market the brand.
That was not the case at all.
JP and his team were in for rude awakening, and that awakening was to come on Friday February 24 when Jah Prayzah and his team rolled the dice and were taken to the cleaners.
The buzz that characterised the announcement of Military Touch Movement was not there. The fancy photo shoots that made some believe the MTV Music Award winner was now following in the footsteps of The Mavins boss, Don Jazzy, were not reproduced on stage. Tahle, the only female artiste in MTM, did not show up.
The launch was flat and lacked the pizazz and euphoria usually associated with JP.
The stage was horrible: MTM was launched on the back of the trailer of a haulage truck. The least they could have done was pimp up or paint the rusty thing when they took it from the scrapyard where old Scanias and Leylands go to when they die.
Another big shock was the low turnout.
There were just over 1 000 people in attendance, but those are the numbers JP easily pulls by himself when he plays outside Harare. For an outdoor show with a solid line-up, 1 000 was on the very low side.
This could be the comeuppance for poor marketing.
Gweru had more posters of a Winky D show set for the following weekend at the same venue than MTM had for its grand launch.
On the bright side, though, the artistes seemed to enjoy themselves. And their post-performance interviews said it all.
Said Natty O, who was the first to go on stage with a spirited performance: “The show was really amazing I enjoyed myself big time.”
At least the young dancehall chanter enjoyed himself, as the same could not be said about an audience that appeared to have had a wet blanket thrown over it. So damp was the atmosphere that none of the ladies in the crowd accepted his invitation to join him on stage.
But give it to Natty O, the boy is the kind of lyrical genius who has the talent to go international.
Added Natty O: “I always heard people saying that the Gweru crowd is difficult to please but I’m happy that I got part of the crowd singing along and even dancing to my grove.”
He also praised MTM saying, “It is a great platform that will see me perform for audiences that would have taken me years to access. This movement has enabled me to tap into the fans of all the various artistes signed up. I am grateful to Jah Prayzah for starting this initiative that will enable me to grow and learn at a faster rate than I would have done as an individual.”
Next to perform was ExQ — and the rapper slayed it. The guy has hit songs and the ladies loved him. They screamed from the time he belted out hits from his early days when urban grooves was starting in Zimbabwe, right through to newer bangers like “Bhachura”.
“The show was great but I believe we need to work on more songs together as MTM so that when we perform, we can have a section where we sing together as the MTM artistes,” said ExQ after his well-received act.
After the rapper, whom we can say is MTM’s AK-47, the movement’s shotgun, Andy Muridzo, jumped onto the stage to wild cheers.
But the screams ended there.
He tried all the tricks in the book but the crowd would not be moved. It finally took what could have been his last card — doing covers of popular reggae-dancehall tunes, including some by local chanters Winky D and Killer T — to get some sign of life out of the crowd.
It was no surprise that the “Dherira” hit-maker was booed off the stage after an uninspiring 70-minute set.
Muridzo saw it differently: “I have never felt so much love from an audience I am performing for the very first time. Yes, I have been in Gweru but that was during their Agricultural Show. The dynamics are different when you are having a stand-alone show.
“I think this was a great start for MTM and people in Gweru accepted us and have seen that we are a movement that is going far. I want to salute all the artistes that performed tonight because they all did exceptionally well.”
A few minutes before 2am on Saturday, with all the troops having played their part, it was time for the big dog, the commander of MTM to take to stage.
As was the case with Muridzo, the crowd went wild when JP got on stage with some ladies reacting as if it was their first time to see the lanky heartthrob.
JP delivered the goods and spiced up things by combining with Andy Muridzo on the track “Watora Mari”.
However, even as JP left the stage there was a feeling of loss in the crowd, as if they had been short-changed. The air of dissatisfaction was palpable.
JP’s manager Keen Mushapaidze said, “The Gweru show was wholly run by MTM without support from any promoters. All logistics were internally handled. The process was not easy I must admit. There were a lot of lessons we learnt in the build up to the show, as well as during and after the show.
“We had to deal with many dynamics that a promoter would usually deal with. This time we had to run around and make sure things worked out. It was tough, but a good learning experience.”
How will they sustain MTM if five artistes are seeking a piece of the small cake provided by 1 000-strong audience?
“It is important to note that the vision of MTM is to promote the artistes we signed on. As we stated when the movement was formed, there won’t be any financial fruits expected in these early days. We believe in future numbers will grow as Jah Prayzah fans begin to accept and appreciate the flair of MTM artistes.” Mushapaidze said. “We will also be working with other promoters to push this movement, because MTM is for everyone.” The Sunday Mail