Life, Africa

Zimbabwean musicians feel impact of COVID-19 restrictions

Economic crunch sends music and showbiz industry in doldrums with artists unable to find work in Zimbabwe

John Cassim   | 01.10.2021
Zimbabwean musicians feel impact of COVID-19 restrictions

HARARE, Zimbabwe 

The COVID-19 related lockdown and its economic fallout has hit musicians in Zimbabwe hard, to the extent that some of them are leaving their profession.

Recently a young dancehall musician Enzol Ishal (real name Stephen Kudzanayi Mamhere), announced early retirement citing stress and pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The demands of the showbiz industry are relentless. The ongoing pandemic has made it worse so the cumulative effect over some time can have a major impact on your wellbeing,” Ishal wrote on his Facebook page.

His announcement led many other musical artists to come out in the open to narrate their woes.

“We are left with no choice but to hustle elsewhere, the little I get I also share with my five-member band,” said Leonard Nhau leader of the musical band called Mutemwa Challengers.

An established music producer Mono Mukundu, who is also founder and director of Monolio Studios said over the past 19 months there is no work for him.

“Music studio business has gone down. The ripple effect of COVID-19 is that artists are not getting work. They are unable to afford to pay for the studio,” he said.

Apart from suffering from economic recession, the lack of alternatives to selling their creative work is also hitting them below the belt.

While few artists have been able to earn by selling their songs online, but a majority of them have been reduced to penury.

Just a few hours after songs or an album is released, they are pirated and sold in defiance of copyright laws.

“Zimbabweans haven’t warmed up yet to buying music online, so right now there is nothing to write home about, piracy is killing our industry,” said Mukundu.

Online option not sustainable

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Maizon Tazvitya, a young musician based in Harare said selling music online is not sustainable.
He said Zimbabwean artists are used to running their bands the traditional way of staging public shows. Further, he said the Internet is very expensive in the country and most Zimbabweans deal with cash instead of using bank cards to purchase songs or to patronize the music industry.

Zimbabwe has been on lengthy lockdowns from the time the coronavirus was declared a pandemic last year.

Several governments including Zimbabwe banned musical shows which have posed serious challenges to artists who earned living by performing public shows.

While the government had allowed musicians to perform but limited the audience to 50 people, the industry says, it is not helpful.

Considering most bands had not performed for the whole year, savings began to dwindle hence illegal shows sprouted during the festive season leading to the arrest of three artists.

Early this year Zimbabwean police arrested musicians Arnold Kamudyariwa also known as Dhama and Tafadzwa Kadzimwe for hosting a concert to celebrate New Year in Harare. As many as 52 people who had attended the event were also arrested.

Both the musicians were later convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

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