Is Wasafi festival old wine in a new bottle?

Friday November 8 2019

Diamond Platnumz at a past event. PHOTOS |

Diamond Platnumz at a past event. PHOTOS | COURTESY 

By Paul Owere

The grand finale for the Wasafi festival is set for this weekend at the Postal Grounds in Dar es Salaam. This comes after a series of concerts in upcountry and regional towns in the past months came to a conclusion.

Just as it is a relief to revelers who get the opportunity to see their local superstars, it is also time for the signed artistes to pick up pay cheques.

Organisers have touted the climax to be a one of a kind, with many high profile artistes lined up for the day-long event which comes as a relief to residents of Dar es Salaam who have been starved in many ways.

Some of the high profile names on the roster include Nigeria’s former Marvin Records First Lady Tiwa Savage and record-setting maestro Wizkid. They form a part of a host of many local household names that include Wasafi CEO Diamond Platnumz.

There is also the element of inclusion as the event brings into the picture some of the long forgotten names who were in the recent past only good enough for the archives such as The African stars Band aka Twanga Pepeta and the self-styled TID.

Speaking at the conference Diamond said that by including genres such as Dance it was a sign that they are not tied down to a particular music, instead, they are out to celebrate diversity.

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Agreed, organizing a concert of this magnitude has cost implications and it is no wonder that such gigs have become very rare, especially ones that involve foreign artistes.

The announcing ceremony for the climax as usual was full of pomp and colour, from the scene of the announcement to the grand entry at the Hyatt Regency, surrounded by his security detail that has continued to mesmerize onlookers, the gathering had it all.

An olive branch was extended to rebel Harmonize, the same gesture targeted AliKiba as Diamond veered off to explain what others thought were none related issues.

But as it turned out Kiba wasn’t having any of it and accused the singer of hypocrisy threatening to expose his underhand methods.

But as minutes tick away to the November 9 date at the Postal Grounds, there are questions that continue to linger on the mind of the average concert goers.

What is new?

When the festival was launched there was a promise that this was meant to be a game changer in the way festivals are organized and managed in Tanzania, to many this was a welcome intervention given the history of the entertainment industry.

They promised to pay artistes handsomely and true to that, there have been no complaints so far on their mode of payments.

The promise then by the power brokers inside WCB was that they were setting the bar by bringing in what the Tanzanian music industry has not seen in a long time.

However, if some of the last gigs are anything to go by, the festival remains a replica of Fiesta, which features a tour of several regional towns before a climax in Dar es Salaam, with most of the acts performing playback.

The pattern remains very predictable given the fact that even the fringe events such as the dance and singing contest is a replica

This has left the festival with an identity crisis with nothing to call of their own because much of what is being done has been done by the other rival festival before.

In fact, some pundits have said in recent weeks, that the festival remains more of a Diamond Platnumz thing as opposed the revolution that was promised at birth.

This, then, brings into question whether it was the naming or the birth place of the festival which is the problem.

Despite attracting thousands of attendees this festival will take a long time to spur along with other heavy weight festivals across the region such as Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar, the Nyege Nyege in Uganda and several others.

The lack of an ideal model is likely to have a long term effect on the ‘festival’ unless the architects sit down to curve out one.

One event organizer in Dar es Salaam pointed to the lack of a discerning factor as one of the major hiccups that have failed to make Wasafi festival a unique product. “The Tanzanian festive season is used to these repetitive acts, nothing different has so far been done,” says Regoshura Stanton.

The old challenges

The challenges of yesterday are still too alive for concert goers with security and space high up the list.

Every concert organizer will tell you that one of the greatest challenges that they face is the lack of space to stage a concert of that magnitude.

After Leaders’ Club in Kinondoni was outlawed due to the noise pollution the only relatively secure place is Postal Grounds which is also close to a residential area.

This venue, too, has its fair share of challenges such as traffic flow to the available parking space for hundreds of revelers who are likely to turn up

This is a problem that show promoters will have to solve especially with the fact that they remain reluctant to take such shows to places like the National Stadium.

A reveler who resides in the outskirts of the city and loyally treks his way to the inner city whenever there is an event, suggest that perhaps these event organisers should consider all factors such as space, distance and convenience when organizing such big events. “If such an event is staged somewhere that’s not riddled with multiple obstacles such as the perennial venues over the years, then maybe we’d be able to see something different each year,” he said.

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