An old english proverb rightfully states that 'All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.' While that proverb is true in more ways than one especially in developed nations, the direct opposite could be used to best describe Zimbabwe were high unemployment figures have made it difficult for young Zimbabweans to play.
In a sudden twist of fate, a new music genre cleverly named “Zimbabwe Dancehall” has taken the land locked southern African country by storm not only giving the youths of that country something to cheer about, but coincidentally creating much needed employment and fame.
This very popular music has its roots in the Jamaican tradition of reggae. The genre is known for its hard-hitting lyrics which often encompass social commentary on issues like poverty, unemployment and drug abuse.
With its roots dating back to 2013, the Zimbabwe Dancehall genre has vastly grown with new acts coming on board and taking the nation by storm. Names such as Controversial star Platinum Prince, Seh Calaz, Winky D, Trevor Dongo, Freeman, Killer T, Soulja Luv, Tockey Vibes, and Lady Bee just to mention a few have all become house hold names and inspired several other unemployed but lyrically talented Zimbabwean youngsters to take up the microphone as a source of livelihood.
According to a well documented article about this musical genre and the issue of ridding out high unemployment levels through it, this music genre is said to offer a chance of generating income to the urban youth who often fall victim to social ills like drug abuse, prostitution and violent crime.
Not only does it offer an outlet for the artistes themselves but to the many backyard studio owners whose enterprises have sprouted in and around many ghettos in Zimbabwe and are estimated to be numbering about 600 in total.
Notwithstanding the financial returns that are realised by the stakeholders in the industry, Zim Dancehall has also been credited for raising awareness on everyday issues that affect society like the maladministration of local government. The song by Spiderman castigates the city council for causing water borne diseases while another one by Jiggaz laments the economic hardships in the country by stating that money is never enough for the ordinary man.
In an exclusive interview with Youth Times, upcoming Zim Dancehall artist Kevvy Kev, who reached the semi finals of local talent search show Starbright, having a major breakthrough is the most difficult part.
“Zimbabwe is laden with so many talented people who use whatever is at their disposal to break the poverty and unemployment cycle that is affecting almost every youth here, including university graduates. That is why it is such a huge priviledge to be associated with Zim Dancehall because it is positively aiding towards reducing these high unemployment figures.”
“There are many problems that many of these aspiring young artistes face on their way to realising their dreams. The issue of getting that all important breakthrough is one such challenge. You can go to the studio and get your demo but at the end of the day it just wont be enough to help you get that breakthrough. You will now need tp fork out more money so you can get the priviledges of hiring a music distribution company and if you can afford a manager to help you get show gigs then the better,” said Kevvy Kev.
Kevvy Kev outlined that trying to get that breakthrough has seen Zim Dancehall artistes distributing their music for free on various platforms so that they can hopefully catch the ears of promoters in order to get gigs.
Zim Dancehall music artists are known to be very generous making their music available for download on the internet through such platforms as Reverbnation, Jukebox (Jukeboxx), Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp in various formats but mostly in .mp3. Their business model is based on them freely distributing their music, while they make money from hosting gigs, shows and concerts.
Seasoned female Zim Dancehall artiste Lady Squanda attested that the musical genre had also given female musicians a chance to be part of the wave and do something productive with their lives and earning income.
“Zim Dancehall isnt just a craze. It is a culture, a part of life. Many people think that it is just a wave that will disappear with time but we are here to stay and make sure that it doesnt go anyway. As female musicians it has given us the opportunity to make a living doing what we enjoy doing and we are very grateful,” she said.
Music analysts and commentators have in the past adhered that this musical genre is withstanding the test of time and could be here for a very long time. In a recent interview with NewsDay, popular Zimbabwe music promoter Josh Hozheri, described dancehall as bubble gum music like its predecessor urban grooves, a genre that he said would not last.
Some, however, even believe that it could soon eclipse Zimbabwes most popular musical genre of Sungura. Sungura has been very popular throughout the years in Zimbabwe with musicians such as Alick Macheso and the late Tongai Moyo running the show.
Whatever the outcome, Zim Dancehall is clearly not going anywhere near obscurity anytime soon judging its popularity. It has in the past seen several TV shows on Zimbabwes one and only station ZTV, dedicating their programming to it.
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