Zim dancehall is struggling to make regional impact

Sharon Kavhu
Zimbabwe dancehall producers and chanters say their genre is struggling to make an impact within the Southern African region, The Southern Times has heard.Although the rise of Zim dancehall locally has made tremendous impact overtaking other genres such as sungura, rhumba, urban grooves, jazz and Afro pop, the genre’s impact remains confined in Zimbabwe.

Zim dancehall producers have attributed the scenario to lack of a national platform for regional recognition, restricted use of vernacular languages, poor marketing strategies and nationally restricted inputs.

“To be honest, our Zim dancehall is not yet accepted by other countries in the region, even though we have local artists performing mainly in South Africa (SA),” said Zim dancehall producer Kudzai Gahadzikwa, popularly known as JMP.

“Local chanters are normally invited for private events in other regional countries like SA where the majority of the crowd will be Zimbabweans based in those countries.  Some of the shows are held in bars and car wash areas which are owned by Zimbabweans.

“We have never heard an invitation for our Zim dancehall artists to perform on a regional show or big event.  This is a sign that we are still struggling to make regional impact with the genre. Therefore, we need to pull up our socks.”

JMP released Unruly Chrome riddim which made noise in 2014 and last year.  Several Zim dancehall artists sang on the riddim and some of the songs were marketed in Zambia and South Africa.

“We had several songs on the riddim, among them are: ‘Hatiite’ by Soul Jah love and Celsius, ‘Todanana’ by Seh Calaz  and ‘Misodzi’ by Empress Shelly that received a few airplays in some Zambian radio stations and SA private functions,” he said.

“The major challenge is that many chanters use vernacular languages and for a regional audience it may be a slow process for people to adapt. Unlike, other genres such as Tuku’s Katekwe music which makes a regional impact with vernacular language, Zim dancehall needs to put more inputs and move towards live performance.”

He said everyone in Zim dancehall has a role to play in order for the genre to be on a platform for regional marketing.

In a separate interview, Chill Spot producer Arnold ‘Fantan’ Kamudyariwa from Mbare said the producers lack funding to produce musical videos that can make a regional impact.

“We are trying to make the genre be accepted on a regional level and it’s a process which is moving slowly.  To date, Zim dancehall music is penetrating SA and partially Botswana but, in other countries like Zambia and Mozambique, we still have a long way to go,” said Fantan.

“People in the region love quality productions and I personally think many local videos are still far from competing against productions from other neighbouring countries.  This is why Zim dancehall is struggling to have an impact.

“If we could make the genre a youth culture and seek funding from the youth ministry to upgrade our productions, maybe we can finally get there.”

He said, the local broadcasting platforms are recognised to a lesser extent within the region and this makes it more difficult for Zim dancehall talent to be showcased regionally.

Supporting Fantan’s idea, chanter Caleb ‘Ras Caleb’ Tareka said quality sales and good  dancehall videos would improve the genre and showcase it on popular channels in the region such as Channel O and Trace.

“With the rate of piracy, it is difficult to market our music in the formal channels because once we release our music, it will be circulated on social media and this erases the essence of our works,” said Ras Caleb.

He said Zim dancehall artist, fans, promoters and producers have to work together in ensuring an access to other regional broadcasting platforms.

February 2016
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