11 November saw the launch of the Zimbabwe Musicians Union (ZIMU) at Book Café in Harare’s CBD.
The banding together of musicians to form ZIMU is seen by many as long overdue, since the retreat of the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians (ZUM) into inactivity in recent years.
The interim board addressed a number of music industry professionals including vocalists, instrumentalists, and promoters. The new union is inviting musicians and music industry professionals to join in the hope of increasing numbers, and thus leverage to meet the needs of artists in the community. Book Café director, Tomas Brickhill – a musician himself and acting as ZIMU treasurer – said, “We need numbers to have real influence”, alluding to the power in numbers notion that makes unions effective. Edith “WeUtonga” Katiji, the acting chair of the board added that, “Without the buy-in of the musicians, then we have no union”.
In addition to a call for members, the interim board really emphasised the need for the union to be member-driven, and not run by the executive.
Among the guests present was promoter Robert Zhuwao, who offered his support. It was also attended by Friday Mbirimi of Mbare Trio, who shared some of his experience as a veteran member of ZUM.
Zimbabwe has a rich culture of music, yet often the artists who create it struggle to make formal livings out of this profession alone and have to resort to jobs as well.
One musician in attendance described how “The music industry is an informal sector in Zimbabwe and we need to bring it up to international contractual standards with well-defined roles. Most people in the industry don’t know the difference between a booking agent and a manager.”
This is generally the case because the size and informality of the industry mean that roles are sometimes combined to include things like manager and cook! A lack of written contracts contributes to losses and disagreements between parties in the industry, and there is a great need to raise the professional standards in this regard if music is to become a viable career.
The preliminary board will be replaced after elections set for January. A number of companies and have expressed interest and offered support to the new union including Nyaradzo, Old Mutual, First Mutual Life, and Doves. Some of these offered beneficial plans to union members in the form of in funeral assurance, medical aid, and pension plans. The National Business Council of Zimbabwe also expressed interest in a partnership.
ZIMU is off to a good start. Hopefully it can maintain momentum on a journey to become a strong body for an underdeveloped sector of the economy and society.
Information on how to join ZIMU can be obtained from Book Café, 139 Samora Machel Avenue.