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I love Zambia.  No, really I do.  But sometimes, stuff happens that makes you question the economical imbalance of this country, and what they think of us.  Can you imagine being in a club in Lagos and not hearing a Naija song?  Maybe it happens but because they have a thriving nightlife you can easily just avoid those spots if you choose.

Last Friday, I was out with 10 girlfriends celebrating one of our girlfriend’s achievement (emancipation I say), and after a great dinner at Urban Yard (their pizza is so good!), we decided we wanted to go dancing, and the girlfriend said she wanted to go to Capones.

I had been there two weeks previously, with a friends, including a former MP, and we were in the VIP area.   We had a bottle of wine and a couple of beers, and left soon after because we were tired.

So Friday, I called the owner and told him we wanted to be in the VIP, was that all good?  Yep, he said, no problem.

Well the problems started as soon as we sat down.  First of all, those chairs are the most uncomfortable chairs ever – it’s a struggle to get out of them, so you end up having to sit on the edge and even then…

Then the waitress comes – we order a bottle of wine and some cocktails.  Nope, she says, ‘you need to order a bottle of champagne or bottle of whisky if you want to sit here’.  No and no I say.  Let me speak to the manager I insist.

End up arguing with the manager, and I was ‘like this is ridiculous, I was here two weeks ago and ordered wine.  Imma call your boss’ and he was like – whatever, fine – have your wine.

I still text the boss who was like ‘yes that’s the rule’, despite the fact that a month previously he had told my girlfriend and I that people had it all wrong about VIP, “you don’t need to order a bottle just call ahead”.  Yeah he thinks I was too drunk to remember! LOL.

Anyway, he sends me a text saying “Relax, be a lover not a fighter, life is so sweet’.  Sexist much?  I was livid.  I would have left there and then except the girls were having fun and the wine had been ordered.

But we just couldn’t do the chairs so moved out of VIP.  Where we had way more fun… for a minute.

The music started out ok, then it got to be like ‘really?  We’re in Zambia, Africa, can we get some Zambian, or even African music?’.  I think I requested it 3 times at the DJ booth.  When JK, Slap Dee, CQ walked in, I thought, oh maybe now we’ll get local music since these artists are here – isn’t that what they do in normal places?   Gosh, what was I thinking – this is Zambia!

At this point I’m just furious at the whole thing – why am I here?  I asked myself.  I look around at the crowd (and there was a lot of them) of dark faces, and wondered why any of us were there.  I asked Slap – why are you in a place that won’t support local music?

I’m sure they all thought I was drunk and angry – ok the angry part I was.  Angry because I felt I had been treated like a ‘little’ girl from the moment I walked in and I was just done with it at that point – I suppose being with the former MP helped last time, probably thinking we were his girlfriends.  I’m just not about that life – at all.  I’m not a little girl, don’t talk to me like one, and don’t treat me like one.  And make your damn policy clear so that we can choose where and how we want to spend our money.

I’m sure everyone has had a different experience of Capones, and yes I know that I can be sensitive about ish, but I decided that night that I wasn’t spending any more of my money there – it won’t make a difference in their books, but I’ll feel better about it.  Now I just need to find a new spot to go dancing… or open my own joint (one day).

slap-dee-computicket

I was really thrilled to get a ticket to Slap Dee’s Unplugged last night. Slap Dee is one of my favourite artists, I think he is consistent in releasing hits and is one of the hardest working artists in Zambia (my impression of him). So this piece is not to diminish anything about Slap Dee, or to be on a hater tip, but I believe it’s enough of talking about mediocrity, we have to tell it like it is, and hope it will help improve our creative industry. Also I’m not an expert in the music industry, I speak as a person who wants to see the industry grow and who also appreciates a good live show. So I can’t help but ask, when attending these events that have been done before, why in Zambia, we choose to learn the hard way and not go to those who have tried and tested it already?

Firstly I think Slap Dee had a great idea of doing an unplugged show. It wasn’t the usual concept of unplugged, but it was different. So I commend him for trying something different.

So as it was after work, we got to Nasdec on time – early even, we got to the venue just after 7, the tickets said the event started at 7.30.

By 8.30 I was tired and irritable and Slap Dee was no where to be seen. The band came on briefly and played a couple of tracks to entertain the small crowd. But soon after, they too went off stage! At this point I decided if Slap Dee wasn’t on stage by 9.30 I was going to leave – I had work in the morning, I live out of Lusaka city, and hey, it was cold, my warm bed was waiting!

