A musician who is becoming increasingly famous in the country was recently hired to perform at an event somewhere in Kampala.
She turned up on time with a copy of her songs in the order in which they wanted to sing over them. As the DJ played the music, the musician waltzed around the huge marquee tent with a microphone, asked the guests to stand up and dance and then moved from one table to another asking the guests to sing!
Some guests were happy to take selfies while others recorded on their phones. The DJ played a minute or so of each song. After about 10 minutes, the musician gave some ‘speech’ of how she loves everyone and thanked the organizers for the opportunity and hurriedly walked out for perhaps another engagement.
The musician didn’t seem interested in her job!
If you attend events in Uganda, you have seen such acts by musicians termed as performances. These miming acts are really common. Many musicians do the same when they are launching their songs. Walk on stage dressed like Batman, Square Pants, or an astronaut and claim to perform. Give some monologue on alleged haters and then the show is done.
I don’t know how far these ‘performances’ which are really miming acts will develop the industry and make it competitive on the global stage. There are musicians who everyone knows can dance but at their shows, they just walk around the stage as if they are pastors preaching the word of God. I think this is limiting the growth of the industry.
There is even one musician who is rumoured to have tried to do that when invited to perform in another country and was booed off stage. An opportunity lost for yet another show. However, many times when some foreign musicians come to perform here, they arrive a few days before. Do rehearsals and go through every detail.
They even try to learn a Luganda word so they can endear themselves to the fans. When you attend some of these shows, you feel it is worth the money. You know there was a performance, not some miming act and asking the audience to sing.
One could argue that such shows are expensive to organize, put a band together and all that but if you are invited to perform at a wedding, at least put in some effort, don’t just walk around miming.
If you attend some comedy shows, be sure to hear the same joke that you earlier watched on Instagram or YouTube being repeated all the time, which is plagiarism.
But it isn’t just musicians and comedians. Today, there are so many people who call themselves social media influencers. They simply get a phone, record something many times bizarre and post on TikTok or Facebook Reels so they could get a huge following which they hope to sell to advertisers.
And some manage actually to do so but whether it is sustainable is too early to tell. The creative economy has enormous potential to uplift many young people out of poverty and catapult many people to a stage we can’t even begin to imagine but there is need to put our acts together because if an account is to stand out, there will be need for originality and creativity.
I think one of the reasons we are failing on creativity and originality is because everyone wants to do their little thing. Everyone wants to open their own account and create content which leads to simply copying or fizzling out.
Yet for a channel to be successful, there is need for people working as teams. If you look at the most famous YouTubers or TikTokers, they have teams behind them. Marketing, scripting, choreographers, make-up artists, fashion gurus, production, and media, among others.
We need to replicate that. Can the market afford them? I believe so. People will pay for premium content or a nice show. I don’t know whether the Jazz Safari makes money or not but when you attend their events, you feel the worth of your money.
And the events always sell out. Most of their musicians actually perform. They don’t just walk around one hand holding a mic and another in the pocket. Can’t a musician invited to sing at a dinner perform? I believe they can if they put in the effort.
Those performances would actually attract more people even on the social media channels, thereby leading to more acts and even online advertising.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.