Bulawayo Artists are building houses on sand

Nobody listens to Bulawayo music out of artistry-motivated interests, unless you live in a cave. People listen out of "let's support local" influences to fulfill a "support local" campaign, like how people buy bananas from a vendor with a "sifak'izandla" attitude but alternatively regularly buy from Pic'n'Pay as a retail therapy activity. It's not that Bulawayo people are arts and culture averse, we wouldn't jam to Lemons on repeat if we were. It's that artists here, with their undoubted talents, lack celebrity!


Bulawayo artists' lifestyles are too shallow and personas too humble and too accessible for celebrities, they have substance-less bars with no resonance to their active lives, just poetically stimulating. "Oh, that line about Melz was heavy! But who's Melz? The chick from Burnside, that chick?? Let me check his IG. He took the pics down. Shitt she swerved him for a rich oke? I can't believe she did him like that man! After all, he did? Bitches ain't shit bro!" That sort of lyric realism is what artists fall short of. 

I often hear chats about "word-play", what about life-play? So much strategy on lyricism but what about a strategy on lifestyle and relationships? Dololo.There's literally nothing else interesting about their sheer lives, just boujie for jack, most don't even have driver's licenses in their name. Sigada nabo, siyabacela betshede emakhombini and they pop their earphones on some "wassup?" heyi ndoda akutshede sihlalisane! We meet them on the pavements giving dollars to street kids, so kind; Look, we want scarcity, dula! We want heavy-duty convoys with bouncer escorts or even V8s with crews and boujie baddies in blonde weaves, we want baby-mama drama, coke rumours, propaganda, arrests, paparazzi, artist feuds, deals with corporates not OK Mart, we want cliques with rich folk and all of that jazz, elitism. 

Ginimbi was here once, and not one artist leveraged his image and friendship. Who's going to sponsor you through without risky relationships with affluent folks and these dodgy discreet gold or movers or fuel smugglers. I can blame poor artist management too if there is at all. Not these risk-averse wannabe managers, I'm talking savvy artist managers with a niche, a daring stare, balls and militant strategies to script a low-lifer to life.

Look, being an artist is an occupation universally associated with celebrity culture,  in which celebrity culture is idolized and echoed by crowd screams, thriving on envy. Artists who can't land that standard, which is the piteous case in the City of Kings, suffer criticism. You can't be an artist and expect to live a normal civilian life falling fazed by crowd criticism, we want your dirty laundry hung on the public washing line, we want scenes, can you act? Artists are held to a high standard of performance than any occupation, you need thick skin. 

Usually, I don't engage in timeline discourse about Bulawayo artists on Twitter, many empaths are salvaging the chat and always employ the good old self-righteous cause-to-effect stunt of dragging and equating critics' lives to that of artists, to which many people then fold out of a guilty conscience. Yet it is already a problem that one can compare an artist's life to that of a banana vendor and ask "wena ungcono ngaphi?". Look I shouldn't even be ngcono vele in the first place but since you've asked I've got a driver's license, next. Even a banana vendor should be able to criticize an artist without being asked where he's better, lol well I've sold more bananas than you have your AUD0001507 ekse, see where this is going? 

However, poor artist etiquette isn't the only shortfall in Bulawayo artists, the cripling Bulawayo economy and a minuscule audience is another major factor and in fact, is the causation for poor artist etiquette. Urban Bulawayo artists rely on such a small audience, so small that Skyz Metro FM doesn't have to and would not suffer a loss for not airing their music, but they do anyway under pushed "support local" pressures which they yield to bargain from being inclusive. 

Urban Bulawayo artists i.e. Hip-Hop, Pop, Blues and Afro-Pop genres have got a target audience situated mostly in the Suburbs, which is only within a 10km or at most 12km radius from the CBD to the Burnside hilltop and the Killarney squatter settlement. This demographic, however, is already consumed in other tribes of the above-stated genres, South African and Western tribes, so our artists suffer negligence, YouTube numbers are the evidence of this premise. You can count on your fingers and toes and your friends the number of people who actively indulge in Urban Bulawayo music, probably can only fill up that art gallery hall and leave vacant space. 