Shortly before 9.30 Slap Dee arrives on stage! Just as well, as I really was going to leave, even if Mary was in a much more supportive mood than I was!

It was by no means a massive turnout, but there were enough people to support him and feel the energy of love and appreciation. This is the second time I’ve been to an event that has not started on time because the artist, or the artist management has wanted more of a crowd. My experience is you lose people in the wait. Also there were people in the bar waiting for the show to start, so everyone was waiting for something! Personally I think it’s rude and you disrespect your fans (no matter how few of them are there), and it becomes a catch 22. You earn a reputation of not being able to start on time, so why should people show up on time? This is probably why, in Zambia, people choose not to show up on time – there is an expectation that the event won’t start on time, so why should we be hanging around waiting?

You can’t get away with that in developed countries anymore. If the ticket or event did not state that the doors open at 7.30 and show starts at 9.30, then it’s unacceptable to start two hours late! The audience is less forgiving in the west – they spent money to see a show, not to be disrespected. The least the artist can do is sincerely apologise for keeping people waiting. Don’t take the piss.

But despite what perhaps artist management might have considered a ‘low’ turnout, I thought it was a great vibe, and it made it feel intimate. Slap Dee really engaged with the crowd and I think it was easier because it was a smaller crowd (by small I’d say there was just under 100 people there). One of my favourite moments was when Slap called this young kid (ok in his 20s) to the stage to rap the lyrics of one of Slap Dee’s tracks and the guy knew the lyrics word for word. Priceless!

However, the next thing that was appalling was the sound. This was sound provided by the well known Ringman. I’ve never met the guy, but heard about the good quality sound he’s supposed to provide. The sound was terrible. Nasdec is not the greatest venue for sound, but as always, the best solution to deal with the problem should be identified, rather than focus on the problem. It was as if Ringman couldn’t be bothered to find that solution. I may be hard on him as this is my observation as a bystander. Despite the sound being bad, he left his station to go and sit with his friends in the bleachers. To me that’s unacceptable. But I’m a solution oriented person, I believe it’s not enough to shrug your shoulders and walk away, but that’s just me, I’m passionate about what I do and always want to be the best I can be.

And I do think there are enough people who have good expertise – and care about their reputation or are passionate enough to give the best possible services and who are solution oriented. Those are the people you should be looking for if you care enough about your brand and the experience you want to deliver.

There were so many things that could have been done better with just a little consultation, and there are enough people (Media 365 included) who, with enough notice, would be happy to help with free advice to ensure the show is the best it can be. Not for the credit, but because they care about the industry. Including with stage design – his stage was far too small for the number of people on it, and there was only a scoreboard as the backdrop (well it’s on the wall at Nasedec!) – was still so random.

Partnerships, or certainly more people to share ideas, experiences, lessons learnt etc stops us from learning the hard way. A case in point, when I try to do something new, I don’t trust on my own judgement or through prayer alone (!), I look to people in my network, or extended network and see who has done what I want to do before, or who can provide me with relevant insight, and then how I use that insight to improve what I want to do. We employ this approach at Media 365 too – not everyone knows everything, but there are lots of people who know a little about something, put that together and you get valuable information!

I don’t put the onus all on the artist’s feet – our industry is so small so yes the talent does get more involved that perhaps they would in some other countries, but his management team also need to take some of the heat for the botched up issues. I think sometimes this is the problem of the entertainment industry, it’s full of egos, it’s glamorous, it’s sexy, but there is hardwork to be done, and someone has to do it.

I’m sure the lessons learnt from last night’s show will be applied to tonight’s show, so a lot of my issues and experiences will not be the same for the show-goers tonight, and so should enjoy it far more. I just don’t feel that there is any need to learn the hard way and it’s time we really focus on bringing our A game and competing, even if it’s just at a regional level.

Last week Zambian Breweries under its Mosi brand sponsored the first ever Zambian Music Awards. Media 365 had the pleasure of being the local logistics and production company working on the event. Seems a bit of a stretch for Media 365 right? Especially as our work is so focussed on cause related communications. Well this is a ‘cause’ for us as we’re all so passionated about the music industry in Zambia and promoting it for the recognition it deserves. We also believe that the people in the music industry can help young people achieve their dreams, so what is there not to support?

Also we’d worked with VLP productions – the South African company producing the event and TV shows for the Road to MAMAs event in Lusaka and our Creative Director Fred Phiri had always stayed in touch with them (is there a lesson in networking to be had here? Well that’s an article for another time!)

