Friday, September 1, 2017

A weekend of releases and album launches

Irene Veda plays the saxophone much to the

Irene Veda plays the saxophone much to the delight of the audience. PHOTO | MICHAEL MATEMANGA 

By Paul Owere

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is endowed with talent in the performing arts who should be selling multi platinum albums across the continent and beyond.

This is a fact that many agree with but for some reason whatever seems to be a great talent always ends up as a mere promise.

The list of such artistes with enormous potential is rather endless in today’s industry that is driven by the commercial value rather than the quality of the end product.

The question that always comes to mind is whether the artistes choose the wrong audience or it is the audience that is misguided by misplaced perceptions?

The weekend was one that had plenty of mouthwatering prospects to look forward to, from the impending McGregor- Floyd Mayweather mega money fight to Wema Sepetu’s premiere of ‘Heaven Sent’ at Mlimani City’s Century Cinema.

At the Nafasi Art Space, Dar es Salaam such a spectacle was on display with very talented young female artistes displaying a rare show of expertise on stage, it was free, yet not very many turned up!

Veda on the saxophone

From Irene Veda on the saxophone, Chikaya Buruya strumming the guitar to the Zanzibar Women Group singing wonderful taarab melodies, it was a sight to behold as the all female themed night took entertainment to another level.

The last time I met Veda was at the Zanzibar International Film Festival where was attending some of the workshops on acting and related business, she spoke passionately about her music and films.

However, it was during her stint at the Big Brother Africa Hotshots season which saw Idris Sultan emerge as winner that she was thrust into the limelight.

During that somehow unsuccessful spell at the reality TV show one of Veda’s skills was her ability to play the saxophone an attribute that put her on a different scale from the other housemates.

To many who watched her on that show, it could be all they know about her, yet, she has since metamorphosed to become a fully fledged musician with a band that has several gigs under her belt.

She might have not come home with the bounty but that stint gave her a vision to pursue bigger things musically.

On that night, she swept her fans off their feet with a performance of almost 45 minutes nimbly playing the saxophone and at time going vocal taking her audience on a musical trip with La Veda Vida.

She demonstrated versatility, creativity and patience that comes with careful nurturing of a talent which for some reason has deserted most of today’s crop of artistes.

The sophistication and energy that she puts into her music is not the ordinary Bongo Flava that we have become accustomed to in the last decade or so and she doesn’t consider herself a Bongo Flava artiste either.

But even with such a performance, the stage appearance might not just tell the whole story and she admits that there have been some challenges so far as the gigs have been far and apart.

Chikaya can go places

Her audience waited patiently for her debut album and she finally released ‘Sing For You’ on home soil and she made sure it was as humble as her own character.

Her vocal range, stage use and above all how she strummed the guitar kept the audience wanting for more of her in the one-hour performance at the usually quite neighbourhood of Mikocheni.

This was not the first time that the rising artiste had put up such a show, the last time she performed at the Karibu Music Festival in Bagamoyo many in attendance unanimously agreed that she had what it takes to make the big break.

A similar nod went out at her launch with some revellers wondering whether she was local given her style of music and the choice of singing in English.

The five-track album which is an eclectic fusion of African folk beats and western rhythm marries beautifully with Chikaya’s earthy, distinguishable, charismatic vocals carrying songs such as Sing For You, Back Park, Novelty, Steady and Back Park Remix.

At a time when not so many female artistes seem to stick to the game she demonstrated that with hard work and commitment you can go places.

“We are thinking of the London launch after this performance. We had to do it right because if you don’t get it right at the beginning it becomes a messy affair,” said her manager Don Charles.

These shows have gone on to boost her credentials as one of Tanzania’s rising stars at a time when very few female performers stick in the game long enough to be crowned.

Audience

The show at Nafasi was one that every music fan would have dreamt of but unfortunately the attendance didn’t seem to suggest that in any way.

Though it was free, those in attendance were either those who play that kind of music or tourists and expatriates.

Just like the trend has been with shows such as Sauit Za Busara where the natives leave it to visitors to fill the halls, here too, there is something emerging.

The question here is whose music is this? Is it music meant for export? The obvious answer is that it is Tanzanian music with Tanzanian roots.

There is a certain section that has been quick to aim a dig at the media for its lack promotion to such talent.

It is going to take a collective effort for artistes like the ones who performed at Nafasi over the weekend to grow.

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