The Zimdancehall shift and drift

It’s been a minute! A lot has been cooking. Great music, some copy and paste and some very poor ones.

The Plot Thickens with Plot Mhako

Business people always keep their eyes on the stock markets, I keep my eyes and ears on the ground to check what’s bubbling under, what’s about to blow up, what’s popping and what’s dropping musically.

The Zimbabwean music terrain is a very fascinating. Music is produced in stereo mode but the consumption is in mono. The are hundreds and some diverse sounding artists releasing music daily but only a handful get the ear of the Zimbabwean audience and once exhausted the ears migrate to the next. One radio executive said to me “we receive at least 150 songs a week and only 2-3 make it to our playlist”.

Only a few have managed to ride the tide and keep their music above water despite any new musical hype.

Whilst a lot of artists ushered in by the Zimdancehall buzz remained constant, kept dishing out the same musical meal in melody, tempo, riddims, compositions and style, the audience was getting saturated and slowly growing a disconnect with certain voices and Afro-pop gave an alternative.

A lot of Zimdancehall artists still don’t realise what went wrong or what’s going on now. Promoters don’t look for them anymore, UK gigs don’t want them anymore, radios only play their old material, the streets don’t scream at them anymore, the social capital they once had is gone. (High chances are: zvavharana). Then another lot are still in denial and keep dishing out the same even when the returns are getting low. The bubble they created around them of praise singers (who always tell them “wakapenga. Ichi chingoma chakanyanya” still exist and give them the insulation they need from reality.

Well, what we are witnessing now is a new chapter, a chapter ushering in new voices. Not only Zimdancehall but from Jazz, gospel, traditional etc!

Back to Zimdancehall.

Chillspot Records is the 1520 Sedgwick of Zimdancehall. Hip hop heads will understand this. The place is the epicenter of the genre. Where the new sound is crafted, hits are made, style & pattern developed, new talent discovered and propelled to stardom. They have managed to utilize social media effectively.

If you are still wondering why Hip Hop in Zimbabwe is struggling the answer can be simple, they don’t have a Chillspot of their own.

Dj Fantan and Levels have managed to stay relevant through the years of Zimdancehall despite the rise and fall of many great producers. Their model though still has a lot to be improved is very effective. It’s deep rooted in the culture, a culture that speaks to the youth and defines the street lingua and all.

From there we have seen stars rising from the dust through the joint, from Tocky Vibes, SoulJahLove, SehCalaz, KillerT, Bounty Lisa et al. They have consistently discovered new talent but vultures are ever flying above the joint waiting to snatch and run with the newest finds and like bubblegums, spit them once they lose the sweetness. One thing missing from Chillspot is “a viable business model that ensures growth and revenue generation from the hard work they put in to discover and nurture” . Look at how KalawaJazmee did it with Kwaito.

Now we have the Tamuka & Levels produced Avion Riddim (a NashPaints project) dominating the streets, airwaves & a viral dance Kanjiva. Do you notice what has changed?

The singing style has changed, the sound has changed. An evolution is slowly taking place. Pay attention to how Pumacol, Bazooker, Enzo, Uncle Epatan flow. That’s the new style and pattern and only a disruptor with a compellingly different style will be able to shift the audience and for the majority of yesteryear Zimdancehall artists still trying to sound Jamaican or caught up in the “kumhanya ngoma” uptempo style please read the new memo.

There is a new style in town. How long it will last I don’t know but definitely the old is ‘Gone’. Until next time, THE PLOT THICKENS.

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