Home » Arts & Culture » The Good, Bad of Zim Dancehall

When the genesis of Zimbabwean dancehall music started several years ago, the genre received mixed feelings from critics, radio stations as well as the general public alike, mainly because of the way that the artistes sang nothing more than drugs, violence, sex, women and crime.

This was largely so because of the influence that some Jamaican dancehall artistes including Vybz Kartel, Buju Banton, Busy Signal, Mavado, Shabba Ranks and Sizzla Kalonji had on the majority of Zimbabwean artistes.

These are the heroes of the local youths.

Some of them went an extra mile by copying the Jamaican way of dressing, their lingo commonly known as Jamaican as patois, and even composing “dirty” or lewd lyrics that left nothing to the imagination. While in some countries this might seem to be a common thing, in Zimbabwe, which is a nation whose older generations are steeped in the unhuubuntu concept, such kind of music and behaviour is regarded as wayward and morally unacceptable.

The dressing by some of these artistes such as that of sagging trousers exposing underwear is seen as insulting. It is true that first impressions make a statement and in Zimbabwe the artistes have portrayed themselves as wayward youths.

Though the genre is now being appreciated by an ever wider audience, some say these artistes still don’t know a thing or two about hygiene and that surely is not the way that the originals do things.

Coming to the issue of drugs, a lot of songs praise the use of marijuana as a virtuous drug, a development that has riled the mature and discerning listeners.

Such lyrics do more harm than good to children who follow the music.

In Chitungwiza there emerged an artiste called Benjy T who released a song “Ice Cream Nechamba”. “Chamba” is a slang word for marijuana and in the song Benjy T asks people what they would choose between ice cream and marijuana (mbanje).

He sings: “Ice cream nechamba maRasta munodei? Chamba, ndipe kuno chamba ndimborova, kana ndarova ndobva ndabigger Rasta! (Let have a puff of it and when I am I high I will give praise to the Rastafarians).”

Although Benjy T was quick to defend the song, the damage had already been done. Today, there are a number of dancehall artistes, some of whom are leading in the game but whose lyrics are laden with similar glorification of mbanje.

Another issue of concern is that of sexually explicit lyrics. Guspy Warrior’s track “Seunononga” and Soul Jah Love’s “Gum Kum” are two tracks that made waves for all the wrong reasons, lewdness and sex.

However Guspy maintains that “Seunononga” describes a dance and is derived from the traditional “kongonya” moves.

And Soul Jah Love literally undresses a woman when he rhymes in the track “Gum Kum”.

Listeners have wondered what lessons such lyrics give to people, especially kids.

Some of the lyrics also fan violence among youths and real or imagined rivals within the genre.

“Vanofamba vachitaura, hanzi Winky D uchakaura, ndiri muNinja ndati bodo, aya maoko hadzisi nhodo, (They spread rumours and threaten me, but I am a Ninja and say no, these hands are not traditional draft stones),” sang Winky D in one of his songs.

The issue of violence is also common during live shows where rival artistes “diss” each other.

At times it degenerates into fist fights. Though some might say Winky D is exceptional as he has turned to a new leaf with most of his recent songs taking a turn for the righteous and educative.

Isn’t it high time that these artistes know that, with such kind of hooliganism, they are tainting their reputations and images as well as social standing as oracles of society?

Rather than healing people’s wounds, why should they create more of them, simply because they feel they are far ahead of others and therefore no one should do better than them?

It seems a good number of these dancehall artistes don’t have an eye on the future because they are just engrossed in making singles on a daily basis, which keep them being heard by their listeners, and after a short spell, the songs fade and become history, and so does the artiste who soon becomes obscure since the industry is infested by a plethora of such other artistes.

Rather than investing from the proceeds, rewards and profits they are making now, they seem to be content in spending the little that they have on booze and marijuana, while girls and flashy life is also a part of their lifestyles.

Few of the artistes who are causing noise now in this genre have much to show for their fame. Without any intention to offend anyone, most of the dancehall artistes still stay at their parents homes while a good number of them praise the squalid Matapi Flats in their songs.

Music is a job that should bring a positive change in one’s social and financial status but little of this is showing in some of the artistes. They should bear in mind that their type of music is a victim of fickleness and soon, tables will shift in favour of another genre while theirs risks being relegated into oblivion.

There are however some shining examples of artistes in this genre like Winky D, Freeman, and most recently Soul Jah Love who seem to be going in a positive direction in as far as apparent affluence is concerned.

They all have “wheels” to show for their efforts, and who knows, they might have invested in some assets like houses or stands, which in its own, is a great success and something to show for a genre that can lose its taste with time like bubblegum.

But alas dancehall is still here and if possible these artistes should make use of the opportunity to develop the music sector.

Best of all is that the music circulates easily and fast more than any other genre.

These youngsters should at least make hay whilst the sun shines.

Source : The Herald