By Sharon Kavhu
Jamaican musicians –Chris Martin, Jah Cure, I-Octane, Kalado, Charly Black, Demarco, D Major, Romain Virgo, Busy Signal and Beenie Man – among several others have performed live in Zimbabwe in the era of the Zimdancehall music genre.
Zimdancehall music started taking shape in the country around 2010 and artistes such as Sean Kingstone, Mr Vegas and Sean Paul have also performed in the country within the same period.
The trend progressed and today, Zimbabwean music promoters are bringing more dancehall and reggae musicians from Jamaica compared to musicians from other genres.
Others have described the development as a way of milking money from Zimbabwe’s US dollar economy by the foreign artists.
However, Zimdancehall promoters and music producers have said the trend has come as a 50-50 deal for the Jamaican musicians who will be coming in for the “green back” and the Zimdancehall music genre which maintains its growth and increases its dominance in Zimbabwe.
In an interview, Arnold “Fantan” Kamudyariwa, a Zimdancehall producer at Chill Spot recording studios in Mbare, said the coming in of the Jamaican talent comes as a strategy for marketing Zimdancehall music on a global platform.
“The Jamaican reggae artistes are coming into Zimbabwe because of the good deals they are being offered, where there is money there is a ‘drive’. On the other hand, their coming indirectly promotes Zimdancehall music globally,” said Fantan.
“It is obvious that their shows are captured on camera and posted on social media where anyone anywhere has the access to them. Recently, Busy Signal came to perform here in Zimbabwe and supporting artistes which included Seh Calaz, Lady Squanda, Kinnah, Soul Jah Love and Dadza D had their music promoted together with Beenie’s live show footage.
“The development has seen our Zimdancehall artistes receiving invitations to frequently perform abroad.”
He said Jamaican dancehall and reggae music inspired Zimbabweans to initiate the Zimdancehall genre.
“The Jamaican artistes are the ones who actually influenced Zimdancehall producers to initiate the genre and today the genre is well celebrated as it is currently dominating the market,” he said.
“Music promoters are now giving Jamaican artistes preference when it comes to live shows and gigs because the popularity of the Zimdancehall has created business within our music industry.
The genre is a crowd puller and such shows have less risks of flopping and this is why Zimbabwean music producers are investing in Jamaican artiste shows.”
In a separate interview, another Zimdancehall producer, Tafadzwa “Levels” Kadzimwe said Jamaican musicians’ gigs in Zimbabwe were a platform for the foreign and Zimbabwean artistes to share and exchange ideas.
“Every musician or music producer will always have something to learn from another, and we have learned several things through the coming in of the Jamaican musicians. Some of them actually came through our studios and recorded with our artistes, for instance I Octane, Cakado, Charlie Black, Romain Virgo and Busy Signal,” said DJ Levels.
“They came and shared with us one or two things that they do in their music productions. This gives us a chance to improve our Zimdancehall music production and it is a positive step towards making an international impact.”
“That is why we are having dancehall artists from Jamaica being invited to Zimbabwe. The more the artists come in Zimbabwe, the more it helps us as producers, artistes and promoters.”
Jamaican reggae and dancehall artistes’ live shows in Zimbabwe are also exhibiting their creativeness as they perform with live bands.
Female Zimdancehall singer Lipsy Chitimbe, also known as Ninja Lipsy, who once shared the stage with Chris Martin, said Zimbabwean artists were learning several tips on entertaining crowds on stage.
“Personally, I feel the coming in of Jamaican musicians in Zimbabwe has helped many artistes in Zimbabwe to improve their acts on stage,” said Lipsy.
“The fact that before and after the shows we get a chance to interact with these artistes gives us a chance to exchange musical ideas. I remember when I shared the stage with D Major and Chris Martin, I learnt quite a lot. On the show I was the only female musician to perform and it paved a unique channel for me to increase my popularity internationally.”
The coming of Jamaican artists to Zimbabwe is, however, not a new phenomenon.
Analysts point to the performance by the late reggae great, Bob Marley and his Wailers band, on the eve of the country’s independence on 17 April 1980 as having paved the way for musicians from the Carribean island.
Since then, many Jamaican musicians have performed in Zimbabwe, among them Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Culture, Eric Donaldson, I Jah Man Levi, Shabba Ranks, and Buju Banton, to mention a few.