HomeStandard PeopleDirty lyrics: A reflection of Zimbabwean society

Dirty lyrics: A reflection of Zimbabwean society

It is nearly effortless to nod in sync with the beat tempo when one listens to house track titled Ndobva Tadii Paya by a virtually unknown DJ Tsotman.

Arts in depth by Kennedy Nyavaya Jacob Moyana[/caption]

The beat is well-executed and the familiar lines composing the lyrics are even catchier to the extent that one can hardly avoid singing along.

But, there is a bone of contention surrounding the 139-second song’s lyrics which are an extract from a snippet video of suspected rapists that went viral a few weeks ago.

While the menacing trio’s heinous crime merits serious condemnation, the issue has been turned into either a laughable joke or in this instance, a dance tune.

The composers of the single uploaded on YouTube where it has amassed over 10 000 views, however, had the courtesy of writing a disclaimer to distance it from fanning violence, ironically preferring it to be taken as a tool to stop violence.

“This song was made to promote awareness against sexual violence in Zimbabwe #saynotorape…,” reads part of the message, as if was a prophesy it would court controversy as debate rages over its decency in the comments section.

While there is no boundary to creativity, the freedom of speech and expression immunity provided for in the Constitution has offered leeway for the wildest of content the country has had to listen to of late.

Although mainstream media outlets, including radio stations and local television channel ZBC, are known to shun any material with traces of violence or vulgarity, the content is gaining significant traction on the streets and public transport.

“The Constitution talks about freedom of speech and it allows people, including artists, to have freedom of expression,” National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director Elvas Mari told The Standard Style in a recent interview.

Mari said Zimbabwe was party to the 2005 Unesco Convention on the diversity of cultural expression.

Testimony to his sentiments is the growing trend of artists who either jump-start their careers from dirty lyricism or seek attention in apparent exercise of the freedoms.

Ironically, there is an equally growing craving for this content among a significant section of listeners, which has become an influencing factor among musicians.

“Art by its nature is a reflection of society, so maybe before we start looking at these youngsters who are coining songs that may be projecting certain things, we must also be asking ourselves what our society today is made of,” Mari said.

“When we talk of artists, we talk of individuals who have taken it upon themselves to analyse what they hear, what they feel and how they see society and putting it in another form that allows society to look at themselves and question whether that is how they want to be, or if they need to change.”

Perhaps local values of what is ethical have become just as chaotic in what Mari insists is the responsibility of society to change in terms of what the artists are projecting.

Zimdancehall chanter Silent Killer, who has become more famous with each song he releases proved that they were completely unfazed as to who consumes their products.

“I am someone who believes that I do not have any limitations in my music and I have no restraints of what is acceptable or not,” he said.

It is not exclusive to males as female artists like Lady Bee of the Zunza Mpunduru fame says her attempt at “clean” music was not getting any attention, hence the decision to revert back to vulgar lyrics.

“My clean tracks were not being played in 2014 when I tried them and when that happened I went back to my style,” she said disclosing that airplay was the least of her worries as she had toured as far as the United Kingdom and the United States, among a number of foreign countries.

Historically, the once conservative local people have viewed subjects like sexuality, violence and drugs as unpalatable, which explains the failure to stay afloat for the Munotidako singer Jacob Moyana and others.

Music promoters on the other hand, engage musicians regardless of their content as long as they can get turnover through good attendance at shows.

“Promoters are business people who come into the sector primarily to make money. Like in any other business, they want to make money and if they don’t, they will not do it,” Mari said, adding that the moral question is out of the picture given culture’s dynamism.

“The issue of morality is very contentious when you are talking of art and it is not one of the most important aspects because you could be asking many questions like whose morality?”

He also said NACZ’s mandate as a regulator was to identity programmes like Jikinya, Culture Week and National Arts Merits Awards in a bid “to galvanise society to say this is who we are or ought to be”.

With limited to no airplay as a result of unclean lyricism, it has proven hard for some of the artists to represent brands through corporate endorsements deals.

Mari asserts that if the issue is indeed worth pondering on, then it is the concerned music associations that ought to act quickly.

“Our associations need to pull up and address the issues of their members and also make sure that when they represent a certain group, they indeed do so and enable artists to scale up,” he said.

Meanwhile, it is uncertain whether the newly-appointed Censorship Board will be able to act punitively and rein in on the psychosis guised as creativity.

It is, however, apparent that it will not be as easy as blocking its access to airwaves because the messages is in most cases are carefully weaved in street lingo, which is hard to prove as uncouth.

“Along the way, we need to be able to embrace those things that are being brought up by our artistes to ensure that we make communities and the nation a better place to be,” Mari suggests.

The world through an interconnected net of information and communication technology has become one “global village” in what has influenced an interchange of cultures.

In all this, world citizens are nonetheless in agreement that there are certain margins that should not be crossed with different television channels, for example, censoring unpalatable words when they play music videos.

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