By Kennedy Nyavaya/MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI
This year has been rugged and long for many stakeholders in the arts industry.
For all its worth, it shall remain a year when the angel of death reared its ugly head robbing the nation of music legends Oliver Mtukudzi and Dorothy Masuka as well as authors Charles Mungoshi and Stephen Chifunyise, among many others. May their souls rest in peace!
But, wearisome as it may have been, 2019 did not just pass without its share of drama, shock and good memories .
Standard Style took time to reflect on some of 2019 moments that will forever remain in the minds of many arts enthusiasts.
Clampdown on comics
Following the overthrow of former president Robert Mugabe, the powers-that-be seemed to have assumed a liberal stance towards political satire, but, as the year progressed, authorities appeared to have restored the heavy-handedness of the past.
Local comedians were shaken by unwarranted arrests by the police of Comic Pastor (real name Prosper Ngomashi) and the Bustop TV duo of Gonyeti (Samantha Kureya) and Magi (Sharon Chideu) who were taken into custody for questioning over alleged politically incorrect jokes before they were released following payment of fines.
But Gonyeti was later allegedly abducted and tortured by suspected state agents and left for dead.
The development came crushing on the hopes that the new administration under President Emmerson Mnangagwa would take a more democratic stance divergent to his autocratic predecessor Mugabe, whom he toppled in November 2017. Hopes are that in 2020 the powers that be would loosen up to the fun business which has kept the nation laughing in the face of biting socioeconomic woes.
By far the most topical and trending name in Zimdancehall circles for both good and bad reasons was Chillspot Records. The Mbare movement headed by Fantan, Levels and Ribhe has maintained a commendable growth trajectory defiant of their humble background.
However, they have equally been making mistakes, lots of them. Failure to rein in on some of the overtly unruly lyricism has invited disrepute to their name as some sections have started questioning the label’s impact on the lives of local youth.
Vulgar, reverence of drugs and violence have been depicted in most of their lyrics in what has sparked the ire of music enthusiasts.
Despite Chillspot remaining unmoved by the calls for reform of the behaviour this year, they ought to know better and use their musical influence for positive change and not to inducing bad habits.
The country’s youths are already in danger and exposed to a lot of destructive habits and the last thing they need is to have their favourite chanters pushing caustic messages. Also, as a leading brand in the Zimdancehall sphere, Chillspot needs to set a good example for other stables.
On the local hip-hop front, a new tsar was born in King 98 (born Ngonidzashe Dondo), who launched his debut album titled Francesca in May at an over-the-top gig where he was surrounded by a galaxy of regional stars, including South Africans Nasty C and Nadia Nakai as well as Nigerian’s Davido. King 98 went on to do a number of duets with Nasty C on the track Wacko and features Davido on the song No Bad Vibes which was precursor to the album. He also did a song Shoko with E-Q and all his collaborations are trending on social media platforms, while the videos of the songs are popular on regional TV channels like Trace Africa and Channel O. Last night King 98 capped the year by hosting the Ivyson Tour, a show that featured South Africans Nasty C, Nadia Nakai, Boity Thulo, Tellaman and Rowlene, Malawian-born South African artiste Gemini Major and Mozambican rapper Laylizzy.
Local acts included TiGonzi, Stunner, Takura, DJ Silence Dosh, Kikky Badass, Union 5 and Raydizz, among others.
For his efforts King 98 walked home with the Best Collaboration award for his song Wacko, featuring Nasty C and LayLizzy, Best Hip-hop Hustle award and Best Album for his debut album Francesca at the recently held Zim hip hop award.
Another surprise arrival on the mainstream music scene was Mambo Dhuterere (real name Darlington Mutseta). Despite having entered the music arena several years ago, the singer managed to break the cocoon this year with the release of his third album Dare Guru. He features Trymore Bande and Mathias Mhere on some songs on the album, which has turned out to be a national anthem in Zimbabwe.
The Botswana-based singer, who claims that his music takes aim at “crooks” in churches, particularly in Pentecostal and Apostolic churches, has become so popular that he is gracing most music shows, including sharing the stage with secular musicians. He also featured on Seh Calaz’s single titled Reurura.
Upcoming Afro-pop musician, Ishan – real name Isheanesu Chigagura hogged the limelight following the release of the video of his song Kure, which features hip-hop sensation Ti Gonzi.
He started his career as a Zimdancehall artiste only to shift to Afro-fusion after realising that Zimdancehall was more competitive although it lacked the much desirable appreciation a rookie artiste would need to make a name.
It was Kure that stole the limelight in 2019 and could be in the running for a number of accolades come end of the year.
