Zimbabwe: Lockdown Diaries 'Desert Moment' for Artistes

The creative sector has obviously been ravaged by the prolonged lockdown that has resulted in the limiting and decline in the number of people who meet in public spaces. Remember artistes from time immemorial have thrived from the gathering of people in one space where they serenade the audience with their creativity, but alas 2020 became a huge blow for the creative sector.

Succumbing to the 'desert moment' of lockdown ravages

Serenading audiences with live entertainment has now become a virtual activity for those with the finances and the sponsorship to livestream their art. This is a mammoth task for a struggling artiste, whereby maintaining a virtual presence through these livestream cast shows remains a dream shrouded in obscurity because of the expenses involved. Many of the artistes -- myself included (and a university graduate by the way) -- have been left with no means and form of income as many of their shows and tours in local and international festivals have been cancelled because of Covid-19. With economic problems also affecting this country, it means that the majority of young artistes are struggling.

However, art is a critical element that is overlooked in the entrepreneurship context as it is a viable means of livelihood subsistence and income generation.

It means that it can be referred to as an occupation or job, or hustle or whatever you may term it. The crux of the matter in as much is premised on the notion that the moment of lockdown for a person who relies on crowds to make money is a desert moment for us artistes. The desert is manifest in the dryness which we are facing especially economically. In as much as we may post pictures of us in the studio working on new concepts and ideas and looking happy, everything are masks that hide the anguish of financial distress being experienced by artistes during lockdown. The big brands we approach for support leave us hanging on falsified promises, while the ever supportive promoters and managers attempt to swindle us.

The moment to "psyche"

The lockdown has been horrid, but it has also been a special moment for some of us artistes in the underground circles. By the way, when I say underground artistes, I am referring to us that are yet to be well known but have recorded albums and we hang out together working on more projects. We typify the average guy you see every day, but who is very creative and assertive yet unknown. The important point here is when I put reference to the "desert" it is the moment of what we call artistic introspection that is a moment to "psyche", as the artistic mind needs to be straightened and in great many a times cleared off negative thoughts. There is need to ensure that in these difficulties inspirational moments manifest. The artistic mind always needs to be prepared to deliver the artistic moment. This does not refer to musicians only, but to the writers, poets, dancers, actors, painters, tailors, graphic designers and everyone who is an artiste. To psyche means to be alone and be in a zone of monastic silence and peace. It means artistes have to meditate and listen to their products, watch them, analyse them and also even create new ideas from the moment of self-introspection.

Remember it is in the moments when one is alone that good ideas come into the mind. To psyche means an artiste has to dig deeper into how your art impacts on the people around you such as family, neighbours, and also friends. I always argue that in as much as we want to be creative, our art has to remain socially relevant in terms of creating an impact to the vast expanse of the populace. Think deeply about your lyrics, your scripting or writing, acting and video-graphing and ensure that your art reflects the better creative you. Most of us artistes fail to psyche and rush into things. But this lockdown is giving us the time to reminisce deeply on the viability of the creativity produced.

Here grows my fan base and art vision

My art -- though I am an upcoming artiste -- has been appreciated by my family, especially my granny who is my greatest fan who loves how I play around with languages. My uncles have been my musical mentors -- teaching me how to play different musical instruments at a very young age. I also have a fan base of young and old people that love my music. These are the people we have forgotten about and never "entertained", but they are the ones who in a show can be your noise and even hype up your crowd. I am glad they also do deeply enjoy music and even listen to my "eargasms", that is, my rehearsals in locko when I practise drums and experiment with the guitar. This makes me socially relevant.

But we artistes have always wanted to have our entertainment in the city centre as that is where the money is. But we forget about our very own neighbour -- the one I see every day. They wish to come to your shows, but you grow further from them with fame and money. This lockdown teaches us that it is high time artistes also gave entertainment in their own zone or hoods. Localise your fan base and you will see how your local followership will be boosted by people from your hood. They are the ones who will hype you up because they know you. It is necessary to make a mark first from your hood -- after all, most art is about experiences and the community we live in. Remember charity begins at home and so if the lockdown eases, try and start from there by creating local shows.

The 'studiostalgia'

The greatest pain during the lockdown has been the "studiostalgia" (studio-nostalgia) as the social distancing and the lockdown regulations kept us indoors for most of the time. We miss recording the new ideas we have been creating. But for me I thank the gift of technology as I am thinking of recording my ideas using a smart phone. It still remains music and I guess what people need is something new. The lucky ones have home studios where they produce good quality work.

What is important is to create more and more work and never stop being utterly creative.

Meditation and prayer

A critical element of the desert moment is also to pray. I write as a Christian but, even if you are not one, prayer is also an important element. We artistes forget to thank God for the talents He gives us we become "luciferian", that is, proud with our talents to the extent we overlook the power and the love of God in our lives. Remember being an artiste deems one a special gift to society to bring happiness. The desert moment is thus the moment for spiritual rejuvenation because music is driven by the spirit and the soul.

Family time

Another typical desert moment is to also spend time with family. Most of us artistes have been focusing on our art and seeing the world at the expense of spending time with family. This lockdown moment is for us to take a small break and be with our loved ones. I guess it is the moment whereby after lockdown we will hear musicians finally singing in their mother tongue, shooting musical videos of their daily reality and being full of positivity in the ambience of familial love. The family is always there to stand with you, but remember to stand with them when you now have lots of income after the lockdown. I write with hope because I know that in every desert one will definitely encounter an oasis. God will take us to the oasis. We need to stay hopeful, keep safe and continue to stay creative, write more songs, poems, read, learn a new language, watch a good movie, and continue with our artistic nature.

l Raymond Langa is a musician and founder of Indebo Edutainment Trust. He writes in his personal capacity.

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