Meshack Fukuta was vividly overjoyed the day he was announced the winner of the popular singing talent show Bongo Star Search (BSS) in 2019. But little did he know that his big smile would, in the end, turn into a frown. Unfortunately for the budding musician, what had started as an auspicious journey into superstardom soon became a living nightmare.
It all started after Meshack won the coveted grand prize for the 10th edition of BSS. Unlike past editions where winners were handed their victory goodies, including cash on the same night, for Meshack it was a whole different story.
The 2019 BSS winner went home empty-handed with only applauds from the audience and judges as the reward for his win. This meant he had to make a follow-up to be handed his actual reward. But alas, getting his hands on the prize which he rightly won after a heated battle seemed distant with each attempt he made. In the end, it seemed like BSS organizing company Bench Mark productions failed to meet their end of the bargain.
In an unexpected turn of events, the winner of the singing talent show, one which has been touted as the biggest in the country for many years now is having to demand his rights publicly.
It is four months down the road but the winner of BSS which had its final showdown in Dar es Salaam on December 24, 2019, is yet to receive the reward for his sweat and tears.
Meshak is entitled to Sh50 million, out of which Sh20 million was to be given to him in cash prize, and Sh30 million being the value of artiste management and promotion of his work. But since winning the competition in front of a massive audience, which included the deputy minister for Information, sports, arts and culture, Juliana Shonza, Meshack hasn’t received a penny from BSS, this is according to his allegations.
The BSS winner is so aggrieved that he decided to involve the government in the matter. On April 8, 2020, he tabled the issue on the desk of the deputy minister Ms Shonza in Dodoma. It so happens that the deputy minister was also the guest of honor on the final showcase of the singing talent show.
Speaking to reporters in the capital Dodoma, Shonza attested to receiving a formal complaint from the 2019 BSS winner and said the government was unaware that Meshack had not received his winning prize up to now.
“The government couldn’t get involved in the matter because we were not made aware of what was going on. But now that a formal complaint has been brought to us, with further evidence in form of a letter from Meshack’s parents detailing how they’ve been making a follow-up on the money for four months now, it is a right move that they’ve brought this issue to our attention,” said the deputy minister, adding, “as the ministry vested with authority to ensure the entertainment industry runs smoothly we will take this matter seriously until it is solved.”
Shonza further recollected on how things seemed a bit dubious during the final showdown. “I remember on the night of the finals, which was during the Christmas holiday season, 24, December 2019, I wasn’t given the winning prize to hand over to the overall winner as is the norm at such talent competition shows,” she said, further explaining, “The director of BSS, Madam Ritha was present, but she quickly gave a brief speech on stage after the winner was announced and was nowhere to be seen after that, I recall speaking to the media without her presence after the show was over.”
In response to the formal complaints, the government has given BSS organisers 30 days (starting from April 8, 2020) to resolve the matter with Meshack. In case they fail to pay up then the government has vowed to take stern legal measures, including banning the singing talent show.
It’s it 10-year existence BSS is credited for giving a platform to upcoming artistes in Tanzania. Some of the past winners and those who’ve made it to the top five have gone on to create big names for themselves and a good number remain popular figures in the music industry.
Some of the most-noticeable names include the likes of Peter Msechu, Kala Jeremiah, Walter Chilambo and radio personality/rapper Frida Amani.
The 2019 edition of BSS kicked off in Arusha, with one more region – Dodoma, added to the roster to make up the five regions in Tanzania where the BSS crew made rounds in search of raw talents. Other regions are Arusha, Mbeya and Dar es Salaam.
As is the level of anticipation, hundreds of individuals and even groups signed up to showcase their talents in hopes of being among the selected few who’d proceed to the final show in the commercial capital – Dar es Salaam.
It was a tough battle up to the last hour as talents in their diverse forms brought their A-game to impress the panel of judges which included celebrated names in the entertainment industry such as legendary songstress Lady Jaydee, Dully Sykes, music producer Master Jay, and Ritha Paulsen as the head judge.
Apart from the famous judges, another household name in Tanzania’s entertainment spectrum, Idris Sultan a comedian and former Big Brother Africa winner was the host of the show from the preliminary rounds all the way to the final show.
In its ten editions, BSS has attracted a legion of fans across the country. With the popularity of Bongo Flava not just in Tanzania but across national borders, it’s not a surprise that the talent show has received close scrutiny not just from the people in the music industry but from the general public as well.
This latest scandal will test the resilience of the show and the steps it will take to rebuild its image.
When reached for comment, Ritha Paulsen, who recently lost a close friend to coronavirus and is still grieving said she’ll talk about the matter in due time.