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AT sound checks before a performance, the Bassist of the Dar es Salaam-based Kilimanjaro  Band, (Njenje) Shabani Ramadhani, is basically concerned that his instrument’s level blends-in with the others satisfactorily.

However, on other occasions,when in his other capacity of Stage Manager, his responsibility covers everything that happens, while the performers are on stage. It was while still wearing his Stage Manager’s hat that the ‘Daily News’ caught-up with him in the Mambo Club grounds, of the Old Fort in Stonetown, Zanzibar, recently.

Actually, he was the person responsible for making sure all the groups, which performed at the just-ended Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), were satisfactorily accommodated during their performances.

“This year we had many more stage performances, here at the Mambo Club than in previous years. Before, the ZIFF organisers paid less attention to music. This year, things were different and live music was given more space, after the films screening, from around 10pm,” he said.

A partnership arrangement was established between Marahaba Swahili Music (MSM) and the ZIFF organisers, for the former to take care of the stage performances, which consisted of music and a fashion show, within the festival. This way the latter could take better care of the films and other Visual Art forms, which make the festival a complete Arts experience.

Although the expertise came from MSM and ZIFF, some of the stage equipment came from the Sauti Za Busara organisers. This didn’t include the Chief Sound Engineer, Keppy Kiombile, who operates as a Freelance Sound Engineer and was chosen by the MSM for the occasion.

He’s a resident of Dar es Salaam, who also plays bass guitar together with holding the engineer position for the Marahaba Festival, which is held every November.

The big challenge he encountered during the ZIFF, he says was a direct result of some of the equipment not being used for a long stretch of times. By their very nature, he maintains digital equipment has to be used frequently for them to provide the best service every time.

Often, when they seem to have broken down during a performance, it’s not that they have any big mechanical problem, but just been stuck in storage too long. Despite this hang-up he gets his pleasure from being able to give the performer the kind of sound they want.

It’s not a must for him to be familiar with the performers’ material beforehand, he says, but having some idea of their music does help to get the required sound, much easier and quicker. Kiombile also told the ‘Daily News’ he had noticed a difference between local and foreign performers.

The latter a lot more serious about what they’re doing. His Assistant Sound Engineer Hamisi Juma Mohammed told the ‘Daily News’ one of the challenges they have to deal with, which is a too frequent for his liking, occurs when an artist shows up late for a sound check. However, although they were late they still expect him to be able to give them the original amount of minutes, which he knows is no longer possible.

“They usually show-up late with their frustration and expect me to just continue as normal. This really tries my patience but I’m able to keep cool by concentrating on the other artists, who also have to sound check.

They are the ones to make the late-comer see reason, not me,” Mohammed told the ‘Daily News’ when asked how he deals with such cases. Wisdom is the main attribute when handling such individuals he commented, otherwise the entire situation gets out of control and everything’s lost.

However, Mohammed points out that there is another side to his duties that is pleasant. It is from being part of the stage crew that he has got to know many performers, over the 18 years that he has been with the ZIFF.

Now when he comes to Dar es Salaam or even neighbouring countries, he is known. One big difference he has noticed comes from the fact that visiting artists are much more disciplined and adhere to time much more than locals.

He puts this down to the high level of professionalism demanded from them wherever they go to perform. The fourth member of Hamisi’s stage crew is Hafidh Ali Ayoub on lights.

He has been with the ZIFF team for the last ten years and says given the irregularity of electricity, where shorts do occur, he is always on attention, during a performance. He maintains that every artist have their specifications, which they would like.

Therefore, he has to be flexible at all times, so that he is able to handle a situation when it arises quickly and efficiently. After-all, he learns a lot more from having these challenges than if they were none.



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