'It's okay to start small'

HARARE - Next Level Hip Hop, a music group from the United States of America currently holding several workshops around Harare, says artistes should be willing to start small in order for them to grow.

The three-member outfit, which has been performing and mentoring upcoming musicians on rapping, deejaying, beat making and dancing since February 19, will wind up their tour of Zimbabwe on March 1.

The American group, whose tour has been facilitated by Magamba Network in partnership with the United States Embassy Public Affairs and Jibilika Dance Trust, comprises Jayci Caprice (beat maker), Juan Gomez (DJ) and Kane Fury (dancer).

“It is okay to start small; a lot of musicians have these big ideas which they think will quickly materialise,” Caprice told the Daily News on Sunday.

“When I started, I started small. I was selling CDs for a dollar and I made a lot of money through that. When I created a market I then raised my fee, take small bites this will bring people to you.”

Gomez concurred adding that upcoming artistes should be prepared at times to give out material for free.

“You will also need to have complimentary copies. As a DJ, I always carry around free copies for people to sample. I am inspired by how South Africa did it,” said Gomez.

“I heard that when house music was starting, the artistes would pay kombi drivers a certain amount to have them play their music for their passengers. We are talking about an audience of over a thousand people all over the city hearing the music, which is massive marketing. Now house music is on the top of the chats but it started in kombis.”

The three American musicians have been accompanied by Paul Rockower, executive director of Levantine Public Diplomacy.

Rockower said the problems faced by artistes are the same all over the world.

“It is the same everywhere in the world. Most people get money from live shows. If you put yourself out to a label you get a fraction of your earnings. You get money deducted for studio time, distribution and material that is used.”

Fury, who is an accomplished hip-hop dancer, believes the only way an artiste can survive is by  being innovative.

“There is branding of merchandise. You can have T-Shirts, jewellery and other pieces branded for sale. You cannot just wait on your music as universally it does not work that way,” said Fury.

“You also have to be innovative and sell your own stuff. I come from Oakland were rappers are known to sell their music from the boot of their cars and most of the biggest rappers from my area started from there. It is good to have a realisation that it is hard everywhere for artistes to earn a living.”

But according to Caprice, art can only thrive if it is treated as a business.

“If you want to be taken serious you have to treat it like a business. You have to know yourself; you have to know what to do to elevate yourself,” he said.

“I was made to learn, and I am now able to teach. If I didn’t learn I would have not been able to teach and if I had not done that, I would not have been able to hook up with Next level. You learn the business you are into, you learn yourself and then you learn about other people.”

During their tour of Zimbabwe, the Next Level trio held workshops in Glen Norah, Mbare and the Book Café. They also did collaborative performances yesterday at the Book Café during an event called Mashoko where they went on stage with local artistes who included Synik and Charity Hutete.

Today Next Level will be in Glen Norah for a Peace in the Hood Concert that will also feature Fly Legendz, Ocean 4 and N.T.M.


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