Tuesday, 27 November 2012

BORN and BORED Awards Do It Again

I am beginning to think that the Born and Bred Awards organisers put up terrible show on purpose. I think they get a kick out of us complaining. After all that is the best publicity the show can get when people are frustrated and whining about how disappointing the show was. The organisers really do a great job hyping up the awards, I guess that is the only credit that they deserve to get but when they come to the main event, it is tragic. It was around this time last year that I wrote a piece entitled ‘Born and Bred Awards Sucked, Sucked and Sucked!’ and true to my promise then; I did not bother waiting around for them this year. I was only able to watch the last twenty minutes of the show and thank God that is all I saw.

Based on the few minutes that I watched the Born and Bred Awards, it was not difficult to deduce that we were yet again treated to a sub-standard and mediocre event. The awards stage was embarrassingly dull and boring that if that is the best the organisers can do then we are in trouble. In fact it should be criminal to have an awards stage like that, I have seen better stage setups at high school events than that. Even putting up balloons there would have made a difference. It was as if the guys did not watch the CNN Journalist Awards held at the same venue. I know that the excuse is that they B&B Awards did not have the same kind of funds but in my opinion even if they did they would not have done anything outstanding. There are certain aspects that do not require billions of kwacha all it requires are creative brains. The presenters failed to hold their own on that stage busy sharing a mic. Seriously, they could not find an additional microphone. The sound quality was poor, the video directing and the camera’s used felt like we were still in the Stone Age.

I believe that the organisers have already received more than enough flack, and I am sure they have got the message loud and clear, so I will not dwell on this matter too long. The one thing that I would like to add, is why the organisers felt that there was a need for a long speech at awards show like B & B. Quite honestly; it was absolutely unnecessary for the Honorable Minister of Tourism and Arts Slyvia Masebo, to make a speech. I think for such awards certain traditions need to be avoided. This issue of speeches deserves a blog of its own. It should not be mandatory for government dignitaries to read speeches at every event they attend. Presenting the Video of the Year Award was enough reverence for the minister; I do not think people were too impressed to have to sit through a speech.

My opinion is that Innocent Kalaluka and company are doing a tremendous job by providing musicians a platform to air their music videos. However, when it comes to the organisation of the Born and Bred Awards, it is time they stopped living in denial and admit that the task is too Herculean for their capabilities. It is in the best interest of the Awards that the organisation is outsourced to individuals who have the capacity to deliver a show of international standard. At the moment, Zambia does not have a show that is even of an international calibre and I am so rooting that Born and Bred Awards can be that show. So it’s time the Born and Bred Award organisers stop living in denial and repeat after me,
“Hi we are the Born and Bred Organisers, and we are not good at organising!”

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cheers! To the Loser in Us

I recall my primary school days when my father would scold me for passing tenth in class. I always used to wonder why he fussed so much about it.  My usual response to him was I beat 16 other pupils and only nine got better results. He would then tell me I needed to be number one. Yes, the pupils with bad grades made me feel better about myself at least I was not a failure. There were others far worse than I was. This is how most of us are, we love being around the losers. After all, among losers we are a success story.

Even in our adult lives nothing much has changed. We consider ourselves as doing well when we compare ourselves to our relatives and friends. If you got a job and your friend doesn't you feel a little bit better. Maybe you are making your way up the ladder of success. In the same vein if I am walking and a friend is driving they are entitled to feel a level of accomplishment, right? Nothing stops them from using me as a yardstick for the measure of their achievement.
I do not find anything wrong hanging out with the losers if all we ever want is to satisfy our egos and maybe gain some kind of hero worship. But then some deliberately choose to mingle with them because they are afraid to chill with the successful ones. If we decide to hang around successful people we then turn out to be the losers. We are the ones the successful people use to feel good about themselves and measure their level of success. I know people say that do not compare yourself to others but that is something hard to do. I have tried and I have come to accept that sometimes I cannot help it, I love comparing myself to others.
Of course it hurts being the loser of the bunch. It is, however, dependant on how someone will take the loser status. Some people will become too uncomfortable and revert to their other loser friends of which they are the best of crew. Then for some they will use this as impetus to strive harder and also attain a level of success in order to break free from the loser tag. It is hard to dispute that if you hang around successful people long enough some traits may rub on you (unless you are just stubborn) and who knows maybe you could be on your way to the top too.
It is difficult to accept that at some point in our lives we were, still are or might become losers. As long as we continue to live in denial nothing much can be done about the situation. The moment we admit that we are losers can the journey to some level of success begin. It is the same in football. Prior to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations win, there was no point in Zambia claiming that they were winners. The fact was, we either lost on our way to the final or in the final until the day we entered the winner’s circles on 12 February 2012. Still when it comes to the World Cup, Zambia are losers. We have never qualified.
           I know that the definition of success is subjective, some measure it in monetary terms, others in good relationships, some in perfect health; each person does have their own perception. Regardless of what view we hold, at some point, in order to progress we need to embrace the loser in us. That means knowing that there is a lot more we can do. Yes, the philosophical readers of this blog will say stuff like, “I am a winner”, “I am a positive thinker”, “Success is my portion” and all that mumble jumble, well and good tell yourself all that good stuff. Go ahead have happy thoughts and do nothing, when I want to hang around with losers I know who to call. The journey towards success whatever that is to you begins with realising the loser in you. So let’s raise a toast to the loser in US!

