Bulawayo Zim Dancehall: Between a rock and a hard place

Bruce Ndlovu
The list of nominees for this yeara��s Zim Dancehall awards announced last week made largely familiar and predictable reading for those that follow the genre.

2015 belonged to Killer T and Winky D, and the names of the two chanters dominated the list, with the former nominated for seven awards while the latter was nominated for six.

Other prominent names that graced the list included Soul Jah Love, Bounty Lisa and Lady Squanda.

Besides the star-studded line-up of artistes on the awards roster that could whet the appetite of any fan of the genre, followers of the genre in the City of Kings will also have noted that this yeara��s extravaganza, like others in past years, had virtually no representation from Bulawayo.

Those who were present during Winky Da��s ground-breaking concert would have also seen that, in a city that has a following in house, kwaito and, hip hop, Zim Dancehall had also acquired an undeniable following.

With such a youthful fan-base, some have begun to ask how the genrea��s practitioners, if they do exist, have failed to make any sort of impact with the genrea��s followers.

Do the artistes exist at all or have their products fallen short of listener expectation?

This quandary has left the handful of dancehall artistes between a rock and a hard place, as they cana��t get love in their home city and in Hararea��s more vibrant but already saturated market.

According to Winky Da��s manager Jonathan Banda, dancehall started as a grassroots movement in Mbare and hence if one wanted to start a similar movement, they would have to follow a similar blueprint in order to reach the masses.

a�?Dancehall was not always successful but the artistes came from the people and started making music with the people in mind. It was always a movement that sprung from the grassroots and if people want to touch people using dancehall they have to have the respect and trust of those they are trying to reach,a�? he said.

While Banda believes that music needs to go back to the basics to have the desired reach, some commentators have said that the Ndebele language was not compatible with the genre. This follows the same logic which says Jamaican Patois made it feasible for them to go the dancehall route while their American counterparts branched out into hip-hop.

In Zimbabwean culture, Makokoba is seen as Mbarea��s distant twin and should a dancehall movement start it would be the most likely place for it to flourish. According to Makokoba chanter Senko, dancehall is just suffering for the same things that have incapacitated the rest of the citya��s music scene.

a�?It would be more sensible to say dancehall is suffering from a lack of artistic effort in Bulawayo but you would have to apply that to the rest of the music scene. All artistes from all genres are suffering here,a�? he said. .

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