Urban youth sub-cultures too derivative

LAST week I made a statement about how the three main urban targeting broadcasters do not pay much attention in the main, to musical productions from Bulawayo.

My observation is not necessarily based on some tribal affiliation although I will confess to having many ties to this city! As it happens, I am from the Eastern Highlands.

But I must state that ZiFM is doing its bit with its Link up to Bulawayo programme currently being fronted by Gibson Ncube whom I used to co-present with on a Star FM platform aimed at doing the same job of showcasing local arts. Alas, the Star FM one fizzled out.

Talking about the music business arena in Zimbabwe, I have observed that the urban youth sub-cultures since the ’80s have been dominated by three major influences:

The first would probably have to be the influence of United States musical artistes. Back in the day, in the townships from Mbare to Fio (Highfield), we aped Michael Jackson and we rocked his slim pants, white sox, white buttoned-up shirt ensemble. When Michael’s album Thriller came out townships just went ballistic and kids wanted to be Michael ie talk, walk and look like him. I know youths who could remove your teeth if you dared diss Whacko Jacko.

I even remember kids scalding their heads trying to get the wet hair look via using the hair straightener Glen–T just in order to look as cool as Mike!

So they called you vana robot (so-called because of the US funk group Shalamar’s robot dancing member Jeffrey Daniels)

Later, when Bob Marley came to Zimbabwe, then you had many of the urban youth turning to the Jamaican dress code of military fatigues and the green, yellow, red and gold colours of Jamaica and the African motherland. So ghetto youths were divided between these two in Harare.

I have it on good record that over here in Bulawayo elokshini tsotsi taal and the mashamplani Mzansi inspired dress code and street cred was mimicked by urban youth from Makokoba to Njube et al.

A guy spends two days eMzansi and he comes back speaking tsotsi taal or behaving like he is from Gauteng with speech laced with words like mara. Take the same guy into the studio and out comes a South African musical clone.

The three major influences over time, therefore, have been the US, Jamaica and South Africa.

To some degree, it was the Democratic Republic of Congo with the likes of Kanda Bongoman, Koffi Olomide and Yondo Sister. As for Koffi, I noticed that the late Tongai Moyo was adherent of Koffi in terms of his dress code and mannerism.

Lately, Nigeria is responsible for its pervasive influence on our musicians with even local groups such as Anti Virus misguidedly churning out Naija-inspired music.

Ultimately, it’s befuddling for me how so porous our youths are to foreign musical influences. But I blame the broadcasters and the ‘treacherous’ disc jockeys.

Just this morning on radio, I heard a disc jockey on ZiFM announce the release of a month-old Kuli Chana song during his morning show. Kuli Chana is a South African artiste who mixes Setswana and English in his rap music. I bet you ten rand the disc jockey can’t figure out one Setswana word.

But there he was, zealously trumpeting a foreign artiste. He was so animated, I marvelled and surmised that he was either on steroids or payola.

But I blame the media’s fixation on foreign artistes. I blame disc jockeys such as Peter Johns and Hosiah Singende for fronting the cause of foreigners at the expense of local artistes.

Look at what’s going on today. Dancehall music is taking off on the three national broadcasters exactly at the same time as the influence of US artistes such as Usher is waning locally. The wannabe urban grooves movement was basically channelling US pop artistes such as Usher.

The influence has seemed to dissipate of late and one notices that Sani Makhalima, for example, is no longer the dominant artiste he was maybe due to what is called overkill in English.

On the other hand, rappers are coming up though and this may be largely in part due to the upmarket positioning of ZiFM.

Star FM and Power FM seem to straddle the masses and the middle class in terms of their content.

Ultimately the market positioning of the radio stations determines who gets mileage on air as far as musicians are concerned. Of course, disc jockeys’ or station librarians’ preferences impact the playlists too.

I would argue that Tehn Diamond, Winky Dee, Shinsoman and Sniper are “creatures” of radio disc jockeys’ patronage as much as they are talented suburban and ghetto youth .

These artists do reference US and Jamaican artistes and their fans lap it up. It’s crazy man, some of these kids even speak patois (Jamaican lingo) on national radio acting as if they are Jamaicans! All the while, radio disc jockeys aid and abet the nonsense of musicians acting up like either Jamaicans or Black Americans and nobody calls them out. It’s hilarious!

As regards Bulawayo artistes, we hardly ever hear them on radio, so I can’t say much. But this gripe will never be clichéd to me till there is justice and I will sing like a canary till they listen up.

Comrade minister no one is paying attention to your visionary policy it seems and we have an entire country to look out for! Eish, later folks!

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