Wow! What is bitcoin? You may ask. Simply put, bitcoin is digital smart money. It is money in the form of decentralised digital currency. In other words, it is a tool we use to exchange value just like how we use gold to put value to money. If you have a piece of gold, it is as good as having money. So if you have a bitcoin, you can also exchange it for money.
By Fred Zindi
Of course, bitcoin isn’t only offering an economic alternative, but also a technological alternative. After all, bond notes or dollars today are numbers on a computer which represent numbers on a paper which is used to represent hard metals.
Bitcoin was born in the 21st century, which is why it is able to do lots of things that make people call it “smart-money”. For the same reason cellphones today have transformed into what we call “smartphones”, because they have more features than your basic Nokia 3110 or Nokia 3210 and other cellphones from a decade ago.
With the coming-on of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) this week, we expect new innovations in music. Although Hifa is not in the habit of engaging Zimdancehall artistes, there are new innovations coming from that genre.
Chillspot Records, Zimbabwe’s number one producers of Zimdancehall riddims, never cease to amaze me. They follow everything trending in our society as evidenced by their innovative approaches to societal issues in Zimdancehalll riddims. In April, this year, they came up with Bitcoin Riddim. Now you see the connection between the bitcoin and musical riddim!
Riddim is the Jamaican Patois pronunciation of the English word “rhythm”, but in dancehall parlance, it refers to the instrumental accompaniment to a song. This consists of the riddim plus the “voicing” (vocal part) sung by the deejay or the singer. A lot of young dancehall musicians simply download riddims from their computers and do a voice-over to make a song. So, in a sense-riddims are very effective components of dancehall music. Zimdancehall thrives on the creation of these riddims and make it easier for artistes to simply sing over already laid-down riddims. This is what many Zimdancehall studios such as Bodyslam Records, Sunshine Records and, of course, Chillspot Records are actively doing. There are a lot of similarities between riddims and it might be difficult to distinguish them.
In Zimdancehall circles, these riddims are given names such as Stage Riddim, Jusa Dementor, Whine For Me Riddim, Rise Up Riddim, Baby Boom Riddim, Nozzle Riddim, and Rangers Riddim. Some of these are used by studios to enable the singers to pick on the type of rhythm that should go with their song. Bitcoin Riddim might be just another name which Chillspot Records have chosen to identify a particular rhythm which artistes may want to choose. It might not even be different from all other riddims per se. This is how it works: If it proves popular and an artiste makes a hit using Bitcoin riddim, it will have a big impact on other artistes who will select it with the hope of also making hits from its use.
This has been done before. When Boom Beto of Kudonhedza Musika fame made a hit with Stage Riddim, every other Zimdancehall artiste, including Jah Signal, who last week opened for Nigerian artiste Davido, went and tried their luck with the same riddim. In his opening act during the Davido concert, he used CDs as backing tracks and Stage Riddim created by Chillspot was evident in his repertoire.
Jamaican musicians used to struggle to find shortcuts in making music which is acceptable to the public. One had to learn several chords on the guitar or piano before writing an acceptable song. Then they would gather a few musicians to rehearse the material. After that, they would look for a suitable studio in which to record their music and that would take days, if not months, to come up with an album. That would also cost an arm and a leg.
On seeing this and being the innovative and creative artistes we have known Jamaican musicians to be, they devised a plan where all dancehall musicians could just use the same rhythm or backing tracks recorded on CDs for different tunes. A new era of riddims then came alive. Riddims was the answer to many musicians’ problems. Singers could come up with songs and only two chords to the instrumentation would do the trick. Sometimes they did not even need a band as they would just use the riddims recorded on CDs as backing tracks.
A given riddim, if popular, may be used in dozens — or even hundreds — of songs, not only in recordings, but also in live performances.
When Busy Signal came out of prison in the United States, he composed the tune Brighter Days and the riddim to this tune was so powerful that every other Jamaican musician used it to compose their own melodies. Romain Virgo used it to sing Soul Provider, Christopher Martin sang Look on My Face using the same riddim. The Loyal Flames went on to do Break Free while Exco Levi came up with Jah Na Sleep. Fiji and J Boog sang Lonely Days. Etzon sang Go Away and Hezron brought us Everytime. These tunes which all used the same Brighter Days riddim became international hits which we all enjoy to this day.
Not to be upstaged by Jamaican artistes, Zimdancehall artistes who have been watching the Jamaican trends closely have also come up with their riddims. Credit goes to Chill Spot Records who are situated at Matapi Flats in Mbare for coming up with the Bitcoin Riddim this year which hopefully will bring out several hits. Several riddims mentioned above which they have created in the last three years have been used by iconic artistes such as Killer T, Soul Jah Love, Seh Calaz, Kinnah, Freeman, Shinsoman and Tocky Vybes. These include the Iconic Breaking Up Riddim, Hotta Fire Riddim, Realisation Riddim, Deep Love Riddim Day and Night Riddim, Zion Taks Medley, No Mercy Medley and Stage Strings Riddim Medley. Now, the Bitcoin Riddim, created only this month, is up for grabs and it has attracted prominent artistes such as Andy Muridzo, Nutty O, Poptain Bhazooker and several other lesser known musicians. We are watching how far it will go.
Chillspot Records, the award-winning music production house, has come up with a project that not only alleviates youth unemployment in Zimbabwe, but also searches for and discovers talent which keeps the otherwise idle youth occupied.
Chillspot has done it again in Zimdancehall. We are waiting for the other players such as Sunshine Records and Bodyslam to come up with their own innovative ideas in this competitive world of music .