Home » Arts & Culture » Wanted – Genuine Family Shows [column]

Last year, the Harare City Council imposed a ban on the use of Harare Gardens by music promoters as an entertainment venue. Harare Gardens was an ideal venue for family shows but with the ban, families became starved of music places where parents and their children could go and enjoy music. The

ban also left music lovers who cannot attend late night gigs for a variety of reasons disappointed.

However, ideas were soon brought about to find alternative venues. Promoter Biggie Chinoperekwei, after negotiations with the City of Harare, identified a place opposite the Showgrounds in Harare and called it The Sunset Arena, but no family show was ever held there. He managed to put up the Sunset October Beer Festival and the City Fathers seemed to have changed their mind about the use of the place as a music venue.

Last week, however, Farai Gukwe of Westlea’s Rangers’ Gardens with family interests in mind, dedicated his joint to a music programme designed for families.

The country’s top superstars, Jah Prayzah and Suluman Chimbetu, were billed as the main attractions.

The show started at midday and a mbira group opened up for the two superstars. By 3:30pm, the joint which is rather small in size, was already full. Dozens of children who had thronged the venue were seen on the jumping castle while their parents took to drinking from the two bars which were strategically placed as they all anxiously waited for Jah Prayzah and Suluman.

Unfortunately the mbira group, despite its great effort to please the crowd, was not particularly g in its delivery.

It did not make for scintillating entertainment. Both the children and their parents looked bored.

We can simply call it a wash. However, the group was allowed to stay on the stage until 6:30pm.

At around 7pm, The Third Generation Band, all donned in elegant military tunic outfits raided the stage and started strutting out their stuff with Braveman Chizvino, the lead guitarist, on vocals. They opened with a cover version of Lucky Dube’s “Slave” while the focus was on their lingering eeriness of the forthcoming album entitled “Jerusarema” which will be launched at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on Friday, May 22.

After the second song, Jah Prayzah, decked out in an impeccable army outfit, with four dancers, made an entrance to the stage and the crowd was ecstatic. Everyone ran closer to the stage children, parents and all. In their delight to see their star of the moment, they all started to scream.

So often when you see your favourite musician at a live show, you are amazed at how small they are.

However, that is not the case with this lanky frontman of the Third Generation Band known as Jah Prayzah. He certainly towers over all his band mates.

Third Generation Band laid out some sinister sounding harder rocking licks behind Jah Prayzah who shouted “Masoja muriko here uko?”Mabhebhi muriko here uko?”Ko Boys dzangu muriko here uoko?” as the crowd responded with “Eeheh” and he went on to pronounce, “Heavy! Heavy!” before belting into “Soja Rinosvika Kure”.

After that we were treated to snippets of songs from the forthcoming album including “Jerusarema” and the crowd began to wonder when he was going to perform the songs they were familiar with such as “Gochi Gochi”, “Tsviriyo” and “Kumbumura Mhute”.

The band even went further away from the expected when they started singing, “Daddy wherever you are, remember me. In whatever you do, I love you” another song from Lucky Dube’s compositions.

However, the powerful rhythm ofJah Prayzah’s “Yambuka Rukova” began to add tension and ferocity before looping into “Kumbumura Mhute” during which Jah Prayzah’s emphatic flashes of mbira playing stunned the sold out crowd while the rest of the band and dancers comprising Blessing Moyo (bass guitarist), Kudakwashe Masango, Darlington Kamukono (backing vocalist),Wesley Sayikonda (drummer), Biggie Katuka (keyboard player), Braveman Chizvino (lead guitarist), Fatima Katiji, Edith WeUtonga’s sister (backing vocalist),Talent Karombe (dancer) and Elvis Chinounda (dancer)gave a stomping performance.

The band’s performance came to a peak when the familiar tunes began to pour in “Tsamba”, “Machembere”, “Yambuka Rukova”, “Makanika” “Ngoda”, “Anoti go, go, go”, “Ane Shangu Dzinorira” and so forth.

Jah Prayzah gave a splendid three- hour-long set. By the time he finished, it was close to 10 o’clock. That was before Suluman came on stage to perform at what was dubbed a “family show”.

By the time Suluman got onto the stage, the venue was half empty because the parents had to take their children back home, some of whom were to go to school the next morning. Most of them who had come with the intention of seeing Suluman in action missed out because it was too late for a Sunday family show.

While the idea of family shows is a good one, the culture of artistes starting late for a show billed to begin at midday is a disservice to families who want to have family fun. Many artistes are not keen to begin their show until there is a reasonable crowd and will begin their act at night like what happened on Sunday. Patrons are also used to these artistes not going on stage until late, so they also tend to drift slowly to the venue.

Promoters, however, have got a job to do. They should bring this unfruitful culture to a stop. They should find ways of encouraging revellers to come early. Gimmicks that often work include: “Drinks sold at half price before 2pm” or “Free entrance for the first 50 patrons to arrive before 2pm”. That way the artistes will find the venue full and are willing to start early. It becomes a win-win situation in which a true family show becomes a reality.

Traditionally family shows are supposed to start at miday and end around 8pm.

The promoters of such shows, if they want to be professional about their business, should write on their posters, “JahPrayzah is on stage at 3pm and Sulu at 5.30.” and stick to these schedules. This way, the patrons will know when to arrive if they realise that the promoters are serious about time. The situation, as it stands, has left many fans disappointed after many family shows have failed to start in the afternoon.

Family shows give children the opportunity to get close to their idols as well as other activities such as jumping castles, which is fun for the whole family.

Rangers Gardens has come up with an alternative venue for a family show, but a lot needs to be done if they want the venue to be popular. First of all, the venue needs expanding to give room for the extra activities for the children. The bar areas also need expansion to avoid congestion. There should be people cleaning the tables frequently. I observed that chicken bones left by patrons who had eaten the chicken two hours before were still strewn at the tables. There should be an extra selling point for the children’s drinks instead of children using the same facility as adult drinkers. The toilets I witnessed there leave a lot to be desired. It is essential for the organisers to keep their toilets clean as dirty toilets do not only look bad, but also smell bad and breed germs.

Apart from all this, there is a great need for organised parking. Most of the patrons who came to the venue last Sunday could not get out when they wanted to leave because their cars were blocked by other cars.

On a different note, today, March 16, marks the third anniversary of Andy Brown’s death. He died a day after his 50th birthday in 2012.

The qualities for which Andy Brown will most be remembered by his colleagues were his guitar-playing prowess, his energy, tenacity and hard work. He was a man utterly in love with his craft and he somehow contrived, by means of that quasi-magical electricity that animates all effective musicians, to transmit some of that love to all his fans, band-mates and fellow musicians. He left us with many little things to laugh about, many great songs to sing along and many great ideas to think about. The loss of his life will impact on us forever.

Source : The Herald