Zimbabwean artists sinking under Covid-19 restrictions

By Kennedy Navaya 

Over 15 months have passed since large public gatherings were banned locally owing to Zimbabwe’s stringent regulations to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

For artistes, particularly musicians, the restrictions virtually meant an abolishment of music concerts and subsequent drying up of their revenue streams.

Without alternative sources to make significant income, most musicians have become paupers relying on handouts while others have pinned hopes on hardly sufficient internet sales and royalties.

According to dancehall chanter,  SehCalaz, if gatherings like weddings, churches, workshops, schools, bus termini and all kinds of markets have been enjoying the freedoms of operation, albeit in adherence to health guidelines like wearing of masks and sanitizing, then musicians should be allowed to work as well.

“What did we do wrong as artistes, large gatherings can be seen countrywide without much consequence but when it comes to artistes it’s different, are our representatives sleeping on the job?” quizzed the chanter on social media.

 Ironically, some neighbouring countries with more severe cases of Covid-19 have been accommodating live musical concerts, yet, in January, local musicians Fantan and DJ Levels, ended up behind bars for hosting a New Year’s Eve gig in Mbare. 

For award winning songstress Selmor Mtukudzi, the inability of local artistes to perform was a sign that policymakers are giving musicians a raw deal.

“This is the first time in the years I have been performing outside Zimbabwe that I have felt sad to be coming back home,” she tweeted after a recent tour to South Africa.

“Please Mr President @edmnangagwa do not let us artists be destitute in our own land. Let’s copy what SA is doing & allow us to work for our families(sic),” Selmor added.

It remains to be seen whether musicians will be allowed to perform for local audiences when the current lockdown is relaxed, but a continuity of the past will result in the demise of many creatives, says music promoter Plot Mhako.

“I feel there is need for a universal engagement and understanding, otherwise the already struggling (music) industry will collapse and many artists may never recover,” Mhako said.

“Our music industry is heavily dependent on live performances despite the changes on the digital space where most artists make their money and promote their music through physical events.”

True to Mhako’s sentiments, most of those in the music industry have professed their Covid-19-induced poverty and how, with or without the pandemic, they yearn for a genuine reprieve from their woes.

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