Give him his flowers

Lack of appreciation is the motive behind Berthold Mbinda's decision to quit making music for the Namibian market.

14 February 2020 | Art and Entertainment

Classic singles, smash hits, infectious hooks and award nominations and wins. It seems in the 22 years Berthold Mbinda has been around, he's done damn near everything in the game – except earn respect and receive adequate appreciation for his musical talents.

What does it mean to be underrated? A considerable amount of people know you exist, acknowledge your work but for some reasons, it doesn't manifest into financial gain or awards. It means you have to fight harder to avoid falling through the cracks of history. It means you have to die before people realise you are great, and Berthold is not about to go down that road.

The Namibian music community was shocked when the singer, vocal trainer, songwriter and composer announced that he was quitting music. Berthold started as a songwriter for artists such as D-Jay, Ponti, KK, Lady May Africa and Adora. It was only after 10 years in the music arena that he released his debut album.

“At that point, I developed a love for storytelling and through those stories, songs were born. I did not want those songs to pile up or collect dust and that is how my first album came about,” he said. His self-titled debut album, released in 2010, scored him two NAMAs: Best newcomer and best R&B.

In 2014, he released his second album titled Medicine, which spawned several hits and earned him a nomination at the 2016 NAMAs. His third project, released in 2018, was titled To Each Their Own. “I'm now working on my final album that will be released this year. Look out for the first single coming out this week or latest next week.

“The single is a cover song by Tyrese called Best of Me,” he shared.

On his retirement, Berthold clarified that he is only quitting music in Namibia because he feels unappreciated. His resigning entails a move to penetrate the international music market. “I am working on my last album in Namibian terms and I want this album to be so good that I can kick down international doors. I want to cross over with this album,” he said.

He stressed that for this year, he will still be available for bookings and to collaborate with Namibian artists. It takes a lot of guts to decide that you are throwing in the towel, but the singer said he believed in the way the music industry used to operate. “The cake was not big enough for all of us but we all ate the same as long as you put in the work. Nowadays it's no longer the case,” Berthold said.

He said it is discouraging that government doesn't tap into their resources to support the arts, adding that singing is a job too and artists need benefits. “I have paved the way for those who exist now and even in times when people felt I wasn't consistent enough I made music and contributed for your favourite artists,” he said.

Asked how he wished he was appreciated to continue making music for the Namibian market, Berthold said his health comes first and being a creative doesn't come with any medical schemes or benefits. He also said he wishes there were means in place for Namibian artists to get housing and car allowances. “We miss out on quality family time for the sake of the industry that pays us peanuts and fails to accord us the appreciation we deserve.”

He discouraged artists using each other's services but not committing to pay for those services on the basis of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours”.

Moving forward, Berthold shared that he is working on taking his pen game international. He aims to approach international acts who feel their music sounds the same and offer his writing services and music-making skills. “I feel it is worth a try, you never know,” he said.

MICHAEL KAYUNDE

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