Zimbabwe: Innovative Dj Goes Virtual to Stay Afloat

The lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus has left some local musicians in dire straits without venues, audiences or work prospects.

The only option is virtual platforms, but some artistes are disadvantaged in that they are not well known, with virtual show organisers preferring big names that draw more viewers.

But one artiste who has been lucky with the lockdown is disc jockey Bernard Fato, affectionately known as DJ Iroq, who says he owes his success to having a good sense of humour, knowing trending music and striking a balance by playing both male and female artistes.

"Disc jockeying is a profession just like any other and it pays if taken seriously. In a deliberate move to level the playing field and to promote gender equality in the music industry, I have made it an obligation to play 50/50 music for all artistes as we have noticed that women artistes are neglected.

"That is what makes me tick. To be honest, the early virtual concerts were difficult because we were just adapting to the new norm and I ended up losing focus.

"Our business was affected big time and was among the first to be shut down."

DJ Iroq said his first virtual show when the lockdown was announced was at Mashwede.

"I did mixes online from the first week of lockdown in my living room. It was fun and funny at the same time. My first concert was on May 1 with Mashwede, Nash TV featuring Matthias Mhere, Seh Calaz and Van Choga. Then months later, I was all over and began to survive."

DJ Iroq said his huge following has led to a corresponding increase in his earnings.

"This is the time to show your talent and skills to the world on the global village platform. I work with various brands and have hosted some of the biggest concerts in the country, and this has opened doors for me during the lockdown."

DJ Iroq said that six months after the first lockdown was announced, he decided to venture into the business of growing the brand of other artistes and has helped some prominent stars locally and internationally.

"I am behind some big artistes who I help in promoting and growing their brands. Unfortunately, I can't share the details of the artistes that I am working with.

"The lockdown was a blessing in disguise because I reinvented myself and t focused on new projects, including branding and managing the image of stars."

DJ Iroq can be credited for the Jah Prayzah Appreciation Concert (2020), Home Sweet Home show which featured South African outfit, Mi Casa, BodySlam Festival, Castle Lite Block Party, MNet Big Brother All Stars Party and the Ignition Concert.

He has also worked with some of the top leading corporate brands in the entertainment industry including Delta Beverages, Kayse Connect, Nash Paints, Zimnat and 2Kings.

DJ Iroq said the disc jockeying profession had been most affected by the lockdown because it thrives on big crowds at clubs and concerts

"Most DJs live from hand to mouth and it is difficult now as no promoter will inject money into an industry that is not functional," he said.

"We are jobless, but you just need to be creative. I find my spot in balancing artistes. The effect of the lockdown has been devastating.

"Imagine my entire income stream disappeared in a week because we were not allowed to have a gathering. The number of people allowed to gather was not viable for a gig.

"Paying for venues was not viable. And the risk was not worth it. I believe in the audience, but after adapting to the new norm, I began to survive and pay bills through virtual shows."

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