Gora believes in young artists

marcus_goraHARARE - Marcus Gora is a young arts practitioner and entrepreneur currently involved in various projects aimed at re-building a sustainable cultural sector in the country.

He is also label president at African Music Network (AMN), a service provider to the music and other industries providing solutions in the areas of artist management, marketing and distribution, design, and print.

YM: First and foremost, walk me through your organization (AMN) and the difference it is trying to make in the local arts industry.

MG: AMN wishes to promote the best emerging music talent and develop projects aimed at empowering the new generation of musicians. I am also the event director at First Floor Gallery, Harare’s first artist run gallery designed to provide a much needed opportunity for emerging visual artists to exhibit their work, develop their skills and experiment without the pressure of fitting into market expectations. Lastly, I am crafting arts programming for TV, synergistic collaborations with visual arts as well as developing training resources for artists and art entrepreneurs.

YM: I understand that you have been working with Mokoomba. Tell me

more about your relationship.

MG: Mokoomba was formed in 2008 and won the Music Crossroads Inter-regional Festival award in Malawi. Mokoomba recorded their first album titled Kweseka-Drifting Ahead, which was followed by a European tour in October to November 2009. The tour was a victory in itself for the band as it was only achieved after fighting a long visa battle and

running a successful online petition dubbed ACCESS DENIED. The band is currently recording their second album being produced by Manou Gallo (Ivory Coast/Belgium). The band performed at the Harare International Arts Festival 2011 in collaboration with Mathias Julius.

YM: Which unsigned African artists have you worked with so far?

MG: Mokoomba is currently collaborating with Dutch DJ Gregor Salto under the crowd funding project called Africa Unsigned. Gregor Salto is known for his funky sets with a lot of Soul, Latin, Jazz, Disco and Afro flavoured House beats. The collaboration has

raised $520 of $10,000 so far and efforts are being made to urge fans to support the project.

YM: Which genres are you biased towards and why?

MG: My label’s policy favours music which is original and deeply influenced by folk and tradition. The lyrical content should also communicate the artist’s grassroots, the only way to develop new audiences and keep existing ones.

YM: How do you view the future of prospective artists trying to break into the music scene?

MG: The future is bright for young artists because slowly but surely the country’s music industry is going through a period of renewal and all the creative industries have been an important part of that.

YM: What have been the major grievances in the arts industry in general?

MG: 1. Music education, research and information gathering institutions are experiencing operational difficulties while other avenues like mentorship and nurturing of new entertainers has been decimated by the mass exodus of experienced artists and arts practitioners to other

countries in search of better career opportunities.

2. Media support is a big issue. Local press, radio and television do not at present have effective support for a diversity of contemporary and emerging music talent. The current crop of journalists do not have much arts education and do not do research. Some of them are corrupt; they want artists to pay for play or coverage while some of them are prone to

playing popular foreign music in a bid to get slots at night clubs as an extra income opportunity.

3. Financial pressures prevent venues, recording companies, radio stations and promoters from experimenting and giving opportunities to young emerging artists.

4. There is a massive polarization of the nation on political lines resulting in some popular artists losing their audiences and some exercising self censorship to keep their audience. The lack of independent radio makes it easy for government effect censorship.

5. Corporate bodies who were the major funders and sponsors of the entertainment industry have turned their focus to risk management and direct marketing leaving the sector on its knees. In the absence of government support, the sector is left at the mercy of Non

Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with mandates to help in areas such as food security, health and the rebuilding of civil society. These NGOs engage the entertainment sector as an

instrument and vehicle to communicate their messages and achieve specific goals leading to the rise of EDUTAINMENT which in turn skews the creative interests of artists.

YM: With music piracy spreading at an alarming rate, do you think there is a chance for upcoming musicians?

MG: Truth be told, piracy affects only a few established musicians whose popularity is ironically a result of piracy itself. Piracy is only symptomatic of the failure by the local players to respond to present day music industry challenges.

YM: What do you think should be done to guarantee arts?

MG: I think it is important to rebuild music training institutions, facilitate creative exchange between our musicians and musicians from other cultures, and rebuild audiences for our local music. The ultimate is for audiences to understand that the best way to support

their entertainers is to buy their work and this will go a long way in dealing with issues such creative freedom, brain drain and piracy. But seriously I believe in this country and its potential and its artists and their future. Zimbabwe is the place where so much can

be done and where opportunities to make a difference, not just to the music industry but to peoples lives, are huge. The entertainment sector is a vital part of any country not just as a social tool. A vibrant entertainment sector is essential to the well being of any

society and can set the tone for economic recovery. This is a unique moment in history and I am proud to be part of it.

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