HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsAre Zimbabwean musicians creative enough?

Are Zimbabwean musicians creative enough?

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In this instalment we look at the above question in the context of what is happening on the ground in terms of new jazz material being produced by our local jazz musicians. We will discuss this within a broad framework that defines Zimbabwean jazz.

Zimbabwean jazz is a blend of the American and South African styles with local traditional sounds, instrumentation and expression. Examples of this local variation or sub-genre include works by August Musarurwa, Louis Mhlanga, The Cool Crooners, Lina Mattaka, Paul Lunga and Dudu Manhenga.

There has been many great jazz works recorded and released in Zimbabwe from the 50’s to date. There is currently a crop of young musicians that have produced some fantastic work which is original and uniquely Zimbabwean. These include Too Open and Jazz Invitation.

Gibson Mandishona in an interview with this paper last year said: “The current crop of jazz musicians is doing well, they are dynamic and they are following modern trends . . . the young people are trying their best.”

However, there are some veteran jazz musicians in this country who have been performing in bars and clubs for over 40 years and yet they have nothing to show in terms of recording.

These musicians seem quite happy to rehearse and perform cover versions of American jazz masters without adding more to the body of jazz.
I stand corrected; however I still have to listen to original works from bands like Jabavu Drive, Summer Breeze and Mbare Trio.

This observation rings true, but is it an indication of the fact that the said musicians lack creative drive or they just could not be bothered? One wonders at the kind of music that these veterans can produce given their polished presentations of cover versions.

Recording facilities are now plenty in this country and the cost of recording is much reduced to the extent that anyone with a project can easily access them. One wonders why Zimbabwe’s veteran jazz musicians are not taking advantage of this.

Perhaps the problem lies in the inability to create new pieces of music. Not every musician has the gift of composing and writing music. In that case we urge musicians to approach skilled song writers for material.

This is common practice in advanced markets where there is specialised talent for every aspect of the arts industry.

An example of this is the song Baba Bhoyi, which appears on Prudence Katomene-Mbofana’s debut album.

The song was composed and given to her by Robert Mantenga of the Mandebvu fame.

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