Vusa Blaqs (VB), born Vusa Hlatshwayo, is one of the country’s most sought-after video directors who has worked with some of the country’s top musicians, creating magic on screen through top-notch videos. After failing to make it in the music industry, he found his calling in videography. Hlatshwayo speaks to NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Freeman Makopa on his work.
ND: When it comes to videography, you are currently considered the best in the game. What is your secret?
VB: I don’t have a secret, but I think the one thing that I do have is dedication; just being dedicated to what I do, just being honest in my approach in everything that I do. I am just someone who is so dedicated to what I do.
ND: Which projects would you say have been the most challenging and why?
VB: The first project that I worked on with Jah Prayzah was the most challenging because he is such a big brand and I wasn’t so sure if I was capable of doing it. That was Dzamutsana in 2018. It was around November and I would say that project, and Hokoyo, were very challenging because they had the biggest sets I have ever been on, with so many things happening at the same time.
ND: Is your midas touch a result of training or just a natural gift?
VB: I didn’t do any formal training, but everyday I go through books and YouTube tutorials. I watch reviews on camera just to keep myself updated in terms of what’s going on in the industry.
ND: What would you say is the significance of a music video?
VB: Videos are very important in today’s world because it has become very visual and 90% of the people have smartphones, which can record videos and it’s so easy to produce content. Now when an artiste is doing an album, you find that there is much demand for content to create a clear picture of what the artiste is trying to portray.
Before, musicians could do without any video and it was not much of a priority because of the nature of broadcasting and distribution systems and how they were structured. But now we have different platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and all these need content and if an artiste is not visible on those platforms, it’s difficult for them to actually make progress.
ND: Do you think our musicians understand the art of storytelling in video production?
VB: People are warming up to the fact of storytelling but it has not been easy. A lot of artistes thought we just sit over there and perform and it’s done, but now I would say one thing that I have made it a point to do is to say yes there is a song, but I would like to tell my story, give it a multi-faceted approach so that there is more to enjoy. It wasn’t always a fact that artistes would quickly understand what you are trying to say, but I see a lot of them now through my dealings with them actually wanting to say let’s create a storyline that people can identify and understand.
ND: Among the musicians you have worked with, who do you cherish the most and why?
VB: I cherish all of them from the biggest to the smallest. I feel so honoured if an artiste approaches me with their song and they say let’s do something, that experience is always new and exciting and, of course, I have gotten close to people like Jah Prayzah, ExQ and Ammara, but it doesn’t mean I value one client over the other. All my clients are important to me.
ND: What are some of the most significant challenges in your line of work?
VB: There is little support for the arts, and music in particular, before we even get to the music video production sector. We at times have two or three corporates who would be moved enough to invest in a project as I have seen before. So if we compare with other countries, we don’t get the support… I mean money being put into the sector, sponsorship deals etc. As it is with all these challenges we are competing with other artistes with better budgets on the continent.
ND: If an artiste has video ideas that conflict with yours, how do you handle that?
VB: It depends who the artiste is. For some I would be like, I am not doing that. Just go ahead, move on. But there are some video ideas that I get from artistes that actually challenge me in a way, especially with Ammara, we mostly have lengthy discussions on how to approach the next video. There are some that will always say I want this and that so I will look at it from my brand point of view because I also have a brand as well, so if it’s in my brand’s aspirations I will do it, but if it hurts my brand then I will nicely apologise and say I can’t do it.
ND: Do you ever get to a situation where you feel you can’t outdo your previous job?
VB: It’s always like that. From the first project I did, I have always wondered how am I going to surpass the standard and I think just trusting the inspiration that I have whenever I approach a project works. I know that something is going to happen and I end up surprising myself and my client as well. The greatest pressure I get is from myself and if you put in your best, I give myself time because I surrender to the inspiration that is there and think about a project and I execute to the best of my abilities.
ND: Can you give a general picture of video production in Zimbabwe compared to other countries?
VB: Having worked in South Africa and Tanzania, I feel like I still have a long way to go compared to the standards of other countries. I have standard cameras which enable my work to be accepted out there. In other countries, you find three to five studios in one city and in Zimbabwe you might find one but in terms of equipment, we are way behind and we would like to get to that stage where our videos reach higher numbers and we need structures and 20 studios in a city and more personnel like site designers and more choreographers.
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