An article on the Kunakirwa talks about how Zimdancehall was able to eclipse other music genres in Zimbabwe such as the once popular “Urban Grooves”.
How Exactly Did Zimdancehall Stage This Coup?
The change started with a deviation from the delivery that relied heavily on imitating Jamaican artists. Artists became more inclined to express themselves with more depth and in ways the rest could truly grasp.
Secondly, rather than barely understandable, patois-inspired lyrics that half made sense, the leading acts moved to either pure Shona or mostly Shona lyrics. This changed the dynamic. Patois sounds cool when you listen to Jamaican and Caribbean artists doing their thing but it flies over a lot of people’s heads in Zim because unless you are into that kind of thing, it sounds unnatural when a Zim artist does it. Subtle switch but masterstroke.
Thirdly, the music has changed. Listen to some of Killer T’s songs this year. Songs like Ndamuda, Makanga Mandikanganwa and Gore Nyuwani are hardly ‘dancehall’ in any way. Same goes for Winky D’s Dzika dzika ngirozi song. How about Jah Signal’s – Sweetie (Shinga Muroora)? His name alone is very ‘dancehall-esque’. These guys are singing in a different but very Zimbabwean way and capturing larger markets that way. The wider Dancehall is the genre that allowed them to explore their musicality to this point but is no longer the genre carrying their careers…
– accessibility. Here is the thing; you go to one of the uptown studios to record and they are telling you:
- $120 – $150 for a beat
- $50 recording per hour
- $250 for a beat, recording (2 hours) and mixing
- $80 for ‘mastering’
Those are hardly unreasonable prices in many other places but Zim. In our situation that is a serious wad of cash that many simply cannot afford to part with while chasing a career that may/may not pay off. Instead, you go to one of the smaller, ‘mukoto’ studios and they have ‘free’ in-house riddims on selection and charge you $10/hr to record…
A fifth, and often ignored, point is that Zimdancehall changed the music marketing landscape in Zimbabwe. It changed itself and the landscape altogether. Zimdancehall artists were finding it hard to get on radio and compete with the established Urban Grooves names. Some radio DJs wanted to be paid to play tracks.
One Zimdancehall genius decided to just give his music away for free on USB sticks to kombi drivers and to anyone that had a WhatsApp number. So now if you wanted to hear the authentic ghetto sound, radio wasn’t the platform. You just had to hop onto any kombi. This is how mass distribution of Zimdancehall began and radio stopped being the monopoly platform to hear true Zim sounds. In modern terms, like Uber disrupted the taxi market, Zimdancehall disrupted music distribution in Zim. Marketing masterclass.
Urban Grooves in its aloofness was none the wiser. Now Zimdancehall is probably the biggest crossover genre in the country and the diaspora. And Zimdancehall said….
Kepele kepele. Juve. Close!