Danny Performing

So anyway, as the MD, I don’t always play a hands on role on the project, and as we are a small time, already with six other projects on the go, I get a lot of the top level information, and the overall workplan and tasklist to see what everyone is working on but that’s about it. But there are things that I do take interest in – I’ve always loved attending rehearsals of award shows – there’s just something magical about seeing it all coming together. So I did find the time to drop into those rehearsal from time to time.

This is the first real entertainment event I’ve been privy to in Zambia, and it did help me get some insight into the entertainment industry here – which I’ve been out of since I left Trendsetters in 2002. It was an eye opener.

There were a couple of things I found fascinating, firstly the time and effort people put into their careers, and performances. Watching people like Beyonce you know she puts in hours on her performances to get it perfect – you don’t need to be part of her inner circle to know this. Even a week or so I watched the Braxton Family Values (yes i have these terrible reality tv moments!) and the sisters had a show to put on in 3 days – a small event but the stress that was coming from those rehearsals! Joh! And it’s not like we don’t know that the more you put into something the more you get out of it, especially when it’s your job.

You can imagine my surprise (ok slight amusement) when some of the performers were not exactly thrilled about the daily rehearsals four days leading up to the event. They seemed kind of horrified and the thought of having to do more than one rehearsal! What? That was a surprise. One of the performers didn’t even pitch for the first couple of rehearsals.

But I also thought it spoke to the entitled attitude we in Zambia seem to have, like the whole world owes us something. The idea of working hard and taking responsibility is almost foreign. In fact when we (I’m using the royal we here) are at fault, we prefer to blame someone else rather than reflect on what went wrong, own up to our part in it, learn from it and move on.

Cathy and Anna

This kind of leads me into my wardroble malfunction. After my lovely stylist friend Manenga Mwense (@manenga1) chose a style for me to wear, using a red carpet look (i’m too embarrassed to say who when it’s so obviously got wrong), and the so-called designer/tailor here got it wrong, after three fittings (!), he sent me a text message saying that it was my fault for coming so late for the fitting that he couldn’t do a last alter. WTF? Already having a bad week with some terrorists (my new description of some clients), I just couldn’t be bothered to respond to the his text as I really would have ripped him a new one.

If it wasn’t that the VO announcing me on stage was already done I had no choice but attend the awards. I searched frantically through the Love Games wardrobe to find something to wear. Our wardrobe is nothing like the one on the Devil Loves Prada sadly. I was in tears not knowing what to wear with this wardrobe disaster and I was already almost an hour later. Through the tears came the answer – I’ll wear two dresses! I would have one the one, as it was a better fit, but as it had already been packed away it was all creased. But my worry was that the ill fitting one was still obviously ill fitting. What choice did I have? Surprisingly enough everyone said I looked great anyway (gosh do I look bad most of the time for this bad look to look good?!)

Let me back track again to pre-show events 🙂 So the lack of interest in rehearsals was a shocker but hey, it’s each person’s individual career, it’s up to them where they want to put their focus – the same artist then even said that rehearsal were not on priority list and we could remove said artist from performances if we wanted (that’s what he said). Yup unbelievable.

Back to show night! When I finally managed to get comfortable, and everyone commented on my kickass hair style, so that helped make me comfortable too. In fact my hair was literally finished like an hour and a half before the show! I do love my hair dressers at Vanilla Salon at Manda Hill – I do think they think I’m crazy because I always have some outrageous style in mind, but they manage to pull it off well. So got my hair and nails (Shellac, I’m too busy to be having my nails done every other day), and at least that was helping me feel better. Having good hair, nails and face on always helps!

Cathy and Benne Banda on Stage

The show was amazing. Ok some of the performances were a bit ehem, well, you’ll have to watch the show. Other performers were just … they brought it. The Ruff Kidd collaboration of Vigabenga with Slap Dee, Zone Fam, and P-Jay had so much energy, was so good! Ruff Kidd is absolutely crazy, but you have to love his stage presence.

But for me the best performance of the night was the closing performance Slap Dee did. The thing that I liked about these performances is that they understand that even if it’s hip hop, today you can’t just stand on a stage and walk around spitting into the mic, people want to see a show. And definitely with those two performances they saw a show! I think you can tell the artists who really put in the time with craft and are focussed on the prize and those who are, well, entitled and think they’re good enough.

zonefam_ruffkidd

It was then fun to ring in my birthday at the after party with Jay Rox (from Zone Fam) who I also share a birthday with.