THE Zim dancehall genre has been the most debated subject in the music industry albeit for wrong reasons in most instances.
Conservatives believe the genre is out to promote moral decadence among Zimbabwean youths and that measures must be taken to stop the perceived continuous decay.
While crucial points and suggestions have been raised by promoters, producers and artistes from other genres on how best to discourage some gangster or negative lyrics in Zim dancehall, the biggest question has been: is this the right move or focus?
Promoters have threatened to stop supporting artistes that are using vulgar lyrics in their music, but that seems not to be doing much in deterring the culprits from producing more of the dirty work.
This has been so because the approach used to address the challenge has by and large been wrong. The issue of vulgar lyrics in Zim dancehall is a subjective issue and requires a holistic approach. Whoever intends to address the challenge or rot needs to first and foremost come with an open mind and subsequently tackle the issue using a bottom-up approach and not vice versa.
For long the ghetto youths have considered themselves victims and each time a perceived superior voice tries to discourage them, they tend to add more venom to their radical approach.
Most of the Zim dancehall artistes including supporters see no wrong in their gangster and violent behaviour that has one too many times left many people injured. This stems from the fact that while these artistes have re-branded the popular Jamaican genre to Zim dancehall, the concept remains alien and still needs to be perfected to suit Zim culture.
The perfection, however, is not going to come from workshops. It is an open secret that creativity cannot be controlled. Imagine bringing together a group of authors or scribes with an intention of guiding their output; definitely the outcome will be catastrophic.
In short, restriction kills talent.
“It is disturbing to note that we are not accorded the respect we deserve. Often we are referred to as the ‘so-called Zim dancehall artistes’ which is total disrespect. There is nothing wrong in what we do but just that there is stereotyping that needs to be addressed. What has often been regarded as bad habits among the Zim dancehall is what makes the genre tick,” argued Terminators’ manager during an inaugural Zim dancehall workshop held late last year.
Instead of wasting resources organising unfruitful workshops to address lyrical content challenges in Zim dancehall, the same events (workshops) should be made to focus on how best to assist the artistes manage their bands and relations with relevant stakeholders.
We live in a free market whereby the public decides what prospers or the opposite.
Regulating authorities like the censorship board and police should be the only groups responsible for managing the affability of the lyrics that get to the public. In this regard it means that those that are adjudged to have used vulgar or obscene language by the responsible authorities, be it live on stage or on recorded tracks, should be brought to book.
Taking away the “dis factor” means killing the zeal and subsequently support and interest in Zim dancehall.
A dis track or dis song is a song primarily intended to disparage or insult another person or group. While musical parodies and attacks have always existed, the trend became increasingly common in the dancehall genre as part of the dancehall phenomenon.
The world over, dancehall followers just as is the case with hip hop, fans enjoy the dis game that is associated with the genre.
We all know that Soul Jah Love and Seh Calaz have managed to keep attention on themselves due to a number of dis songs that they have composed for each other despite a visible dip in form.
It is common for top acts in Jamaica to willy-nilly dis each other, however, authorities have reined them in each time they sensed the issues were going overdrive.
A public feud between Vybz Kartel and former collaborator Mavado arose towards the end of 2006, stemming from Vybz’s much publicised departure from the dancehall conglomerate group The Alliance. The feud resulted in numerous dis tracks released, in which each artiste dissed the other and their associates over popular dancehall rhythms.
In a police overseen Press conference in March 2007, both Mavado and Vybz Kartel publicly announced an end to hostilities and apologised to fans. However, by the summer of 2008 tensions flared up with a renewal of dis tracks by the artistes and a lyrical clash between the two at Sting 2008 could not produce an ultimate winner.
Evidently the Zim dancehall lot does not want anyone to lecture them on how to conduct business.
Most of the guys sing to express themselves and do not attach commercial value to their production. Striking gold in the process becomes nothing more than a bonus.
This explains why they randomly release tracks throughout the year without bothering about sales on the streets.
“We sing to correct the imbalances of life motivated by the various ghettos that we come from.
“The very moment that we will try and accommodate ideas or behave as wanted by certain affluent groups, we will lose relevance and in turn support,” argues Lady Squanda, real name Sandra Gazi.
However, what is encouraging is that we still have artistes like Tocky Vibes, Ras Caleb, Mostaff, Ras Pompy, Spider Man and Ninja Lipsy that have taken it upon themselves to promote the movement through clean lyrics.
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