Meet Zim's Don Dada

HARARE - For many the mere mention of Don Dada brings to mind Jamaican dancehall legend Super Cat who attracted international acclaim with a similarly titled hit in 1992.

As such, one would expect an artiste using Don Dada as his stage name to be a full-blooded dancehall one.

Interestingly, that is not the case with Harare-born Menelik Nesta “Don Dada” Gibbons who is steadily making a name for himself on the South African hip-hop scene.

Don Dada’s debut album, Avant Garde, is currently attracting a lot of air play on several South African radio stations.

But how did the hip-hop artiste end up with a stage name and Christian names that are unequivocally Jamaican.

“My mom and manager (Layla Gibbons) met Bob Marley on the streets of Harare in 1980. According to her, she spent no more than 20 minutes talking to him but it was an impactful conversation.

“Seven years later, I was born and named Menelik Nesta after two powerful Africans: Emperor Menelik a direct descendant of King Solomon and Queen Sheba and Nesta after Bob Marley King of Reggae. My stage name pays homage to both,” Don Dada told the Daily News on Sunday.

The rising artiste, who was scheduled to return to South Africa today after a short visit to Harare, credits Zimbabwe-born rapper, Metaphysics — a member of a multi-platinum selling German band called Söhne Mannheims (Sons of Mannheim) — for introducing him to hip-hop.

“Hip-hop is my first love and as I grew so did it. I was introduced to hip-hop by my uncle Metaphysics and older cousins and it was love at first listen . . .  now I have evolved into other genres but hip-hop is my love, reggae still steeps through. . . it’s a bloodline.

“I have always had an interest in music from childhood. I grew up listening to my father and uncles playing music making it the most natural progression.

“I also listened to the likes of Metaphysics and the late Andy Brown,” said Don Dada, who has come to regard Metaphysics (not his blood relative) as an uncle due to the strong bond they have built since he was five.

On the South African music scene, Don Dada, who is regarded as the Barry White of hip-hop thanks to his booming baritone voice, has worked with many notable names.

“I have worked with and still work with Bongani Fassie (Brenda Fassie’s son) and Crazy Lu and Devon DP, Maggz, Da l.e.s , and lots others.

“I have shared stages with Riki Rick, Cassper Nyovest, Emtee, Kkwesta, Fifi Cooper and Sjava. I respect every artiste . . .  Bongani Fassie, Maggz and Crazy Lu are like my brothers so that’s deeper then rap. . .  shared a stage with Pops Mohamed and Femi Kuti even though the genres would be deemed as world apart,” Don Dada said.

After bubbling under the surface for a long time, Don Dada is now determined to shoot to the very top.

He is convinced that his 13-track debut album, Avant Garde, has what it takes to attract international attention.

“I called it Avant Garde because it aligns to my names and stage name! Avant Garde mean: to be a front runner in your chosen industry, I feel like it is ahead of its time.

“I am a young name that is breaking barriers as an independent artiste. I know that God is my strength and I attend Church of Christ Arcadia when in Zimbabwe and Liberty Church Discovery Campus in Johannesburg . . . every day I rise, pray and hustle (in that order),” he told the Daily News on Sunday.

Don Dada believes he is destined to be a legendary artiste.

“I will leave a legacy. My names Menelik Nesta and Don Dada tell and remind me that I need to be a world leader in the industry  . . . I see myself helping the next generation of artistes to live their dreams.  I am busy making industry history,” he said.

To realise his dream of being a music legend, Don Dada co-created a record label called RuFF CuTT Studio with his Rastafarian dad Moses Gibbons and one Ras Moe.

Despite the fact that his family relocated to South Africa when he was in Grade Two, Don Dada says he will remain irretrievably linked to Zimbabwe.

“I am a game changer! I was the first Zimbabwean in 1993 (after a big fight) to learn in a government school (Avondale Primary) with dreadlocks . . . I still have the hair that I was born with to this day.

“My connection to Zimbabwe is mentioned in most of my songs and I visit yearly. I am friends with Zimbabwean artistes like Mc Chita, Herby Dangerous and many others. I think Zimbabwean artistes are extremely talented and their song writing is second to none.

“The beat for my song Want That on my Avant Garde album was made by Zimbabwean Rufaro Chipo Chiromo. There is too much talent in Zimbabwe that I would love to tap into and put us firmly out there,” said the Free Spirit singer.

He is hopeful that he will get opportunities to do duets with Zimbabwean artistes.

“There is nothing I would love more than to perform in Zimbabwe and to collaborate with artistes like Ammara Brown, Jah Prayzah, and Winky D . . . wow . . .  I have also heard of Takura, Dobba Don, Bryan K and Boom Beto . . . ” said Don Dada.

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