Yesteryear musical greats struggle to come back

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SOUNDTRACK: Precious Chida

SEVERAL local musicians who made a mark in the industry several years ago have been trying to stage comebacks, but their efforts have proved strenuous as they appear to have been swept away by the tide of history.

These include Tanga Wekwa Sando, whose hit songs Wake and Mahobho dominated the airwaves from the 1990s to the early 2000s, before he disappeared from the scene.

His efforts to return saw him releasing a new single, Bvuma, and even roping in ExQ, but this appears not to have done much to win public attention. The song has gone unnoticed. Could his loss of relevance be a result of his long absence from the mainstream music scene?

The musician, however, is not alone in this struggle. Decibel — one of the golden picks of the urban grooves music at the turn of the millennium — released a string of hits that won him fame before he relocated to the United Kingdom as he pursued a career in bio-chemistry.

His music undoubtedly cut across ages, with easy to sing sing-along tracks, but the stardom-to-oblivion bug also seems to have afflicted him. The danger with music is that the moment you take a back seat, you disappear from the music lovers’ consciousness and by the time you consider a rebound, a new generation of fans, following new trends and new music, would have emerged and might not give you the chance of the day.

There are a number of factors that contribute to or diminish an artiste’s relevance. And in Decibel’s case, it was the desire to pursue other interests or ambitions outside music.

Alishias “Maskiri” Musimbe, who sang his way to fame albeit on the back of unclean lyrics, took a nosedive and the recent attempts to resurrect his career have been lacking the sharp bite.

Another singer who put aside a flourishing music career for other opportunities is Audious Mutawarira.

The super-talented Australia-based musician after releasing the hit Can’t Believe, chose a more profitable venture.

In 2019, he released a touching song titled Tofara Sei? but it failed to dominate the local market.

Zora musician, Leonard Zhakata, dominated the music scene from the time he was part of the Maungwe Brothers alongside the late Thomas Makion, but the change in trajectory when he adopted gospel music seems to have worked against him. His latest music pales significantly in comparison with his earlier works.

Renowned music producer Macdonald “Macdee” Chidavaenzi admitted that artistes who fail to keep their names on the map, miss the mark on keeping abreast with the developing trends in music.

“Essentially, relevance is a choice that you make as an artiste, bearing in mind that talent does not lapse. If an artiste decides to ignore the social trends and changes taking place around us, they may end up being stuck in a yesteryear era making it difficult to make an impact,” he said.

“Accept that your listeners are growing and sound is evolving and then make a decision to adapt to the changes around you without losing identity.”

There are a number of new developments, especially in marketing, for example the use of social media, websites, blogs and live broadcasts, which have made some young contemporary artistes very visible.

Versatile instrumentalist and renowned producer, Clive “Mono” Mukundu said sabbaticals in music have also killed some big names.

“Musicians should continuously release music and avoid unnecessary silence. In the music world, taking a break is taking a break from being relevant and to win back your relevance is not easy. (The late music superstar Oliver) Mtukudzi kept releasing music non-stop till he had his major breakthrough in 1998,” he said.

What has also somehow helped some veteran artistes are collaborations, for example, sungura ace Alick Macheso, who has been able to reinvent himself by collaborating with dancehall artiste Freeman.

Music promoter Plot Mhako said visuals have also played a part in making other artistes remain afloat in the music industry.

“Showbiz has become very competitive and more content is getting released daily compared to some years back. Also music has gone more visual, so artistes who are investing more in good quality videos even when the music may be bubble-gum get more relevance,” he said.