LETTER: Blaahs blooper should not be blamed solely on musicians

2016-08-25 06:00

The article by Mbulelo Mpofu(Apology for poor jazz, City Vision, August 18) refers.

It was in relation to their Women’s Celebration Jazz Show which was held on 06 August 2016 at Johnson Ngwevela Hall in Langa.

Serious allegations were directed to the band which was performing on the day; that they rendered a poor service.

The article though, was an apology to the community, their supporters and other sister organisations which were invited on the day.

That was an insult to the musicians who were there to support the individual who was hired and contracted by the Blaahs Society. To set the record straight, please note the following:

• The individuals who were tasked with the organisation and coordination of the show had an agreement only with the individual who approached them, and not the band or the session musicians;

• The band or other individuals who were there to perform were never provided with any scope or specifications for the kind of product to offer;

• The agreement was only entered into and concluded with the individual who acted as contact man between the band members and the organising committee of Blaahs;

• The organisers failed to ensure that there was proper sound equipment;

• No DJ was hired on the day as a standard to fill in the gaps in-between the band performances;

• The organisers failed to ensure that the band they hired was of high standard by ascertaining the quality and standard of their performance;

The individuals or the committee tasked by the organisation failed dismally and they should take full responsibility and not shift the blame to the musicians.

Blaahs Burial Society is renowned for supporting local musicians through their respective activities that they have presented in all the years.

They have set the standard in terms of the quality of musicians they have featured in all their events.

Individuals who were tasked for this year’s event have now thrown out that good reputation by compromising the standard of the event through minimising the costs and maximising the profits, thus resulting in the dismal product on the day.

The statement of on the article is so vague that it does not provide an opportunity for further intervention or correction from the musicians for future engagements, as it is claimed that the organisation (Blaahs) has an objective to promote local and upcoming jazz groups.

We get the sense that by hiring local musicians for their events, Blaahs Burial Society or its organising committee, is doing them a favour.

Those are experienced and well-travelled individuals who have managed to register their names in the industry and one of them was the young talented Tenor Saxophonist who performed with the previously featured band (Umlilo) for a Blaahs event last year.

An apology should also be presented to the band for the abuse, for not ensuring that they were catered for.

By strangling the musicians with the poor sound equipment on offer on the day, thus saving loads of money for the organisation, did not help matters.

Whoever was responsible for hiring the group or band should account on the process that they followed to reach the contract with less 50% of the fee that was paid or charged by the previous bands.

The organising team should therefore take fully responsibility and account to the entire organisation for their dismal failure to organise and coordinate such an event.

An introspection should be conducted by the organisation on the shortcomings and what lessons could be learnt from this experience going forward instead of pointing fingers to others.

The letter is written in my private capacity as a musician, activist against the abuse of musicians or artists.

I was supposed to have been one of the artists featured on the day, but I withdrew my services due to the unbearable circumstances under which we were expected to perform as artists.

It was the right thing to do, for even no other fellow musicians who were present on the day to watch the show wanted even to take part in the session, as is the custom in jam sessions.

It is a pity the event turned ugly, as this is not how things are done or should be done at social events like these. If the organisers could have created an environment that was conducive for local talent to shine.

Mxolisi Lugulwana via email

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