Prophet Freddy this year dwelled much on music than on the pulpit releasing his fourth album titled Kastep Kenyasha at a mega album launch in Harare. He also released several videos with both gospel and secular musicians.
This year the charismatic man of the cloth showed the flipside of his pastoral duties after releasing videos of songs Vana, Tinopemberera off his 2016 album titled 100 Percent Prophetic, KaStep Kenyasha and Bag. He is also featured on Bethany Pasinawako Ngolomi single titled Damba.
Freddy described music as another way of ministering the Word of God.
Sugar mummies rule showbiz
In the past, the showbiz sector has been fed the stereotype that only female artistes are supplementing meagre earnings from art through affairs with “sugar daddies”, but of late it is more of their male counterparts turning into the proverbial gold diggers.
In 2016 the nation woke up to the drama of a diaspora beauty named Olinda Chapel, a mother of three, who has been married to and subsequently estranged from musicians Stunner and Tytan.
After both splits, Chapel went live claiming that both men were after an array of favours, mainly financial, when they deceived her into relationships.
It is not clear how these “independent ladies”, most of whom are said to be groupies initially, end up in the arms of artistes.
But, it would seem as if they are interested in fame by association or the reverence that comes with being a celebrity partner.
On a similar note, Andy Muridzo was having an affair with a rich city woman, Nyari Mukucha, at one point believed to have been funding and managing his talent, much to the disgust of some former band members.
The Dherira singer who ditched his baby mama Chido Manyange, known to many as Mai Keketso, early last year was reported to have cut ties with Mukucha in November after staying together for close to a year.
Claims of gold-digging have always been cited every time things go wrong in what begs the question whether there is sincerity or courtship has been turned into an income stream to sustain opulent lifestyles associated with being a celebrity.
Had it been pure love, a feeling associated with devotion and attachment, it would conquer all and certainly last longer.
Self-acclaimed Prophet Passion Java’s interest in Zimdancehall this year raised eyebrows and that is because he was too vested for someone who claims not to be benefitting anything.
Although he shot down reports that he had given Chillspot a hefty pay out to sign star chanter Enzo Ishall under his Passion Java Records (PJR), the apparent lie failed to hold after it later emerged that he also signed South Africa-based Buffalo Soulja.
Time and again Java has said that he is helping out of mere benevolence, but it is the publicity around the assistance that has made many view the man as a culture vulture seeking to amass prominence by associating with famous names in music circles.
While it may be very hard to state exactly what Java’s end goal is, some clerics like Walter Magaya and Tapiw Freddy have been accused of using the same strategy to attract attention to their projects.
Ultimately, only time will tell if Java is just another culture vulture or a genuine man driven by a will to assist the country’s financially hamstrung artistes.
Artistes milking nudity for all its worth
The local music industry, sometimes described as cut-throat, proved too competitive for some artistes this year prompting them to employ one of the oldest trick in the book for expediency.
Sex sells and some musicians like Netherlands-based choreographer Vimbai Zimuto was fully aware of it when she created a buzz by releasing her nude pictures.
There is no doubt that the former Mtukudzi backing vocalist and dancer is a good artiste, but most of her efforts have been clouded by the nude art she is pursuing.
After going viral, her butt-naked pictures sparked the cliché debate on preservation of local norms and values resulting in criticism more than appreciation
However, in an ironic feat she has also gained more online and real life followership as well as bookings for shows across the country than before the nudes.
While it cannot be conclusively ascertained whether nudity is a viable long term relevance strategy as yet locally, it looks as if it is doing the trick for Zimuto who has gained significant followership on social media and done more local shows since then.
Whether this is an unprecedented manifestation of the famous “sex sells” statement in a society once considered conservative is not clear but nudity has fast become a fashionable trend for local relevance. Rapper Kikky Badass and Buffalo Souljah were also seen joining the bandwagon releasing sexually suggestive videos and pictures on social media respectively.
Ultimately, not only has Zimuto’s infamous repudiation to toe the moral line paid dividends for her, but it has slowly bust open a floodgate on the acceptability of nude content in local arts circles.
Absence of Hifa, a grim reality of closing art spaces
This year’s edition of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) failed to take off and this was a huge blow to the already struggling arts sector.
The platform had for close to two decades of its existence succeeded in creating space for diverse art showcase and synergy between local and international acts. Its absence, owing to financial constraints, exposed the grim realities that arts spaces are closing with a negative ripple effect for artistes who most times lack space to ply their trade.
Apart from making endless promises, government should, through the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry, start taking action to capacitate such initiative in what could twist the waning fortunes of local artistes and maximise on the industry’s potential