Home » Arts & Culture » Dancehall’s Bad Influence On Zim

I should be the last person opposing creativity in the arts in this country, but the current trends in this music called Dancehall have left me perplexed. Yes indeed, the ghetto youths have found an outlet which they use to reach out to the rest of the society, but in all honesty, who wants to be associated with dirty lyrics, sexually seductive dances, violence and drug abuse which have become the hallmark of dancehall music? Music is such a powerful force and its impact on society should not be taken lightly.

Dancehall music by artistes such as Killer T, Soul Jah Love, Bounty Lisa, Lady Squanda, Quonfused, Seh Calaz, Dadza D, Shinsoman, Level 2, Guspy Warrior and many others, has brought about “slackness”, “vulgarity” and “obscene behaviour” among Zimbabwe’s youth. Much of the music from these artistes is difficult to comprehend and some of the songs are filled with dirty lyrics. Lady Squanda, for instance, has had some of her songs banned on radio because of their explicit content.

The different social classes have always been at odds concerning what constitutes acceptable moral behaviour. What is slackness to one social group represents art to another. This inherent contradiction runs deep in our culture over what constitutes acceptable behaviour to the competing social classes.

There exists a never-ending competition concerning who sets the agenda for what is socially permissible. Even I, with my artistic upbringing and creativity find it hard to accept the behaviour of some of these dancehall youths.

I asked one of the dancehall artistes who had come up with a song filled with lyrical slackness whether he thought his tune would have popular appeal and sell thousands of copies.

His response was, “Elder, You is out of touch and old fashioned, man! Dis ya music is what appeals to dem ghetto youths. Not only will it sell thousands, but millions, even if dem pirates tief it, seen!”

Perhaps I am indeed out of touch and old fashioned, but I think this young man is filled with delusion.

Let’s face it, which mature and sensible adult would attend a dancehall concert or buy dancehall Cds from the guys I have mentioned above?

I have always been comfortable in attending Oliver Mtukudzi’s or Jah Prayzah’s concerts as the lyrical content of their songs make sense to me .Looking around I have seen hundreds of adults like me at these concerts.

When I attended the Bounty Lisa and Souljah Love dancehall engagement party at Harare gardens, I must confess I was the only elderly person at the concert. What I witnessed there was also depressing.

It seems the artistes are bent on showing off the bad boybad girl image. The audiences are equally bad. Ganja was being smoked everywhere. The artistes were singing tunes with unprintable words. Fans were pelting missiles, beer cans and sometimes stones at the performing artistes. The promoter, Biggie Chinoperekwei, had to put a screen fence around the stage to protect the artistes.

However, at one point, some of the artistes themselves got involved in a fight. Quonfused and Seh Calaz were “dissing” each other and ended up exchanging fists backstage.

Seh Calaz’s fans who saw the fight turned on Quornfused to mete instant justice as he tried to flee from the scene in his car. He was lucky because the police came to his rescue. Zimdancehall gigs often end up this way.

I have often heard debates on whether dancehall is now more popular than sungura music. I can only respond to this by stating that sungura artistes make more money than dancehall artistes.

Sungura artistes are more disciplined and more professional in their approach to business. They do not aertise a show and fail to appear.

Their fans, because they are mature, pay to attend their shows whereas dancehall fans want free entrance and will do everything within their power to get into a show for free. Most of these fans are unemployed youths from the ghettos. How then can they expect their idols to make money if they are not willing to pay?

If Dancehall is that popular as a music genre, why does it not attract mature adults to concerts held under its name?

The debate in this country concerning the promotion of slackness and violence within dancehall is of great significance for the development of the Zimbabwean culture.

Artistically, I find no offence in the music itself. I can listen to Winky D any time of the day and take no offence to most of his tunes because his lyrics are not offensive. With songs like “Ghetto Defender”, he inspired most of these ghetto youths who have now gone out of hand as they seek to take away his hard-earned title.

He has since moved on and even managed to garner endorsements and sponsorship from corporate institutions because they saw that he is a role model. All the young dancehall artistes who are gaining popularity in the ghettos are doing so by clutching on to Winky D’s coat-tails.

Like their mentor, they should learn to clean up their act. This is the only way they will get sponsorship from corporate institutions.

Threats from influential corporate companies that they will withdraw their sponsorship of Dancehall artistes if they do not clean up their act should bring sanity to dancehall.

Money talks!

Imported post-modern values are at the root of the fragmentation of our society. These youths are watching hip hop and dancehall videos from New York and Jamaican ghettos respectively and imitating them. For the dancehall culture it is these two very provocative realities of using expletives and engaging certain kinds of provocative sexual behaviour that are used effectively to destabilise the dominant order.

Dancehall has ensured that the English Language will have to be taught again in Zimbabwean schools and the curriculum changed to patois as these ghetto youths, although singing in Shona, prefer to talk in broken properispomenon Jamaican patois during interviews.

In Jamaica where dancehall originated, the police in a bid to bring back morality into society have even taken steps to stop dancehall artistes using dirty lyrics such as bombaclaat, punany and other offensive words during concerts.

Bounty Killer, a Jamaican dancehall artiste argued that while he supports the police taking steps to ensure that Dancehall productions are safe, they should not prevent him from using his language of stage performance because slackness is a part of Dancehall. He might as well also say that he should be allowed to shoot people with a gun because violence is a part of dancehall.

There is nothing to be proud of about living in the ghetto. Everyone in his right senses is trying to get out of the ghetto where robberies, violence, water shortages, broken sewage systems, power-cuts, overcrowded homes and potholed roads are common place.

Yet most of these dancehall chanters claim that they are proud to be ghetto youths.

We fool ourselves in believing that dancehall is just music. Far from it!

In my opinion it has an intentional agenda of subverting the present social order with an alternative vision of building a different Zimbabwean culture.

What is deemed to be real slackness and vulgarity by those who embrace the dancehall culture is not the use of “bad words” and provocative sexual acts but poverty and injustice.

The Dancehall culture regards slackness as injustice for the majority poor who experience setback after setback in getting their rights recognised and respected by those who participate in dispensing justice in this land.

That is slackness for the dancehall culture. It has little to do with provocative invitations to sex, drugs and the use of bad words and more to do with the prevalence of injustice within our society. These youths want to get out of poverty in this society. Who doesn’t?

The result is that our contemporary culture is increasingly experiencing disintegration that is characterised by the daily acts of senseless violence, widespread cynicism and attitude of indifference and avoidance.

The fear of being opposed and attacked by the violent minority has silenced many people of goodwill from taking action. In our present moral order serious debate over social issues has given way to growing nihilism.

There is a growing number of persons who have embraced an ideology called “un-committed”. They have embraced an understanding of life in which they see nothing that is worth fighting for.

The ghetto youths are expressing their desperate situation through music, drugs, provocative sexual acts and violence. They make it more “acceptable” by calling it Dancehall.

But let’s give the dancehall artistes hope. They need to clean their act and everything will be cook and curry. No worry! No hurry!

Fred Zindi is a Professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He is also a musician and an author of several books on music. He can be contacted via e-mail on f_zindi@hotmail.com

Source : The Herald

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