Is Bryan Kadengu a lucky winner?

Bryn Kadengu

Bryn Kadengu

Fred Zindi Music
This past weekend, the Malawi Lake of Stars Festival began in Mangochi, Malawi. The headline act was none other than Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba. The Lake of Stars Festival is an annual three-day international festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi. The festival was started in 2004 and attracts over 3,000 attendees with musical acts from Africa and the United Kingdom. This year the Lake of Stars Festival which featured groups such as Uhuru and Toya Delazy from South Africa, Lucius Banda from Malawi, Young Fathers from the United Kingdom and Mokoomba from Zimbabwe began on September 25 and ended on September 27.

Among the musical acts from Zimbabwe, was another outstanding and exceptionally talented participant. His name is Bryan Kadengu, a little known Zimbabwean rising star who undoubtedly will soon become a force to reckon with in the near future if he keeps up his present singing and guitar playing momentum. It looks like the Malawians have already discovered him before we do.

As if that is not enough, Bryan on return from Malawi is also scheduled to perform in Italy at the forth-coming Italian Music Festival which will run from October 5 to 10. I asked Bryan how he was selected for these festivals and his answer was simple: “Through my own efforts. I simply told them that I had won a music contest and they invited me.” Why Is Bryan not on top of the list of Zimbabwean top 10 artistes yet he won the first prize at StarBrite contest? Are we saying that music contests such as StarBrite and Music Crossroads are a waste of time?

Should they simply stop at giving the winner a prize and then write him off or should they assist him further by developing his career? Bryan is the guy who came first in the last episode of StarBrite competition in 2010. He auditioned for Barney Mpariwa’s StarBrite in Chinhoyi, before going on a boot camp at Mazvikadei Dam where the top 10 artistes were selected.

From there the selected team proceeded to Glamis Stadium, Harare, and came through to the finals held at the Zimbabwe College of Music where he won a Toyota Spacio car as first prize. This was given to him at a ceremony held at Pandari Lodge in Glen Lorne. In my opinion, Bryan should have been nurtured into becoming a big player in the industry through record deals, tours and classy concerts within Zimbabwe, but alas, nobody knows him in Zimbabwe.

To me Bryan is just a commodity. That is what it comes down to. These contests are essentially distributors that are focus-grouping a bunch of independent artistes, using the public as a sort of barometer to see what they should pounce on.

The problem with this is that public opinion and musical originality and creativity share very few similarities. What is entertaining to a bunch of people who half care about music when it comes on the television or radio is wildly different from a musical artist that can sustain a career and actually be of some benefit to the musical climate and musical economy.

Artistes who do what they are doing purely for the love of doing it will stick around for years and tour, thus helping venues to stay open, helping small labels and pressing plants to stay open, and helping keep the independent musical economy moving. Most artistes who have come through talent search competitions end up as just flashes in the pan, and a complete waste of opportunity and money.

Sure they might be your Aunt’s favourite artiste right now, but the taste of people who aren’t totally invested in finding and supporting music is extremely fickle. Once there’s a new flash in that pan, the reality of their slowly dwindling 15 minutes of fame will hit them like a ton of bricks. Born October 3, 1992 in Chinhoyi, Bryan attended Chinhoyi High School where he came out with three A-Levels.

He started his music career at school at the age of nine and professionally after leaving school. After winning the StarBrite show, he continued to mesmerise audiences in Chinhoyi as he shared the stage with Dr Oliver Mtukudzi, Busi Ncube, Roger Mbambo and other artistes each time they came to Chinhoyi. He also performed for students at Chinhoyi University Hotel who were touched by his spirited performance and soulful voice which often rises to a delicate falsetto that blurs gender lines.

Through his own efforts, Bryan has since recorded an eight-track album titled “Nyaya Dzerudo” which included titles such as “Jamaican Girl”, “Marunjeya” “Matida”, “Inseparable”, “Tanya”, “Usasiyane Neni” and “Beautiful You Are”. This album is a good showcase of Bryan’s talent but in my opinion, it is still yet to become commercially appealing.

He needs to touch the people’s hearts by penning moving tunes which his audiences can identify with, dance to and sing along. He has got the guitar-playing skills and he has a voice that can move mountains. What is left is for him to find the right songs and he is up there in no time at all. This is where StarBrite should have come in to support its newly found ‘flash in the pan’ after the 2010 contest.

Unfortunately, these contests are generally out of touch with the state of the music industry. While there are definitely some exceptions to this rule, the world of music right now has two tiers: independent bands who are busting their asses, touring all the time, without any corporate support, and are just barely making a go of it; and gigantic pop stars with corporate sponsorship.

Gigantic pop acts are big because the labels know they can be big, and they funnel a ton of money into them to make sure they stay big. If you’re Joe Nobody who just won a national battle of the bands contest and you get signed to a record company which already has many popular artistes in its stables, you are likely to end up at the bottom of their list as they would rather spend their money promoting something that will guarantee sales instead of newcomers.

That is the dilemma in which Bryan finds himself. Wish him luck!