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Zimdancehall begins to make sense

Over the last five years, I have been following this music genre called Zimdancehall. Initially, I was disgusted by the vulgarity which came out of the mouths of mainly angry ghetto youths to the extent that in October 2014, I invited some of the artists responsible for this genre together with their promoters and managers to the Zimbabwe College of Music to come forward and reason about the way our music was going. Speakers included Charles Charamba, Jonathan Banda (Winky D’s manager), Sulumani Chimbetu, Robert Mukondiwa, Dennis Wilson and myself. Artists present were Tally B, Ricky Fire, Kinnah, Tocky Vybes, Terminator, Quonfuzed and many others while promoters included Partson “Chipaz” Chimbodza, Biggie Chinoperekwei, Robert Zhuwao and Benjamin Nyandoro.

in the groove with Fred Zindi

Zimdancehall artists Seh Calaz, Soul Jah Love and Kinnah perfom at Longchen Plaza two years ago
Zimdancehall artists Seh Calaz, Soul Jah Love and Kinnah perfom at Longchen Plaza two years ago

At the end of the seminar, we all agreed that if this genre was to move forward in Zimbabwe, there was need for clean lyrics. Those who took heed now see that the advice we gave them in 2014 is beginning to pay off.

During the time, we thought that the worst offenders were Soul Jah Love and Seh Calaz. There were battles between these two artists, which were exhibited in songs. Many “diss” songs such as Ndine Musindo, Life YeMboko, Ndoponda, Chitunha Chamuka, Seh Pampers and Soul Jah Love Diss were the order of the day. However, these tunes went to waste as they never made hits and up to this day, very few people know them.

Some of these artists wrote songs which were meant to simply shock the nation. Songs such as Dho…….. Rema Guava by Lady Squanda and Chibaba-baba Chimh……ta by Soul Jah Love were meant to do just that. They displayed an “I don’t care” attitude towards decent listeners. Some listeners, due to this vulgarity, were put off by Zimdancehall completely as a result.

Jamaica is the country where dancehall was born. It has since spread its wings to reach countries like Zimbabwe where the Zim-ghetto youths have labelled it Zimdancehall. In Zimbabwe, this genre has to some extent toppled other genres like sungura, rhumba or museve.

Zimdancehall, which has flourished in the country in the past five years, is a music genre that was associated with violence, raunchy sexy dances, drugs, misogyny and anti-homosexual lyrics. Artists were known to unnecessarily “diss” each other in a bid to get to the top of their game. They were also criticised by international organisations for their anti-homosexual stance and thus put Zimdancehall into disrepute.

We criticised such behaviour as an unwanted culture in Zimbabwe. Nobody is trying to violate Zimdancehall artists’ constitutional right to freedom of expression, but there are certain words which are culturally taboo and which should be avoided in everyday talk. Gramma Records and Zimbabwe Music Corporation used to give such advice to recording artists.

During my presentation, which was also echoed by Charamba and Mukondiwa, I was instrumental in telling some of these young artists that they can still write protest songs and about their grievances without offending anyone. They can speak out against the failure of the system to provide opportunities for young people while the powerful live like kings. There are many songs which prove this kind of thinking. For instance, in Winky D’s Gafa Life album, there is a conscious track called Survivor that he did with Shinsoman. Also look at Peter Tosh, who wrote conscious lyrics in songs such as Get Up Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Rights and that became a popular hit because many people could identify with it.

Zimdancehall artists such as Soul Jah Love have now realised that these “diss” tunes are not getting them anywhere after observing that artists in the same genre such as Tally B, Tocky Vybes, Killer T, Freeman, Sniper Storm, Dhadza D and Winky D were rising to the top with their more conscious lyrics, hence many of them have made a U- turn, thus making better sense to the Zimdancehall movement. If this trend is followed, Ma Problems Ese Disappear!

I was moved last year when Soul Jah Love came up with the song, Dai Hupenyu Hwaitengwa, Ndaitenga hwa Amai Vangu and this year he has moved even further by writing the tune Pamamonya Ipapo.

On the other hand, Killer T has emerged as Zimdancehall’s royalty with hits such as Ngoma Ndaimba, Dai Zvaibvira, Takangodaro, Amai Vangu, Vagara Vanongovenga and Bvunza Tinzwe. Last year, he even did a collaboration with established gospel artist, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave in Vanondibatirana.

Boom Berto came on to the Zimdancehall scene as a breath of fresh air this year with his monster hit, Munodonhedza Musika which was followed by Anondipa Rudo. Due to the success of Munodonhedza Musika he has a repeat of that song, now titled Tararira with Jah Signal, which I foresee as becoming another monster hit.

I am beginning to see sense in what these youngsters are doing.

The debilitating poverty in Zimbabwe has also forced many youths to adopt strategic political affiliations in order to receive special favours from the economically-empowered political parties. Given the harsh economic climate Zimbabwe faces, like the powerful political parties, Zimdancehall has assisted in transforming some of Zimbabwe’s most impoverished entertainers into ghetto superstars practically overnight. More youths are coming out with beautiful tunes with the hope that they will be instant hits. That is the way to go. This way, Zimdancehall artistes will be able to create employment for themselves as well as have the capacity to look after their families financially.

Most of them have now realised that writing “diss” songs will not make the charts. As a result, they are coming up with songs that have positive conscious lyrical content.
However, there are still a few who are adamant about continuing with the negative lyrics because to them, displaying the “rude boy/rude girl” image is cool.

I spoke with one popular Zimdancehall musician (name withheld) who vehemently declared, “Musicians have a right to express themselves in any way they want. It is up to the consumers of music to decide what to listen to and what to buy or what to watch. Sex and violence are reality and cannot be avoided.”

These are the guys who still sing songs like Tiri Kupinda Pachi Terrorist, thus showing off their “tough guy” machismo.

Some of the artists, unbeknown to them, have got beautiful singing voices. Others have begun to seek the services of professional song writers who can produce creative lyrical content. They have begun to sing consciously instead of dissing one another. That way, real hits should come out of them.

Conscious, educative lyrics will assist in the development of a peaceful and well-cultured Zimbabwe. Nuff respect to those Zimdancehall artists who have now come to their senses and who have realised that: No violence, No misogyny, No sexual abuse, No dissing each other, No battyman or chi-chi man lyrics and No drug abuse.. Ndokuti ngoma!
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