Monday, 12 November 2012

A Tale of Two Democracies- ZAMERICA

The build up to Barack Obama’s re-election was not as grand, emotional or even as highly anticipated as his first election. The same excitement was no longer there and here in Zambia it was almost a, by the way, thing. This could be because he had already broken the glass ceiling of being the first African- American president, anything else after that was a bonus. Nonetheless, pretty much the entire Africa was still rooting for him to win purely on the fact that he was black. And we say Africans are not racist. During the American campaigns I had the chance to see on television how he campaigned and also had the opportunity to listen to one of the presidential debates and political analysts make predictions. This got me reflecting can the American democracy style work for Zambia or do we need to develop a democracy that works for us?

The United States of America has primarily two political parties, the Democratic and Republican parties. These are evidently two distinct parties that have clearly defined values, and they stand upon these same values. The Republicans are perceived to be more conservative, and it would not be wrong to state that most Christians would associate themselves with this party. On the other hand, the Democrats take a more liberal stance to their values. They support issues such as gay rights, abortion and are less cut throat on immigration. It is upon their party values that Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney stood by. They could not just stand on a podium and speak their mind. They had to be a reflection of their respective party’s values. Therefore, as an electorate you are able to select a party that speaks to your values. In contrast to the current situation in Zambia, it is very difficult for me to tell someone what the core values of the Patriotic Front (PF), Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) or even United Party for National Development (UPND) are. This is because they are always shifting goal posts, and the parties are held together based on the personality. The closest I can get to a core value of a political party is Patriotic Front's ‘More Money in your Pocket’, other than that I am blank. The problem we have is that the parties are highly inclined to the individuals at the helm. Therefore, when people go to the polls, it is often the person rather than the political party views that they are representing that people are voting for.
I personally would prefer that Zambia has two or three political parties that are distinct and they preach this distinction to the electorate. The only problem is that we have opportunistic political parties that are silent and literally non-existent until the year of the elections, then they decide to poke their noses once again. If we had fewer political parties that say, for example, were conservative, liberal or socialist when someone was to ask me what values I look at when I am voting for a party in power it is based on what I believe the party will deliver. There will be no double standards, where someone campaigns on one thing and once voted into power does something completely different.
When it comes to obtaining political mileage perhaps the Americans are more ruthless than our politicians in Zambia. They put out advertisements against their opponents about all their inadequacies and dig up every dirty laundry that is available; if it means getting to the archives, they do so. Therefore, politicians have to be very careful what they say because one day it might come to haunt them. Even if it was ten years ago when you were only a university president, they will find a way of sucking it out and squeezing it for any political ammunition. Here in Zambia we have not yet reached the elaborate levels of advertising during campaigns and for some reason, politicians are not held accountable for what they say. Perhaps it is the electorate that easily forgets and is so willing to move on. It is no wonder that a presidential aspirant can make a lot of promises and rarely be crucified if they accomplish none of them when they become president. However, if there is anything to admire it is the way the presidential debates are conducted. It is done in such an orderly manner and it is only issues that are discussed. Each candidate lays out their plans on how they believe the country would best be governed. Sadly, in Zambia, whenever there are presidential debates organised by the television stations the ruling head of state does not bother to attend or one of the main opposition leaders is also unavailable. Therefore, you have a bunch of pretenders deceiving themselves about what they will do when they come into power when they know very well that they will not even have a sniff of the state house.
During the American presidential campaigns which each party had passionate supporters, there was never an occasion when I heard a mob of Democrats or Republicans attacking each other. Neither did I hear Romney tell Obama that bring your cadres, and we are ready for war, no such nonsense took place. The rallies were civil and there were no machete carrying overzealous cadres around. Sadly, in Rufunsa, Crispin Zulu a PF supporter lost his life allegedly at the hands of MMD/UPND cadres. The amount of hooliganism among some cadres is absolutely appalling. The poverty level in this country is one of the hindrances to our democracy. The political aspirants appeal to people’s stomachs rather than their intellects. The offering of a bag of mealie meal or bottle of cooking oil cannot only buy you votes but minions who are willing to perform brutal acts on your behalf.
So clearly our democracy has made tremendous strides over the years, and it is one of the few countries in Africa that has relatively peaceful transition of government. However, our democracy still has some fundamental flaws that need to be fixed, panel beaten and overhauled all together, if we are to follow democracies such as America which are light years ahead. Then again, why should we aspire to be a democratic nation like America? Maybe it is time that Zambia and the rest of Africa redefine their own democracies. Perhaps we should accept the imperfections in our democracies and find a way to live or work around them. It could be about time that opposition political parties accept that they will always be disadvantaged against the ruling party and need to be proactive in overcoming this challenge. We should come to accept that the stomach speaks louder than logic, and political parties should speak where they will be heard the loudest. Maybe the only way we show passion for our political parties is by clobbering each other and we should set up boxing rings where the scores can be settled. This is perhaps our democracy, and the Americans are not doing it right. Democracy is simply an ideology. Ideologies can be changed. Is it about time Zambia has its own special definition for democracy?

