Disco music threatens live shows

HARARE - Growing up as a ghetto youth in the 1980s and 1990s, attending disco music showcases was the in-thing, forget the live music bands.

Then, we were too young to enter into nightclubs where the likes of star musicians like Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi or Lovemore Majaivana used to perform, so our disco music parties were mainly restricted  to community halls dotted all over our ghetto suburbs.

Popular radio DJs who had the privilege to sample the overseas tunes were always hired to spin the latest tunes, sending us wild and spinning on the dance floor.

The disco parties were punctuated by electrifying dances meant for the youths and break-dancing competitions were always on offer.

The disco trend continued and caught up with us as we grew older, spilling into city nightclubs and in Harare one could easily talk of the likes of Circus, Archies, Rumours, Maze and several others that have since folded.

The years 2000 and beyond, disco music showcases began to lose audiences as Zimbabweans hooked up to live music from various musical bands.

Unlike in the early 80s and 90s, the period after 2000 saw local music bands intensifying their live performances as they penetrated into community halls and every other club space available.

Zimbabweans suddenly warmed up to local live music with a continuous dose of rhumba bands and others from South Africa invading the local showbiz market, completely transforming the music sector.

I remember the likes of rhumba musicians Yondo Sister, Pepe Kalle and Koffie Olomide filling up the 4 500 seat Harare International Conference Centre, HICC when they performed live at different intervals.

Then local music had just picked up, with revelations coming in from talented singers that included Leonard Zhakata, Alick Macheso, Oliver Mtukudzi and Simon Chimbetu selling many copies on each of their releases. That sales success meant their live music concerts were always packed to the brim.

Other city clubs that only used to offer disco showcases had a change of heart as they started hiring out the aforementioned music stars to the dismay of their disco fan base.

As business people, however, the clubs realised  financial benefits and opportunities in engaging live music bands.

The new phenomenon meant that local club DJs risked losing contracts and engagements; indeed it became a dry spell for most of them who diverted their focus to other things.

With Zimbabweans’ appetite for local live music up, music promoters sprouted from all directions as they capitalised on marketing the new brand, hence lining up thousands of music concerts with varying themes.

The more popular musicians became very busy with some holding live music concerts at every turn, thus saturating the showbiz market.

As live music concerts became the order of the day, fans began to feel cheated as popular musicians failed to offer them something exclusively fresh.

Local musicians’ stage acts are always the same today, tomorrow or even next year. The trend has changed again, and fans seem to have reverted back to the disco era.

Their argument is that a disco offers them a variety of songs picked from all over the world, whereas attending a gig by a local band which offers them what it has been offering them the past three to four years.

In recent weeks I have been to Harare’s new basement nightclub, Archies which opened its doors after a three-year lull and l was surprised by the number of revellers attending the joint the three days it is opened weekly.

Indeed, the DJs spinning the turntables at Archies are back in business as they entertain multitudes of revellers throughout the night with some of the hottest tunes from around the world.

Archies nightclub’s Wednesday “Ladies Night” parties and activities show a return of the disco era as DJs Sammy and Dave take control of a night of love and bliss.

Fridays are fun-filled with DJs Ash Styles and Nivek while Saturdays roar into life with DJs Joe Mentro and Garry B.

I have been to other nightclubs offering disco showcases, like Private Lounge and Airport Lounge, and revellers there seem to be on the same wavelength with most nightspots.

This new disco trend dominating the local showbiz industry has given a beating to live band music concerts that seem to be on the verge of being pushed to the brink.

The comeback of disco music in night clubs means those who love the melodious numbers of the 70’s and 80’s are spoilt for choice, more so those that
love reggae music.

While musicians have to be paid substantial amounts to perform, DJs are a cheaper option for the night clubs.

As the trends continue to change, it is my hope that another time shall come again when musicians take control. But musicians will have to do more to spruce up their showcases and be able to command audiences regularly, more so now that they cannot survive on selling CDs and DVDs because of the rampant music piracy.

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