SOMETIMES this writer sits down and wonders what it will take for Zambia and Zambians to realise that we have taken seriously detrimental decisions in terms of the development of our music industry. Look at the state of affairs today. The so-called “hits” on some of our radio stations are now not even been released and sold as CDs in any of the shops in Zambia.
If you do not believe this writer, listen to some of these radio stations and take note of so-called “hits”. Be warned that you might need to have a very strong stomach and a high tolerance for punishment because what is played on these stations does not even qualify to be called music in some instances. Some of these are noise pieces that are probably designed to induce vomiting and to completely spoil one’s day.
One might argue that that technology has changed and most music is now sold online (on the Internet) but this music is not available for sale even on the Internet. A new phenomenon has reared its ugly head. Some partial-music artiste (with very dubious music talent, if any) rushes to the many computers now called “studios” in Zambia, plagiarizes a song, makes a video and announces on the many social media that a new video is out. Some of our radios DJs without shame praise and play this nonsense and we have, as if by magic, a “hit”. We have delved on the lack of shame in other articles and we have theorized that some of these DJs are probably being paid to sell their pride. They are worse than prostitutes. At least prostitutes do not pretend to be moral about the products they sell.
What is the problem here? These noise pieces are not translated into albums and CDs not merely because of piracy. Some music shops this writer talked to reported that these stupid songs just doesn’t sell when released. Zambians don’t want to take this rubbish home. They will listen to it at a wedding, some event or on radio, but won’t buy it. These partial-music artistes have realised this and don’t even waste time completing albums now. This has left most music shops with CDs of very few Zambian artistes. Music shops all over the world cannot survive on selling music of foreign artistes. This is true everywhere. So at the moment until we get Zambian music sold in shops again, the Zambian music industry has collapsed. Real musicians are denied the space to release music and have it sold because our DJs can only play what is being paid for. And if the radio stations do not play your music, the likelihood that your music will sell is low. A viscous circle. These partial-music artistes do not care about copyright control. In fact they don’t want strict copyright control because they would not thrive in such an environment. Do you think thieves are happy when we take more measures to protect our property? The partial-music artistes will never be allies in the pursuit for a better copyright control. Where do we go now?
The hologram, the savior of the music industry, a gift from the government to ensure musicians get their due is being made irrelevant by the partial-music artistes and the worse-than-prostitutes DJs who have just given up on releasing music products (CDs and online sales) and just get their radio hits which in turn become dancehall hits. This gets the partial-music artistes the miming performances and the gravy train for them continues. An industry-driven solution was dealt a severe blow when the momentum of the Maiko Zulu-led Zambia Association of Musicians efforts was brought to halt when his executive tried to hand over power to another executive last January where controversy on the election process ensued. The The National Arts Council then dissolved Zulu’s executive. Maiko Zulu’s executive developed a strategic plan that was meant to address some of these ills in the Zambian music industry. It wasn’t a perfect document but the intent gave hope that finally Zambian music was going to turn things round. In a move that appears to be suspect at minimum and – in the perception of some – a window dressing illegitimacy, NAC oversaw the election of a new ZAM executive recently that ushered in Njoya T as chairperson. Suspect on two counts. First, many musicians don’t even know how the delegates were selected. Njoya T has a mammoth task of getting support and acceptance from fellow musicians. Support from NAC is insufficient for Njoya to getting the much-needed impetus required to address the many daunting problems of Zambia’s music industry. In fact, all industry organisations draw their support from their members, not their regulators. In appearance it looks as though NAC is deciding what ZAM should do, who they should elect – a completely unhealthy situation. That is why this writer has urged musicians to form their own group to lobby for their interests; a musicians union or a musician’s federation, as it were. ZAM can continue existing but a strong musicians’ voice is probably going to require a different organisation.
If a musicians’ body decided to charge an annual fee of K500 per musician and they had just 2,000 registered musicians, that would bring in K1,000,000. This is enough to run a small but effective secretariat that can organise events, raise funds and perform the much-needed think tank roles for Zambian musicians