Home » Arts & Culture » Zimdancehall Here to Stay

Two weeks ago, I was listening to Star FM radio around three in the afternoon. An unusually dejected Pathisani Sibanda was the presenter together with K.V.G. He was not himself. I could tell the man was stressed out. Before I asked anyone, Pathisani himself came out in the open. I soon found out the reason why he was down in the dumps. Apparently the presenter had called Soul Jah Love over the weekend to ask for a live interview and according to Sibanda, Soul Jah Love did not take kindly to the call. He cut him off and later returned his call with threats. Soul Jah Love uttered some profanities which included some unprintable words. His threats which were in Shona can be loosely translated as follows: “Pathisani, why do you always talk rubbish about me? I know where you live and I promise you that you will be out of a job before the end of the year. You speak hogwash Pathisani, so I want to kill you. If you see my car in your neighbourhood you had better run because I will be there to murder you.”

Judging from the way Pathisani reacted to these threats over the radio, one could tell that he was indeed frightened.

As we all know, aersity is a fact of life. It can’t be controlled. What we can control is how we react to it.

I decided to wait two weeks before going to press about this story as I wanted to see how it would pan out. I have listened to more broadcasts from Pathisani since then and he seems to have recovered from the ordeal. He was back to himself during live broadcasts at HIFA.

As one philosopher, Lee Iacocca says: “In times of great stress or aersity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plough your anger and your energy into something positive”. Sibanda did this, and it seems to have worked.

Musicians must accept constructive criticism from journalists. It is through such criticism that their acts will improve.

However, Sibanda must also realise that as a journalist, he ought to be sensitive to the feelings of fellow beings.

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognise that journalism and news media can incite violent conflict especially when reporting about someone in a fragile state. By employing metaphors and unpalatable speech, conflict is readily created.

In my opinion, there was no need for Pathisani to call Isau Mupfumi in Mutare asking him about Soul Jah Love’s non-appearance at his club and then broadcast the conversation live. An edited version to the listeners would have been sufficient. If he had found this topic to be newsworthy, he would have simply told listeners the reasons why Soul Jah Love had not performed on the night in question after speaking to Mupfumi privately. I think the way that whole episode was handled embarrassed Soul Jah Love to the extent that he became angry.

Incompetent journalism and partisan news management can generate misinformation which inflames violent conflict in almost any fragile state.

Thomas Paine, another great philosopher says, “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. It is the business of little minds to shrink, but those whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death”.

These threats from Soul Jah Love come at a time when we were all beginning to think that the Zimdancehall artistes are now acting positively to our calls of last year where we criticised them of being misogynistic, doing drugs and being violent. The ghetto youths seem to have toned down the lyrics coming out this year. Tocky Vibes has set the pace. He recently had a successful tour of the U.K and has just returned from Australia after releasing his first album. Other Zimdancehall artistes who recently launched albums include Kinah, Seh Calaz and Freeman.

Killer T also launched his ‘Hot Property’ album with clean lyrics in Mbare recently. That is positive. Now this murder threat from Soul Jah Love at a time when things in Zimdancehall circles seem to be moving in the right direction is a step backwards.

As Robert Mukondiwa put it last year, Zimdancehall should only be ignored at one’s peril He is vindicated by the actions of Zimdancehall artistes like Soul Jah Love.

As he puts it: “When they swept onto the scene the crescendo and largely intimidating sound of Zimdancehall was almost impossible to ignore.

“Many waved off this new sound and ghetto bred philosophy as just another fad that would come and go the way urban grooves rose, popped and fizzled close to a decade ago in typical bubble gum style which the music was dismissed as.

“They probably have their right to such an opinion. After all Zimdancehall has several hallmarks that make it seem to be a mirror image of urban grooves, which now lies in near death state comatose and almost certain to die in the intensive care unit.”

Both are genres done largely by the youth and both have the greatest following amongst the youth and young adults. Both genres of music are mass produced without the musical and instrumental precision that characterises music like that of Dr Oliver Mtukudzi, Jah Prayzah and Alick Macheso for example. Both genres of music can super rely on digital sources of instrumental architecture without the strumming of a single guitar chord.

And both music genres are characterised by a culture of sex, drugs and alcohol a domain of the delinquents in society.

And yet, perhaps, this is where the similarities end and a crucial genre defining difference puts Zimdancehall way ahead of Urban Grooves with all people having to ignore Zimdancehall at their own potential peril.

Second to the Pentecostal movement in religion, Zimdancehall is the second most powerful movement of modern times after Makandiwa, Angel, Magaya and associates because it addresses core issues that the masses relate to. It has become a religion of sorts.

While Urban Grooves dwelt on puppy love between the girls and boys, partying, showing off one’s bling-bling and other such trivia, Zimdancehall articulates the ghetto gospel of pain, suffering, appreciation for family and things that affect the ghetto youth the most. Things that they are intimate about and things that they are angry about.

Tally B for example, who calls himself the Lyrical Lieutenant has his song ‘Shaiswa Mukana’ or better known as ‘Hapana Hapana’, which the government has to pay heed to. In it he bemoans the fact that the youth have skills and gifts and are well educated in the ghetto with two or even three diplomas each but they are jobless.

In a tone a hare’s breath short of crying, he relates how they wake up every day from the ghetto seeking work only to be told “hapana, hapana-dzokai mangwana” (there is no work, try tomorrow!) The song, which is more of a dirge encapsulates the youth’s disgruntlement with a government that has been quick and expert at giving promises of jobs but has delivered nothing but further job cuts.

And as the ghetto youths listen to this sort of message and almost all of them relate to it as they sit on the bridges and kerbs of Mbare,Mufakose, Mabvuku and Kuwadzana roads, the despondency it brings can make them believe nothing will ever be done and may breed anger and a rebellious streak in their veins as their mentors sing of the daily torture. Seh Calaz, Tocky Vibes and even Soul Jah Love (Chibaba-baba) himself all have tracks that talk about the need to persevere in the face of doom and gloom in the country. They speak to their peers and encourage them to keep working hard in spite of the challenges they are all facing.

Zimdancehall has nothing to do with the leafy suburbs’ decision makers who live comfortably in Zimbabwe. It is a gospel according to the poor and when the poor speak to each other, the end result is revolution. It may not even be physical insurrection, but it may simply be the growth of mistrust and alack of respect for authorities.

A parallel can be drawn in Jamaica with the protest music messaging that Reggae bred at the height of political differences in that country in the sixties and seventies. The true message of the story of people’s lives started being lived out artistically in song as the politicians such as Michael Manley and Edward Seaga in the 1970’s battled for supremacy at the expense of bread and butter issues that concerned the masses.

Seh Calaz, Tocky Vibes, Tally B, Soul Jah Love, Shinsoman, Ras Pompy, Killer T and Ricky Fire, have become the real prophets of the people. Their word is now more powerful than that of any politician at least to the ghetto youths. Their word is sacred. Today, they are preaching a gospel of disapproval of the way they are being treated. A gospel of love for their mothers and the family unit. Their messaging is still responsible. But just one word that may be misconstrued and society may never be the same again. Policy makers need to peer into the real life of the ghetto youth by analysing their problems courtesy of the Zimdancehall lyrics.

They want homes, water, electricity and jobs, jobs jobs. Anything short of that will not cut it. And as long as there is poverty and despondency in the ghetto, these youths will always sing to a crowd that shares the same problems. And as long as there is poverty, Zimdanchall, unlike Urban Grooves, will not die until the quality of life in Zimbabwe and the quality of citizenship is improved for all especially the future generations. In short, Zimdancehall is here to stay!

Source : The Herald