The Sunday Mail
Greetings in the glorious name of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Jah . . . Rastafari. I hope the Zimdancehall Overdrive Journey finds you in good health.Zimdancehall, the wave that has taken music in Zimbabwe to another level. One wonders, “Where did this come from?”
Who best can take you along the journey than the “ghetto president, Templeman”?
The Zimdancehall history is traced back to the nation’s birth in 1980. The Independence celebrations were graced by the legendary Robert Nesta Marley, better known as Bob Marley.
The “Zimbabwe” song which he specially dedicated to the country for its hard-won independence is still an inspiration to Zimbabweans, dancehall lovers included.
Bob Marley and his fellow Jamaican musicians have become the foundation of Zimdancehall which gets inspiration from the reggae and ragga Jamaican genres.
One then wonders why “Zimdancehall”, why box yourselves in?
Zimdancehall — just like soul, urban grooves and R ‘n’ B — is merely a genre that the Zimbabwean artistes feel will distinguish them.
Music is a great medium for celebration, self-expression and discovery.
The genre has grown from a niche to become the nation’s most popular category, where the urban youth demographic is concerned.
It can be argued that Zimdancehall has grown to become more than just entertainment.
As some would call it “edutainment”.
Through social commentary Zimdancehall has become a channel of addressing issues that would otherwise be left ambiguous or, worse still, ignored.
The challenges that affect society such as poverty, corruption, drug abuse, unemployment, to name but a few, are tackled through this music and people, young and old, are appreciating the art.
The art of addressing some of these issues — and not just singing “bubble gum” music as was the usual stereotype for Zimdancehall — is giving this genre an even wider demographic appreciation.
The late ’90s saw a turnaround in what can be viewed as the emergence of Zimdancehall into the mainstream listenership.
Major E, Booker T, Potato and Daddy D, to name but a few, are the foundation Zimdancehall’s break into the mainstream listenership.
In the years following, more artistes were recognised enough to be lined up for live shows.
The high-energy performances caught the attention of young people and gave hope to many youths who dreamed of music careers.
The popularity of Zimdancehall artistes’ performances such as King Labash, Daddy D, Winky D, Sniper led to the growth of backyard studios.
Zimdancehall, for many “ghetto youths”, became an employment opportunity and a way out of poverty.
However, it should be noted that it is not poverty that drives the passion of these artistes: It is a combination of factors of life which they live day to day and top of all the passion and talent to write and sing what has become Zimdancehall.
The growth of the industry with the little resources available is amazing that one cannot imagine how big the industry can grow if given the proper resources.
It is estimated that there is an average of 20 backyard studios in each ghetto and about 600 studios around Zimbabwe. Each of these studios records an average of 10 artistes. These include some as far as Beitbridge, Mutare, Bulawayo and Kariba.
The multitude of recording artistes from all these studios is overwhelming that to get recognition one has to really pull up their socks.
As the Godfatha Templeman, music has always been a first passion from my years of international reggae/ragga in various clubs to being on Star FM.
I have always been involved in Zimdancehall through hosting the popular Mic Contests with the likes of Daddy D, Culture Kid, King Labash and the then emerging Winky D.
The birth of “Zimdancehall Overdrive” came about 24 months ago on Star FM.
“Zimdancehall Overdrive”, which is aired every Saturday between 2000 to 2100hrs, is a showcase of Zimdancehall, offering highly energetic and entertaining music.
“Dancehall Remedy”, which is aired every Thursday between 2200 and 0000hrs, is also a high-energy show that gives artistes and producers a chance to interact live on air with their main stakeholders, the fans.
An interview and interaction with the audience through social media gives the fans a chance to be up close and personal with their stars.
Over the years, Zimdancehall has been distributed through underground channels. The lack of infrastructure has seen artistes finding alternative methods to earn a living out of their chosen career.
Live shows are the major source of income and it is through the support of promoters and the loyal fans that the food chain is sustainable.
The appreciation of the genre by the corporate world, which is now open to endorsement deals to talented Zimdancehall artistes, is a step further in the growth of this industry that has — against all odds — penetrated the hearts of Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe and the Diaspora.
The Zimdancehall flame is just but growing into a ball of fire.
Witness the biggest Zimdancehall talent search as The Sunday Mail teams up with Star FM’s “Zimdancehall Overdrive”.
Watch this space and see history in the making in the next The Sunday Mail. May the Almighty Father bless you with more healthy days Jah . . . Rastafari!