The rise of dancehall in SADC

By Tiri Masawi

RECENT applause of Zimbabwean dancehall ace Winky D as one of the best dancehall artists in the world ahead of Jamaican heavyweights Sean Paul, Mavado, Chris Martin and Sizzla by Ranker.Com has catapulted the love and following of the genre in Southern Africa to a new level.

Ranker.com is a universal website that ranks performances of music, film and  arts among many artistic intrigues and believes Zimbabwe’s Winky D has reached a level where his version of Zim-Dancehall is sellable anywhere in the world and can now attract serious crowds wherever he plays.

Dancehall music a genre that was given birth in the early 1970s under the shadows of reggae and has been adopted by most artists in SADC region. It has gone to levels where many can now relate to.

So popular has dancehall illuminated its effect on the young and young at heart in the region that it has now broken linguistic barriers and created a unity of dancehall lovers on the dancefloor and microphone.

It is not unusual to be in a taxi in Windhoek and hear Namibian locals sing along to Winky D’s popular tune, Disappear, nor has it not been weird that Namibian popular Afro pop Group PDK also made their attempt on dancehall.

Such exploits can only signify the growth of a once alien genre among regional musicians that has fast found love within the heart of many artists in SADC.

Dancehall has even moved to a level where many radio stations in the region have special slots for the fast popularised genre more synonymous with its hard hitting beats, party lyrics and rather scintillating dance moves.

While Winky D is only but one of the many regional youths now making their mark in the dancehall scene, the genre is certainly one that many can identify with.

In Zimbabwe other names that have risen to the top of the music charts because of dancehall’s never ending rise include Soul Jah Love, Killer T, Tocky Vibes, Seh Calaz among many while in Namibia the princes of Afro pop, Sally, popular for by the moniker  Boss Madam, literally lit the airwaves recently with her last dancehall release titled Natura”.

One can only wonder and imagine the level she can reach should she continue on a dancehall path.

While Sally is a versatile and polished artist who has ability to ride on any genre and make waves, her recent exploits with Natural on a dancehall tip has all the perfections of how this genre breaks all limitations.

Her exploits in dancehall has seen her reaching more than 200 000 views on YouTube. The same can also be said of the likes of Winky D who have reached such figures on YouTube. While many might want to argue the authenticity of YouTube views in judging the popularity of any music genre, it is fact to state that YouTube has remained a credible source of benchmarking success for artist in an era where piracy of CDs is rife and can easy skew  sales figures.

Perhaps what is more intriguing about the rise of dancehall music not only in the Southern African is that this is a genre that not many gave a chance considering the dominance of South African house music across the regional turf.

What is more appealing about the rise of dancehall in the region is that it has not been a genre only peculiar with those with ability on the mic but has also created a whole new industry among club DJs. In the same vein there are now certain conventional radio DJs who have now jumped on the wave and want to be synonymous with playing only dancehall.

Whether it’s arguable or not, Winky D’s exploits in the dancehall scenes have rubbed off influence to quite many artists from the region and many disc jockeys from the beaches of Mozambique to the clubs of Namibia and South Africa and the party scenes of Harare.

May 2017
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