Children play in the dusty streets of Matapi in Mbare. Others at a nearby barbershop are doing the famous “clark” dance, which has literally become the “national dance”.
By Problem Masau
Some women go about their business, humming riddims without necessarily putting vocals on the songs, while a group of men sit under a shed mimicking songs from their local dancehall “heroes”.
If there are two things that are more popular in Mbare these days, it is soccer and dancehall.
Dancehall has changed livelihoods in the impoverished suburb.
In one of his songs, Mbare-bred chanter Seh Calaz, describes how the genre has changed their lives, boasting that the genre has brought them fame and fortune.
On stage they appear well-drilled and expensively dressed compared to the days they started off.
Investigations by this reporter showed that most artistes who were struggling to pay for studio recording time not too long ago, are now living lavida, with some now owning cars.
Seh Calaz now drives a two-door Mercedes Benz and has shifted from Magaba Flats, where he grew up.
Kinnah, who was notoriously known for wearing the same clothes, has improved his life-style and now dons expensive designer clothes.
“Now I can afford some of the things that I could not afford when I was growing up,” said the singer.
Soul Jah Love, who now operates a canteen in Mbare, moves around in an Altezza.
Killer T, who is arguably the most-sought-after Mbare musician at the moment, also drives an Altezza.
“Things seem to be shaping up for these artistes. They now own their things and I am happy for them. Dancehall seems to be paying them,” said Potato, who is regarded as one of the dancehall “godfathers” in Mbare.
Evidently, Seh Calaz, Killer T and Kinnah are riding high in the genre, attracting show bookings from across the country.
Killer T last weekend performed in Hwange, Bulawayo and Harare as he rides on the popularity of his latest album, Ngoma Ndaimba.
However, while things seem to be rosy on the surface for the musicians, scratching a little deeper revealed harrowing stories of divorces and management shake-ups.
Killer T is alleged to have abandoned his long-time friend, Crossfire, who is in trouble after he rammed a commuter omnibus into a vehicle.
“Killer T is troublesome, he parks his car everywhere and stands accused of abusing alcohol most of the time. He has also abandoned his friend Crossfire.
“His manager is over-working him,” said one of Killer T’s childhood friends.
However, Killer T’s manager Brian Marukutira dismissed the allegations, saying people were jealous of the artiste’s success.
“Everyone wants to associate with the artiste because he is successful. When they do not get the chance, they start malicious rumours,” he said.
Seh Calaz also stands accused of ruffling a few feathers within his Mbare community.
The talented chanter, who has won the best vocal award for two consecutive years, divorced his first wife, opting to cohabit with a girlfriend he met in the United Kingdom.
“Calaz has divorced his wife who was with him through thick and thin and is now staying with a former UK-based woman,” said a former close friend of Seh Calaz, who still stays in Magaba.
When contacted for comment, the chanter refused to comment on the issue.
In one of the interviews, popular music promoter Josh Hozheri said lack of discipline was affecting the dancehall genre, singling out Soul Jah Love as the main culprit.
Hozheri noted that controversial chanter Soul Jah Love was the heir apparent of the dancehall throne, but his lack of discipline had worked against him.
“Soul Jah Love is very talented and has all the ingredients to be dancehall’s next big thing, but [he] has failed dismally because of the way he conducts himself,” he said.
“He is putting the genre into disrepute because of his endless controversies.
“If he was professional, by now he could have been surviving on endorsements, but no sane businessman would like to associate himself with someone who constantly bungles,” he added.