Reputation alone not enough

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Music Awards (Zima) awards are back after a seven-year hiatus.

There is every reason for celebration by those who follow music and musicians themselves.

Curiously, the released Zima nominees have generated debate due to the fact that they are largely dominated by unheralded artistes. The case in point is the relatively unknown United Family International Church (UFI) which tops the nominations.

Predictably, some musicians are now unjustifiably questioning how a rookie UFI choral group could get five nominations while established artistes like Jah Prayzah could only get four with Suluman Chimbetu getting just a single one.

The tragedy of the matter is that most established artistes never enter the competition but somehow still expect to end up as winners.

Some popular artistes who submit entries enter sub-standard material hoping that their huge reputations will influence adjudication panels to rule in their favour. Awards are meant to celebrate quality musical products and in choosing deserving recipients of gongs the reputation of the artiste should never be a determining factor. 

The nomination of several unheralded artistes should be a wake-up call to all Zimbabwean musicians to always strive for quality whether they are recording songs or videos.

But strangely these musicians who invest close to nothing in their videos and songs still somehow expect to be rewarded for their mediocrity.

Given the widespread lack of emphasis on quality, it is not surprising that our musical products lag behind those made in other African countries and elsewhere in the world.

Due to serious quality issues, videos from Zimbabwe have made little impact on regional television music channels like Channel O.

We hope Zima, along with the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) and the Wene Music Awards will help encourage local musicians to raise the bar and produce products that will attract the attention of citizens of other countries.

But for all our awards to play the role they are supposed to, it is necessary to emphasise to the organisers of these awards the importance of credible adjudication systems.

They must realise that they will only win the support of musicians, the corporate sector and ordinary Zimbabweans if they demonstrate that their awards select winners via credible systems.

We, therefore, hope that musicians and awards organisers will play their part to ensure that our gongs not only reward excellence but also give an impetus to the local music industry to give birth to quality products.

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