Radio stations should shun poor music: Mhlanga

HARARE - The adage — they don’t make them like that anymore— aptly sums up how the urban grooves genre has degenerated from the beautiful lyrics of yesteryear to mundane bubble-gum music.

Today’s urban groovers have become fixated with self-praise and hate songs.

Veteran artiste and Amakhosi Cultural Centre director Cont Mhlanga believes the once thriving urban grooves genre has lost its way.

“Music is lyrics. Lyrics are meaning, meaning also comes from the message,” said Mhlanga.

“I think they know what they are doing but the challenge is on depth, their lyrics do not have a deep meaning. They have extremely shallow content and I worry because shallow content shows lack of general knowledge. If someone does not have general knowledge their creativity becomes shallow.”

The Amakhosi director wants young artistes to create songs that reflect their own environment.

“Listening to their music shows that there is no content analysis at all; they copy and they over-copy the rhythm, style and words,” said Mhlanga.

“A normal creative artiste should copy from their own environment. The life, challenges, experiences from around you that is what you can analyse and come up with lyrics and put them on any melody. Lyrics matter more than anything. The moment I hear young people sing about love I can tell that this is not original.”

The veteran theatre director and playwright attributes the shallowness of urban grooves lyrics to the tendency by young musicians to sing about issues and places they have no clue about.

“The way they sing about hate or elements of New York subculture is pathetic. They sing about an environment they have never been to; things they have never seen. How do you sing about an environment you have never been in?

“What they sing about New York or Hollywood is an impression from another artiste, yet to be creative you need to see it by yourself. I would understand a Zimbabwean in New York singing about the city as it is an
environment he knows. That is why I am saying these young people lack depth.

“Have you ever seen or heard anyone from America or United Kingdom (UK) who just wakes up and starts singing about Makokoba or Soweto? If they want to do that, they will come here and look at the environment first. But our artistes are different,” he said.

Mhlanga says the onus is on radio stations to help improve the lyrical content of songs churned out by young musicians.

“They need help; they should be helped by the radio stations that play their music.

“Radio stations should just not play music because it is local. If it is rubbish it should be thrown into the bin,” said the controversial theatre expert.

“Radio stations should be stern with the artistes (and insist) that if they produce mediocre material it will not be played. It doesn’t matter if the artistes talk too much or complain, if the music is meaningless it shouldn’t be played, simple!

“Another problem is that they don’t read, where will they get inspiration from if they don’t like reading? If you want to see that people don’t read go to their Facebook pages, you will see what I am talking about, the conversations that go on there will shock you,” he said.

The Amakhosi director says Zimbabwe will only compete with the rest of the world by refusing to tolerate mediocrity.

“We don’t want to be viewed as mediocre. That is why people like me at Amakhosi when people write music I look at the lyrics and if it’s nonsense I tell them and ask them to write again. That is why people like the late Beater Mangethe, Dumi Ngulube, and Edith WeUtonga have good songs. They came through my hands.

Remember Beater’s song Makokoba, she had to rewrite it four times and look how it turned out, it was a hit,” he said.

Comments (2)

I am surprised at Cont Mhlanga's remarks especially his advise that radio station should not play what he termed meaningless music. I hope he was appropriately quoted. I remeber Cont Mhlanga responding to comments about his Play Workshop Negative in the early eighties and indicating that such comments were blantant censorship of creativity. His call for radio stations not to play what he calls mediocre music is such a dangerous call from artist. What is mediocre music? How can anyone prescribe the music of the late Beater Mangethe, the late Dumi Ngulube and Edith WeUtonga as good music just because these musicians "came through his hands." This is quoting such a controversy that will be ugly and fruitless.

Tendai Vakuru - 11 November 2013

Way to Cont. Music from most of youth leaves a lot to be desired. I wish I could call their music our music but unfortunately I can't I don't identify with it. It doesn't identify with anyone's existential realities. All they can do is sing about how good they are pakuwachisa vamwe and having the best girlie in town who they explicitly tell everyone the want to f**k. Honestly who does that? Whoever thought Stunner would be history before he even reached his peak? You will never stay relevant if you constantly tell us that you are the Shark and we all kapenta. Of what relevance does it have to the society. These musicians are too quick too idolise themselves when they are still in need of hand holding.

musicologist - 12 November 2013

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