Ask a passerby in the Suburbs today to name five Urban Bulawayo artists and the answer you'll get is "are there any?" Followed by an Aha moment of "Oh I've heard of so & so actually" rendering them as the last priority. Their audience compass also truthfully arrows to high-density areas where listening is sadly much lower, which brings me to why Skyz Metro doesn't have to air their music. Skyz Metro FM is a People's Station, it's not an English-centric and/or styled station. Their active audience is "People" in Ntabazinduna, Filabusi, Khezi, Cowdraypark eMpompini, Nkulumane, Matshobane, Makhokhoba and all High-Density areas. 

There's nobody in the Suburbs who are locked in on Skyz Metro FM unless necessary, in fact, supermarkets don't play around the 100,3 frequency they play ZiFM Stereo or the Johannesburg 94,7 Highveld Stereo for reasons about their commercialized style of radio play which is recommended for inducing retail therapy amongst other things like dialogue style and a type of billboard music which is all-people harbouring. 

Shopping at Greens is a bit of a bop because of the 94,7 Highveld radio station. So, Skyz Metro FM thrives on People's music which is Ndolwane, Sginci, Gqom, Gospel and Piano that is the type of music which makes them sell advertising space, not some kid from Hillside who's been trying for weeks to get their music aired and is fast growing entitled to royalties. Ntethe was hyped because most Bulawayo people are drawn to such people's music and are true to People's circumstances, also it did draw attention off of hyped timeline dialogue and therefore thrived on curiosity. The reason Ndolwane super sounds and Lovemore Majaivana is huge to the People is that they were proactive and sold their CDs erenkini shebeens and traditional celebrities. But these urban artists think standing behind a studio deck, sending a couple tweets, maintaining a cool Holyhood-like aesthetic on the gram and being aired on Skyz is a job and a half in a Bulawayo society mostly inclined to People's music and South African media. You playing ekse!

Lastly, the Bulawayo economy is not doing these kids justice. Go to a corporate as an artist or artist manager, present a good affiliate plan with viable and lucrative bargains on their part for sponsoring your event or music, and they will refer you to their Capital branch in Harare. Why? Corporates here are extensions of Harare headquarters, the ones fully based in Bulawayo are incapacitated and the risk factors outweigh the bargain as events here are quickly shut down by law enforcement amongst other things like underselling an event solely as a Bulawayo artist. 

I don't think any Urban Bulawayo artist can fill up the Bulawayo Theater singlehandedly, a line-up event could but at the end of the day what would the artists earn after sponsors, event organizers and landlords grab their shares? It's an infertile industry. I see a fella try to enable artist dialogue on Twitter regularly which is cute and empathetic but people aren't buying in. Yeah, the artist's bar is heavy, but is he? He rocks faded all-stars like me, sometimes heel-chipped sneakers. 

There was a charitable time on Twitter when an artist's album was promoted, and some people's profile pictures and names had the album cover and album title, shame it was a charity case that perished without replay value still, best song sitting on 7 views on YouTube, him, his mum, homeboys and a High-School friend in the diaspora. The biggest hindrance to Bulawayo artists' growth is exclusivity from the rest of the country. A Bulawayo artist just wants to be that without pursuing reach in other regions, so they remain limited to a very small and inorganic audience which can't launch and boost them into space.

The best thing is to pursue plumbing, or, if you're that cheesy, nurse aid and apply for a work visa in the West. Otherwise, a banana vendor is doing much more lucrative work in fact.


Eita daar, I'm Ricky! A chilled out guy, dog lover, cyclist and a banana bread patient. Like yourself I'm taking life's blows as they come, trying to figure out my placement and purpose in this life, luckily I can write the journey out to share with you how ancient encounters were shared and taught about through dusty scrolls, only difference now is we've got tablets. I hope you'll enjoy my writings and mostly draw inspiration off of.

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