As has been the case with many sectors in the country that were greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Rwanda’s entertainment sector has not been spared. The outbreak of the virus which saw the cancellation of all shows has since put artists’ creativity, to entertain and earn to the test.
One of the first artistes that was affected was gospel singer, Patient Bizimana. Two of his performances; “Thanksgiving celebration live concert”, in The Netherlands and his annual “Easter celebration”, that were both supposed to take place in April, were cancelled.
“Due to this pandemic, two of my shows were cancelled and it has affected me because I was not able to fulfill some of the plans I had this year. Although the impact hit in different ways, I was mostly affected financially because as you know, for most musicians, music is our full time job and we do not have an extra source of income,” the “Menye Neza” star shared.
He added that the cancellation of the Easter celebration concert was a huge blow, not only for him but also for his fans because preparations were already in high gear and that he was ready to stage a magical show this year as planned.
“God, however, is in control and we are not complaining. Due to demand from my fans and gospel lovers, I am preparing for a virtual show like some artistes have done solely for my fans,” he said of his alternative plans.
For fastest-rising singer Alyn Sano, the pandemic mostly affected her chances of doing gigs to support her family and invest in her music, a situation she fears could take a toll on her music career.
“I cannot do any gig now which means that my source of income is closed now and the longer that happens, the more the quality of my music, in terms of music videos and promoting my songs, is reduced because the budget is lowered as well,” she said.
The problem with virtual shows
For a whole year, local comedian Babu, real name John Naifa Muyenzi, had been planning for his one-man show that was slated for May 31, his birthday.
All his plans and anticipation were however crushed when all shows were indefinitely cancelled in March to prevent the disease’s spread.
“Covid-19 has crippled our industry in every sense of the word. What is left for us to do is to perform virtually, which is what I intend to do but online shows, although they come in handy, they have their challenges. If you do not have the best internet, your viewers will miss out on some of the jokes, and then all your effort will be futile.
Also, there is something about physical performance and the connection it creates with your audience. Having your viewers respond with emojis in the comments cannot be compared with real laughter,” the comedian explained.
The film industry is also vulnerable due to the pandemic as both the production and the consumption of its output require numerous people together in small spaces.
Wilson Misago, founder of Afrifame that produces most local TV drama series, explained that due to the lockdown, their weekly shootings were cancelled and as a result couldn’t TV shows were postponed until early last month when they resumed. Despite the resumption, some challenges that hinder production still remain.
“Some of our actors who live upcountry could not travel to Kigali in the recent weeks so we had to change the stories of our series so that we can continue to deliver without them. And although we are resuming our work we are taking precautions to protect our crew from the virus by limiting to a limited cast and crew and that means doubling our effort to deliver stories on time, although sadly some of them will not be joining us,” he shared.
He further hinted they will soon be launching a new TV series, ‘Indoto’ (dreams) that was partly shot before the lockdown. It will air on Rwanda Television starting this June.
Hope for the future
Eric Kabera, filmmaker and founder of Kwetu Film Institute, also had his share of challenges from the pandemic. Working in the film industry, he said that investments in film production were so low because it was impossible to meet with investors.
Kabera, however, believes that the pandemic is not a period to give up on entertainment but rather navigate through this ‘new normal’ with ingenuity, which is not only valuable, but also necessary for survival.
“Entertainment can pick up because we have the tools needed to push through. It is important that we continue to create more entertainment because without it people can go bizarre. We therefore need to encourage them more so they can find ways to make more money and fund creatives,” he said.
For his part, Babu said that this crisis should breed creativity for artists to forge ways to share their craft and earn from it at the same time, if only they can do it out of passion.
There are ways creatives can earn money from their craft, even virtually. When you are good at what you do, people will donate money, even if it’s little, if you give them the platform and reason to donate, he said.Follow https://twitter.com/SharonKMugabo