Last weekend gave fans a chance to see live performances by the Guma Guma III contestants at Amahoro stadium. As opposed to the earlier performances to CD playback, one could see that the artistes tried to give it their all, mindful of the fact that with live, “anything can happen”,
It’s one easy thing for almost any musician to capture the perfect vocals in studio. Even a weak artiste has the luxury of recording several takes and putting together the best parts. They can then proceed to add all sorts of sound effects and sweeteners like Auto tune and echo with the help of the producer.
But pulling off the same thing on stage and in front of a large audience is a different ball game altogether.
That is what the eleven contestants in the Primus Guma Guma Superstar music contest found out last weekend, as they performed live for the first time since they begun their countrywide road shows. Prior to that, all performances by contestants had been to CD playbacks.
CD playback is where an artiste sings to a pre-recorded track while on stage. With CD playback, all that an artiste needs on stage is DJ or soundman. And the problem with CD playbacks is that they are just a form of rip off disguised under technology. Who wants to go to a music concert to see a musician pretending to be singing?
But if you thought that CD playbacks are the worst thing a musician could ever do to his/her fans, think again. There is an even bigger monster that has invaded today’s music globally; lip synching. This refers to the action of moving one’s lips in time with a recorded piece of music. It is moving the lips but with no sound coming from one’s mouth. Sometimes, the musician actually sings, but with the microphone switched off. In short, lip synching is the act of pretending to sing while not actually singing.
In the past, lip synching was largely the preserve of talentless musicians, yet today it looks something of a trend. The very best of international musicians have been accused of increasingly relying on it, including American superstar Beyonce.
The If I Were a Boy singer is said to have lip synched her way through her rendition of the American anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner at president Barack Obama’s second inauguration bash in January.
The singer defended her action later, explaining that; “I am a perfectionist, and one thing about me: I practice ‘till my feet bleed. I did not have time to rehearse with the orchestra. It was a live television show... Due to the weather, due to the delay, due to no proper sound check... I did not feel comfortable singing live.”
Beyonce’s critically praised performance came under scrutiny less than a day later when a representative from the U.S. Marine Band said she wasn’t singing live and the band’s accompanying performance was taped. Shortly after, the group backed off its initial statement and said no one could tell if she was singing live or not.
Well, at least at this phase of Guma Guma III, we do not have to worry about such crimes as Beyonce’s from our contestants. The group had all the time they needed for rehearsals in Nyamirambo, and all the access to experienced tutors.
Last weekend gave fans a chance to see live performances by the contestants at Amahoro stadium, and if there is one thing the show attained, it was to cement the contact with their favourite artistes. As opposed to the earlier performances to CD playback, one could see that the artistes tried to give it their all, mindful of the fact that with live, “anything can happen”.
But if there is one thing last weekend’s show taught us, it is that all the contestants are still a work in progress in as far as live singing is concerned. There is a saying that bad singers break into song because they can’t find the key, and if that should be so, most of the artistes struggled with keys.
On a more positive note though, the connection between the musicians and the audience on the one hand, and musicians and their music on the other was stronger as opposed to the first shows.
What lessons have we picked from the first live gig? The first is that there is a world of difference between a good studio musician and a good stage performer (does Knowless come to mind here?)
We also saw that popularity off-stage does not count for much when the drums and snares and guitars begin to rumble (Senderi, the International Hit, are we at par?) –or better still, in Guma Guma speak, Turi kumwe?