Monday, 5 November 2012

When Mediocrity Becomes An Addiction

I have tended to develop apathy for Zambian events. Do not get me wrong, I do support ‘Proudly Zambian’ products. I buy Boom products, Maheu, Amanita Oil and the list goes on. However, when it comes to events organised in Zambia that is a different league altogether. After attending a few horrible events that I was left nearly in tears, I decided not to attend anymore. I was not shedding tears for the money but the time I had wasted that I would never get back. Fortunately, this past Saturday I attended an event that gave be a flicker of hope in this dark doldrums.

Caitlin's electric violin performance

If an event is organised in Zambia, please do not have high expectations of it. Prepare your mind for something to go wrong. Events in Zambia, border on poor sound system releasing white noise, the microphones not working, the master of ceremony boring as hell, the stage not being ready in time, the programme running late, the performers putting up an amateurish exhibition of their talents and asking the DJ to increase the volume on their CD. Sadly, these are expectations that I have come to live with, in my beloved Zambia.
The previous Saturday morning, I had a date with the beautiful Caitlin. For many people, she is still an unknown except for the few who have heard this talented beauty perform. She is an internationally renowned electric violinist. And yes she is Zambian. It gets me wondering what was I doing while she was learning to play the violin, busy with Sojo? She was having a free performance at Manda Hill by the escalators. It was a chance I couldn’t miss. In true punctual style, I was there in anticipation waiting for her to strum that instrument. Shortly after 11:30 hours, she came down the escalator while caressing the strings of the violin to a booming beat from the speakers. There was a stage at the bottom which she strutted from one end to the other while performing pieces like Serengeti Sunrise and Neyo’s ‘Let Me Love’, among others. By this time, the crowds began to gather mesmerised by the foreign sound they were hearing. It was something different from the Fruity Loops laced ubiquitous tracks we are forced to listen to.
Immediately, Caitlin’s first performance was done, Chi the Hot FM DJ laid down the morning’s programme. It was not known to me before the announcement that there was also some fashion show at which different clothing shops at Manda Hill were going to be showcasing their Summer Wear.  It was supposedly the conclusion of the Month of Fashion. The models began coming down the escalator in various postures and stepping on the runway with authority and poise, and up the escalator they went before the next model did the same. In my opinion, the use of the escalators as part of the runaway was absolutely genius on the part of the organisers. Clothing shops like Total Sport, Mr. Price, Ndanji Fashions, Identity and others showed off their clothes (both men's and ladies wear) and it culminated in a local designer showcasing her summer designs.

Models on the runway

I must admit that I am not one for fashion and my fashion taste is almost non-existent. As long as I do not look like a clown or a flower when I wear something then I am cool with it. So it was interesting to see what was really transpiring before my eyes. I should also confess that the reason I was keen on following the proceedings was that I was waiting for something to go wrong. I had my mobile video camera ready to take the next tragedy in my Zambian event's memories. One of those Youtube like videos that become hits. I was expecting one of the models to tumble, the escalators to stop working, the speakers to just go off, and the models to bump into each other or the master of ceremony to apologise for some technical fault beyond their control.
Amazingly, none of the mishaps I was expecting to happen did. I was shocked, how can an event in mother Zambia go smoothly? It is impossible. I had become so used to mediocre events that I was failing to accept that I could attend an event without some form of frustration when it was all over. It almost felt like I was not attending a Zambian event and a piece was missing. I think I am still in denial. It is what attending many substandard events has done to me. I cannot believe that people can be professional about their work and take it seriously. Even if the event was free, the professional manner in which it was organised was so refreshing, I wished many of the amateur event planners were there to see it. 
I cannot wrap my head around why most events in this country are pathetically organised? Is it that hard to start an event on time, have a proper sound system, perfect transition between breaks, an MC who actually knows how to do their job and performers who do not get out of bed and realise that they have a show but actually rehearse for it weeks in advance? Even when renowned musicians such as Salif Keita and Oliver Mtukudzi performed here last month, they had to endure the bad sound system they were provided. It is not only musicians who are culprits but pretty much everyone who organises an event- comedians, poets, theatre houses and even conferences.
The team behind the well organised event on Saturday are R & G Events. They successfully hosted the Beer fest last month and are building a formidable reputation for themselves. These guys are giving me hope at last. Things in this country can be done better and we should not accept mediocrity at whatever cost. So until the other event organisers up their game and stop trying to outclass the other in second-rate events my new motto is, “If it aint organised by R & G, I am not attending.”