Saturday 4 June 2022


WHEN high flying Amapiano act, Amaroto, stepped on stage on Africa Day at BAC Leisure Gardens, it was 15 minutes after the clock had struck midnight.

Up until that hour, just a shade after midnight, an excited crowd had waited patiently for South Africa’s Iy’ntsimbi Zase Envy hitmakers. Never mind the fact that an ordinary ticket on the day went for US$10 while VIP entry could set one back as much as US$30 at the gate.

It also did not matter that the next day, a Thursday, was a working day, or that people had paid as much as US$20 for another Amaroto headlined gig in February that did not take place. In that moment, all that mattered was that Amaroto, after a long wait, had finally come.

Cameras clicked and selfies were taken, videos were captured and edited for dawn Instagram reels. Amaroto, the two wordsmiths that seem to be reviving kwaito lyricism, were live on stage in the City of Kings.

However, despite all the excitement and lung-bursting cheers, Amaroto had dropped their microphones and stepped off stage by 00:45. For some, it was a shockingly short performance, an appetiser for a crowd that was salivating for a buffet.

For Bulawayo music lovers, raised on a staple of South African acts such as Dan Chanda, Soul Brothers, Oskido and DJ Fresh, A-listers who would perform until the sun started smiling on the eastern horizon, this was a naked betrayal that could not even be hidden by Amaroto’s excited posts about their love for Bulawayo the next day.

While some fans cried robbery, promoters of the show, Mduduzi Mdlongwa’s 3D Entertainment, had a different story to tell. According to Mdlongwa, the performance by Amaroto met all the terms and conditions agreed on their contract.

“That will be stipulated in the contract as you are making the payment, especially for these Amapiano acts. So, the promoter will not have much control when it comes to performance time,” he said.

According to fellow promoter Marshall Mpofu, while fans in Bulawayo are used to artistes playing until the break of dawn, this is only possible if artistes enjoy a healthy relationship with the promoter.

Artistes such as Oskido, Black Coffee and DJ Fresh had cultivated friendly relations with their Bulawayo counterparts and hence did not mind playing over the stipulated time.

“Sometimes it depends on the relations between the artiste, promoter and manager. For example, during the Independence celebrations, the contract that I signed under Shilolo Media House stipulated that the performance had to be 30 minutes.

So, Master KG performed for 30 minutes while Sandra performed for more than 30 minutes but the contract stipulated that she had to perform for 30 minutes. It was out of her own will that she performed that long. It depends on the understanding between people.

“For example, DJ Tira might be scheduled to perform for two hours and in the end, he does four or five hours and all this is because of the relationship that he enjoys with the people that would have brought him. If you ask the promoter that brought those guys, he will tell you that the contract stipulated that they would perform for 30 minutes.

It’s not fair on fans and I think promoters should look at booking artistes that they know will be able to give people maximum value for entertainment and perform for a reasonable amount of time,” he said.

The rise of amapiano, especially during Covid-19-inspired lockdowns since March 2020, has given birth to a new breed of stars that have grabbed their chance to be in the spotlight.

However, while they may sparkle in the studio, some of them have struggled to keep the momentum going when they go on stage, while very few have amassed a catalogue that allows them to go beyond the 30-minute performances that Bulawayo now knows them for.

“I think what’s happening these days is that a lot of these Amapiano acts just don’t have a lot of material,” said promoter, Babongile Sikhonjwa. “So, you will find that an artiste has four or five hot songs, or even one, and they are coming here to perform for a crowd that has a lot of expectations.

So obviously, a promoter will know that a certain artiste has songs that are worth 30 or 45 minutes. It’s been happening but people just don’t know that promoters sign contracts based on how long an artiste will perform. That is how contracts are structured.

So, you’ll see, for example Mafikizolo, they will charge for a back track and also charge for a band. So, it all differs because for a band they charge you a certain amount of money so everything is contract related.

But you will get the old school guys like Fresh and Oskido, if they are enjoying at a particular venue, it doesn’t matter if you have paid them for one-and-a-half hours, they will play for three hours or even until the sun rises.

The likes of Black Coffee are also the same but for the new school guys it’s a little different because if the contract says 45 minutes that is what is exactly what they will give you,” he said.

Sikhonjwa also said that local audiences had a hard time distinguishing between club performances and concerts.

“The contracts are always time stipulated but promoters never tell people that this guy will perform for a certain amount of time. So, you will see people complaining up and down that Amaroto only performed for 30 minutes.

Another important aspect that we need to teach the audience is that a show and a concert are two different things. If it’s a concert, that’s when we can expect artistes maybe to perform for a long time. But if it’s a show, especially a club show, you don’t expect anyone to perform for over an hour or an hour-and-a-half,” he said.

In Harare, promoters of the Burna Boy show at Belgravia Sports Ground were at pains to point out that the Nigerian superstar was only going to perform for one-and-a-half hours, contrary to expectations of a longer show. It was a brave admission from promoters, who usually keep such details hidden from fans before gigs. Mdlongwa said full disclosure might be the only way to make sure fans are not disgruntled after shows going forward.

“I think it needs to be clear from now on going forward, just like these Harare guys have done to advise the patrons that they are coming to watch a 20 or 30-minute performance which is what they usually offer. It looks like Burna Boy has given them a bonus by performing,” Mdlongwa said.

However, with both show promoters and bar owners eager to maximise profits, including from alcohol sales, it might be a tall order to get promoters to disclose all information beforehand. Sikhonjwa said in the end, the biggest losers were revellers as promoters were not paying as much as they usually would to artistes for the shortened performances.

“We also have to teach our audiences about changing trends in showbiz. If you look at our entertainment scene, it is influenced a lot by what happens in South Africa and in terms of club performances, what we get this side these days is generally also what is happening in SA.

On the same note, we have to say that promoters are also overcharging people because they really are not paying the artistes a lot of money for these little performances. What we should be doing is engaging stakeholders in the clearance of artistes because they are the ones that are making bringing in artistes very expensive.

That’s Zimra, censorship, National Arts Council and Immigration. So, if we engage stakeholders and those fees for bringing in artistes go down, the entry fees will also go down and there will be no need for us to complain about the small performances,” he said.

To avoid a scenario where fans lose complete trust in foreign headlined shows, Mpofu said promoters needed to once again go for tried and tested crowd pullers with extensive catalogues that could support longer performances.

“When it comes to people like Amaroto, sometimes there is a desire to invite artistes like that but usually they don’t have a lot of material to perform and they can only be only stage for a short space of time. They might have three or four hit songs to perform and nothing else to do on stage after that. It’s not fair to fans and I think promoters should look at booking artistes that they know will be able to give people maximum value for entertainment and perform for a reasonable amount of time,” he said. Sunday News


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