Online shows are no longer a new thing to us but while some have relaxed on the idea, the team at Fezah has kept the shows going, perhaps because they attached a price from the start.
When Uganda was forced to go into a lockdown, the arts went quiet for some time.
But in a snap, different kinds of events organisers and artistes had thought of ways they could best connect with an audience that was stuck at home.
From one concert to the next, Ugandans were impressed, the artistes were getting jobs, their guitarists and bands were involved and basically everyone was happy.
But there was one problem, all shows were free.
Some artistes were getting paid, but at the end of it all, the art was in danger – there was fear that people would soon forget what it means to pay for a show and thus, made it important for organisers of virtual shows to find ways of pricing their shows.
Fezah, known for their live shows over the past years, were quick to jump onto the virtual concert foray, but unlike most of the shows that had been organised, theirs had a price attached to it.
This was Kenneth Mugabi’s, much of which was on Zoom, then things were being experimented and glitches were even allowed.
For instance, the sound was sketchy at times during Mugabi’s show that they were forced to do it again. However, with transport becoming easier in the past months, Elijah Kitaka, one of the founders and his team took the shows back to their Fezah home.
They have since done shows by Isaac Rucci, Afrigo Band, John Marie Ssengendo and jazz music celebration. All the shows, judging by the live interaction as they go on, is proof that there is a good number of Ugandans both in the country and the Diaspora responding to the idea.
This month, the organisers have been on it at least with a show every week. They have had a celebration of gospel music with Limit X’s Isaac Rucci and last week’s engaging performance by preacher, praise and worship leader Brian Lubega.
For this particular show, the singer and songwriter chose to take his audience at home through a prayer session but with a song.
With songs such as Nungamya and Wegukubira, he invited those watching to pray with him and saying things will get better.
The shows are interactive, with questions about the song inspiration in between the performances, some members of the audience even send birthday greetings to friends they are aware are online.
Before the pendemic, Fezah had become that platform where Ugandans got a chance to see music that was served in a different way, they were contemporary but never limited to that. For instance, where a Naava Grey would entertain this week, a Cindy or Irene Ntale would next week.
With coronavirus in the mix, the founders had promised they would not let the music go silent but as Kitaka revealed in an interview with Daily Monitor last year, they cannot allow an artiste attached to them to perform entirely for free.
A way to make online shows valuable was needed – of course, there were other factors that had to be considered. For instance, the shows have had to move from Saturday to Sunday since the Internet traffic on Saturday evening is not as favourable.
With the industry in limbo and more Ugandans online, it is not known whether other show organisers will take on the initiative, especially now that artistes know they can put a price to it.