Zim dancehall needs our support

HARARE - Zimbabwe's music trends continue to dramatically change as different music genres dominate the showbiz sector.

There was a time in the 90s and 2000 when gospel music was the in-thing and we used to even have South African artistes like Lundi and Rebecca Malope dominating our airwaves.

I remember then that big gospel music festivals like Ngaavongwe Music, Topenya and Nguva Yakwana would be held every year in the Harare Gardens.

A number of South African musicians used to grace these festivals.

Gospel musician Elias Musakwa coordinated Ngaavongwe Music and the festival used to draw thousands of music fans from across the country.

We also had Pastor Admire Kasi coordinating the Nguva Yakwana gospel festival while Jonathan and Shuvai Wutaunashe used to coordinate Topenya gospel music festival.

These gospel festivals exploited on the popularity of the music genre then.

More than 20 music bands shared the stage then and it was through the gospel music festivals Zimbabweans witnessed the birth of several young musicians.

With years passing, the popularity of the gospel music genre began to decline resulting in most of these annual music festivals folding up.

Today however, the only gospel music outfit still doing wonders on the live music circuit is the Fishers of Men led by Charles and Olivia Charamba.

I remember a time in the 90s and 2000 when sungura was the in-thing with live music concerts pitting the big five drawing thousands to their concerts, week in week out.

While the sungura music genre has constantly had a share of the live music market, its dominance and over exposure meant that music fans could support them, but only for a short time.

The popularity of different music genres at any given time is something that we as showbiz promoters are always watching closely.

There was also a time when dendera music was the in-thing around town with the Chimbetu siblings, among them Suluman and Tryson dominating the live music showbiz.

In recent years a new genre, urban grooves seemed to have taken over the live music circuit.

The urban grooves genre was popular and got favourable publicity on radio.

While the urban grooves hype seems to be fading fast, there are still some urban groove musicians who continue to do wonders even today.

As I write this article today, I am reminded of the power and popularity of a new music genre that seems to have engulfed the whole showbiz industry — Zimbabwe reggae dancehall music.

Like the history that associates reggae dancehall music worldwide, the genre is coming out from the ghettos with the bulk of the musicians coming from Mbare, Mufakose and Mabvuku.

With unemployment on the rise and with no jobs in sight for these youthful dancehall musicians, the microphone has been their gateway.

And they are doing wonders, playing what I could term ‘ghetto underground sounds’.

Dancehall music has become popular all of a sudden and ghetto youths are cashing in on its popularity. They are releasing tune after tune— what more with recording studios being erected at every corner in the ghetto?

Names like Killer T, Kina and Man Soul Jah are popular today and the youths, hailing from Mbare are putting together well-attended music concerts. The local music industry and indeed us as music promoters need to support the dancehall genre as it is proving popular among Zimbabweans.

What we need to do is help these ghetto youths develop so that they break into the big world of music. We need to facilitate avenues for these young dancehall musicians to build their professions on a sound and well management platform than just being the street wise toasters.

While everyone will agree that Zimbabwe’s dancehall music genre has potential and it is growing, the question is whether we are investing in the dancehall productions. What have we done to equip these youngsters?

Are we helping them record on quality studios or we are just watching while they use sub-standard studios?

The popularity of Zimbabwe’s dancehall is not hard to trace as it is the music you always hear in kombis, flea markets and on radio.

The dancehall musicians have gone even a notch further as they produce low budget music videos to accompany their songs.

Most of the music videos, although semi-professionally put together have managed to capture real life in the ghettos — the poverty, poor sanitation and the hopelessness among the youths. 

In a way they are celebrating ghetto life!

Zimbabwe’s dancehall music has a past and the musicians doing just fine today are following in the footpaths of the likes of Major E and Booker T just to mention a few.

The likes of Major E and Booker T were among several dancehall musicians in the 90s who had this vision of a home-grown dancehall music genre and today, thanks to them that genre is finally being accepted on a large scale.

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