The Sunday Mail
TO be educated, or not to be – that is the question – whether it is nobler to take up the microphone or flip through pages of books to fight life’s challenges?
The “corrupted” verse from renowned English poet, playwright and actor, William Shakespeare, tries to explore whether education is really necessary for artistes.
Does education have an impact on musicians’ lives?
Are brains and talent necessary components in the music industry? Is it true that musicians are generally those who flunked at school, have no qualifications or back up plans?
What does the Zimbabwean music-scape look like?
These and other questions seethe when locals discuss about music and edification.
While one does not necessarily need to be educated in order to be a successful musician, it remains a fact that literacy is important for any trade.
An interesting comparison between pioneers of Zim dancehall and urban grooves could help in this regard.
Generally, it is argued that Zim dancehall is an offshoot/extension of the urban grooves. However, for the purposes of this article, we will treat the two as standalone genres.
A lot separates artistes that constitute urban grooves (hip hop/R “n” B) and Zim dancehall.
One can be pardoned for supposing that academic differences between members of the two genres contribute immensely to contrasts of character and professionalism.
A random pick of stars such as Decibel, Alexio Kawara, Plaxedes Wenyika, David Chifunyise, Roy and Royce, Diana Samkange, Cindy Munyavi and Tererai Mugwadi for the urban grooves genre and Soul Jah Love, Shinsoman, Freeman, Seh Calaz, Lady Squanda, Bounty Lisa, Dadza D and Guspy Warrior for Zim dancehall sums it all up.
Perhaps a bit of background will help bring things into perspective.
Urban grooves went full-throttle at the turn of the new millennium after Government introduced the 75 percent local content policy.
However, most of the fresh talent that tried their luck in studio back then were college students who considered music more of a pastime than employment.
As it stands, a sizeable number of the urban grooves artistes are holders of various academic and professional qualifications.
For instance, Roy and Royce graduated with Science degrees in Computers and Medical Laboratory respectively, Alexio is a qualified engineer and worked for ZBC, while David Chifunyise is a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) graduate who also studied Microsoft Certified Systems Engineering.
Plaxedes Wenyika holds an Economics degree and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree while Tererai Mugwadi holds a degree in Psychology. Cindy Munyavi, apart from her thriving fashion business, has marketing and public relations qualifications and a couple of French diplomas.
Diana “Mangwenya” Samkange is a holder of a Journalism and Communication diploma and is also an accomplished farmer while Sanii Makhalima is a holder of a Bachelor of Social Science Degree in Human Resource Management as well as an MBA.
Enter Zim dancehall artistes.
Academic details pertaining to most of the chanters are not easy to come by. Moreover, some are even reluctant to divulge the schools they attended.
In fact, they become agitated the moment you start enquiring about their academic and/or professional qualifications.
“Yah elder! gwazh (school) taingorovera mu ghetto munomu but harina kana basa because ngoma tiri kungofaisa,” boastfully said one chanter to this writer in Mbare.
The only available academic information pertaining to Winky D, who is arguably the best Zim dancehall success story, is that he went to Rukudzo Primary school and Kambuzuma High 1 School.
Indications are that the most learned among the lot are usually the holders of Advanced Level certificates.
A good number of them either flunked in school or dropped out in pursuit of their music career.
However, this is also a common trend in the United States or even across the Limpopo.
But in Zimbabwe, what is the major basis for academic challenges for the dancehall artistes?
Some do not complete school as they fail to secure tuition funds while others are of the belief that school will compromise the quality of their work.
But above all, unlike urban grooves artistes, local dancehall singers who are mostly ghetto ‘yutes’, regard music as a form of employment, assuring them a smooth passage to better life.
lt seems as if they believe diplomas or degrees will not help them produce hits or wow crowds at live shows.
“Wololo” hit-maker and one of South Africa’s finest talents, Babes Wodumo, seems to be cut from the same cloth as Zim dancehall chanters.
“After matric, I did it (degree) for a year with Unisa. But I dropped out because I didn’t like it. As much as I love people, I also love entertainment,” Babes Wodumo is on record saying to South African media.
Ras Pompy, a once on fire music gem, is presently struggling to regain his form of old.
The young lad’s music was highly rated by Zim dancehall followers when he was still doing his hustle in the dusty streets of Mbare.
But everything changed when the youthful chanter transferred to Morgan High School before getting a scholarship to study at Borrowdale Brook Academy some four or so years back.
He still produces good music but the supposed target audience in no longer enthusiastic about it as before.
It is the same case with another gifted chanter – Seh Calaz.
The chanter did not upgrade his academic qualifications or attend a better school per se, but it was his decision to abandon his Mbare roots in favour of the Northern suburbs that brought him a backlash.
However, what is really worrying is the less educated chanters’ trend of employing their equally less educated friends as managers.
Talk of a blind person leading another!
During the nascent days of the urban grooves, there were minimal cases of contractual disputes between artistes and record labels.
This is contrary to the obtaining situation in Zim dancehall.
lt was rare to have cat-fights among urban grooves artistes. It was also very rare to have them missing shows or hear allegations of substance or alcohol abuse. Only a handful of urban grooves artistes like Roki, Maskiri, and Tererai, who probably donated some of their DNA to Zim dancehall chanters like Soul Jah Love and Lady Squanda, did so at times. Roki is a Form Two drop-out while Maskiri is reported to have been expelled from high school for bullying other students and absconding lessons.