After exactly 50 events, 128 unique acts and 22 DJs on its Zimbabwe stage, Unplugged Zim now aims to transform its monthly event property ‘Unplugged’ into a global standard festival.
Unplugged Zim is a Zimbabwe-based arts organisation, founded in 2013 whose work spans arts infrastructure development, event management and artist development. Unplugged had become Harare’s premier monthly entertainment event, featuring the country’s best up and coming and established talent. Audiences would congregate with children in tow to listen to previously unheard-of artists as they took their shot at fame.
The event, which celebrated its 5th anniversary in December last year, was born out of a shared love of music between its two founding partners and steadily grew into an entity supported by some of the country’s largest lifestyle brands. The company, which has experienced considerable commercial success, now says it is moving onto its next stage of growth which is to transform its offering and broaden its market so that it has greater continental appeal.
Asked about this new direction, Unplugged Director, Ellinah Chipumha said, that ‘over five years, the organisation has successfully morphed its property into one that attracts between 3,000 to 6,000 individuals every month and much of this was based on the ability to position home-grown music into a lifestyle.’ She said that it was precisely this that saw the likes of Coca-Cola Central Africa buying in to the brand, recognising that they were reaching out to the very same types of audiences. ‘We have a history of global cultural events in Zimbabwe, with massively successful entities such as HIFA, the Book Fair, and even The Vic Falls Carnival attracting audiences from all over the world. It has always been our ambition to take that leap after our 50th event.’
Her partner Chiedza Danha confirmed that the duo are setting their sights very high. ‘ Firstly, we want to give our Zimbabwean audience an event that benchmarks itself to a global standard, but also we want to build this into a continental brand. There has never been a better time for Africa in the export of its culture, nor in its ability to collaborate with like-minded enterprises across the continent. But this convergence is only possible when you offer the very best possible.’ The two say they have spent the last year traveling the festival circuit to truly understand what makes an event attain reach global attraction and believe the same is attainable in the Zimbabwean market.
This growth is expected to come with major changes. To start with, Unplugged will no longer take place every month, rather, what we shall see is a scaled up full-day event that will take place three times a year. While music will remain very much at the core of Unplugged, the duo recognise that the complete festival experience stretches far beyond this, and that numerous other activities will be introduced. The local entity says that a highly experienced and globally exposed festival design team will be used to execute the most unique and creative spaces and activities. Secondly, even though they will continue to push up and coming home grown talent, we can expect to see a real increase in international performers.
Speaking on international performers, Chipumha stated that she saw ‘amazing African and non-African artists that Zimbabweans would love and that would fit the Unplugged stage.’ She added that it is those artists that the organisation would try to attract to Zimbabwe. ‘Having international artists in Zimbabwe also provides incredible opportunities for budding Zimbabwean artists to learn and for established ones to collaborate.’
However the two remain insistent that their focus on local talent would not change and added that artist development was a large part of their business plan.
‘We see so much talent here at home that needs to be exposed, but that also needs to be developed and we know we have a role to play in that. In 2018, the company tutored fifteen budding artists on the commerce of music and other practical issues such as stage performance and the ‘globally workable music video’. Asked to expand on the Artist Development Programme, Chipumha says, ‘there is no doubt this is quintessential to our business model and our brand. We see artists all the time that simply need a break, but also need to learn now to commercialise themselves. It was self-funded for that first year but we are certain it will receive commercial support this coming year, we also want to attract industry veterans from across the continent to help tutor and mentor this generation of new artists.’
Given the high level of ambition, expectations are that Unplugged will grow beyond Zimbabwean borders, but that Zimbabwe’s Unplugged will be reminiscent of festivals in the worlds most developed artistic markets.
For further information, please contact:
Chiedza Danha, +263731065932, firstname.lastname@example.org
Unplugged Zim is a Zimbabwe-based arts organisation, founded in 2013. Its work spans arts infrastructure development, event management and artist development. Unplugged Zim owns the event property, ‘Unplugged’. It is an owner-managed for-profit business, owned and run by Founding Directors Chiedza Danha and Ellinah Chipumha.