Just like any other country, Zimbabwe has not been spared as several events from concerts, exhibitions, album launches to weddings have been cancelled.
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe which run galleries in Bulawayo and Mutare has also shut down operations as most of its visitors are tourists, mostly from affected countries.
Entertainers and event organisers have been left counting losses due to cancellations and postponements of scheduled events.
Showbiz players have highlighted how the virus will hit their businesses, evoking memories of the 2018 cholera outbreak which affected the country when government issued a ban on public gatherings similar to what has been issued in respect of the coronavirus.
Government has banned public gatherings for 60 days with regards to coronavirus although during the cholera outbreak it was just for 10 days.
The threat of coronavirus has resulted in the government introducing stern measures which include a ban on public gatherings which exceed 100 people.
Showbiz is a game of numbers meaning the ban’s effect, though inevitable, will be felt.
Several entertainers particularly musicians survive on live shows which usually attract hordes of people to various venues. This is their major revenue stream at a time record sales have declined owing to the high rate of piracy.
A number of high profile gigs among them the Jah Prayzah album launch and the Burna Boy Concert have been called off.
This also goes for a number of other local events such as the Chillspot provincial tour.
Renowned music promoter Josh Hozheri, who is the chairperson of Zimbabwe Music Promoters Association, said this will have far reaching consequences.
“While this is a natural phenomenon, it will have a huge bearing on event organisers and musicians. We are looking at the cost of advertising and marketing a show. We would have paid for radio and television adverts for a show on a certain date and have posters printed and when the event is cancelled it means the money has gone down the drain. When you have new dates it means more money for new adverts,” he said.
He also touched on how the ban will impact on musicians.
“Musicians for example are surviving on live shows. This is their major revenue stream and the ban means an impact on their pockets. It is not possible to have an event with less than 100 people and how will you stop people from coming in?
“In Zimbabwe record sales have been affected by several factors, among them piracy. CDs are not bringing much rewards to musicians because of pirates, so live shows have been a platform for them to benefit from their work,” he said.
Some entertainers will however utilise the ban to perfect work on their new projects.
Sungura musician Alick Macheso, who will be releasing a new album, said he planned to take a break from shows to fine tune his album.
“The ban was inevitable and in the interest of public health we will comply. Our followers will obviously miss us and it has also disrupted our schedule but this is necessary considering what the virus is doing in other countries. We were supposed to take a break to prepare for the June album launch and with the ban we are saying we will use it to fine tune and perfect the album,” the singer said.
Showbiz watchers believe it is high time that entertainers move to other revenue streams such as online platforms.
For instance, Jah Prayzah, after the cancellation of the launch, has moved to launch the album online.
Rooftop Promotions and Theatre in the Park producer Daves Guzha said the Stephen Chifunyise International Theatre festival slated for Harare from 26 to 28 this month will now happen online. “In these trying times, it is incumbent upon the creative and cultural industries to provide relief to an otherwise potentially depressed human race.
“Without theatre, film, music, dance and many other art forms, humanity would find itself in an abyss. Coronavirus demands us creatives to be dynamic and outward thinking in ensuring we do our bit. To that end, the much-expected Stephen J Chifunyise festival will be shared on various digital platforms.”
Tocky Vibes has also cancelled his album launch that was scheduled for March 28 at Mashwede and it will be put online.
“The launch has been cancelled but the music will now be on online platforms. We can’t keep mourning because this is a natural disaster which we can’t change,” he said.
Songstress Thulani Machisa who was supposed to launch her own brand and songs has also postponed the event.
“Due to the presidential announcement suspending all public gatherings with effect from 20 March 2020, Thulani would like to advise all her respected fans, relatives, friends, acquaintances and colleagues that the brand launch scheduled for 21 March 2020 has been equally postponed to a further date to be communicated.
“We would like to sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused. God bless you and please keep on checking this space for the new date. Thulani treasures your health more than the Launch. Have a lovely week and please be safe and help to stop the spread of coronavirus,” a statement from her management said.
Showbiz critic Benjamin Nyandoro said while this is a crisis; it should serve as a wake-up call to the entertainment sector.
“This is a responsible call which everyone should embrace. Business has been affected globally and local artistes are not spared. However, this should serve as a wake-up call to all the players to embrace the digital space.
“Everything is going online, monetise your social media platforms that even in times of crisis revenue will still be flowing into your coffers. It is time to be professional, engage and work with corporates,” he said.
In 2018, the cholera induced ban affected several events among them the Harare International Carnival. The 2018 police funfair was also affected by the cholera outbreak which resulted in its postponement.
Another high profile gig in 2018, the Cassper Nyovest and Prince Kaybee headlined RSVP gig had to be moved forward.
The cholera epidemic also left the Ammara Brown, Mr Eazi gig hanging in the balance.
Other events such as the Jacaranda Music Festival and Gwanda gospel festival proceeded but with a cost as the organisers moved on the side of caution.
Another showbiz player Samuel ‘Boss Werras’ Saungweme of Werras Entertainment said there are lessons to be learnt from the crisis.
“Showbiz just like any other sector has been affected. While it is difficult for entertainers, it is also time to learn. There is need to invest in other sectors.
“Focusing on music alone and live shows only is no longer working. For entertainers, get online and maximise on the platform. We have seen this during the time of cholera, the bells were ringing and some did not hear them and we are faced with a similar situation this time on a global scale,” he said.