ZIM-DANCEHALL music is at its peak and the wave at which the genre is gliding is challenging the popularity of such yesteryear genres such as sungura and the now-forgotten urban grooves.
Whilst the popularity of dancehall’s measurable success can be attributed to the artistry of Wallace “Winky D” Chirumiko, fewer positives have been mentioned in favour of this genre.
In Jamaica where the genre originated during the early eighties, dancehall chanters such as Yellow man, Ninja man, Burro Banton and the late Tenor Saw were among the “foundation artistes”. That paved the way for popular artistes including Bounty Killer, Buju Banton and the versatile Moses “Beenie Man” Davis” in the 1990s.
Such breed of artistes popularised dancehall with harsh social and political lyrics that spoke of the economic hardships that bedevilled the Jamaican society. But this has not always gone well with the Jamaican government.
However, Jamaica is now a tourism destination with thousands of people visiting the Island to attend popular dancehall festivals such as the annual Boxing Day show ,“Sting”.
Such shows have benefited the economy with music being a significant contributor to Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“Zim dancehall genre can actually emulate the Jamaican success story and positively shift towards promoting positivity in the industry,” says Munyaradzi “Dubiouz” Chizema, an upcoming dancehall artist.
While many parents condemn dancehall and associate it with violence, vulgarity, alcoholism, sex and drug abuse, a number of teenagers on the other hand have embraced the genre.
“It’s really sad now that we are forced to listen to such rubbish they call music; in kombis and even in our neighbourhoods, producing so much noise polluting our society and affecting young children’s lives,” said Lot Alfonso from Mbare.
Music can have a powerful impact on our ideas and ideologies and can tremendously influence adolescents who look up to musicians as their role models.
The glorification of violence, bullying
The glorification of violence in Zim dancehall is a popular theme as evidenced by a number of dancehall shows that have been marred by violence. Last month at Souljah’ love’s engagement party Quonfused and Seh Calaz traded blows.
There are many rival stables typical with the famous Jamaican “Gaza” and “Gully” which includes Mabhanditi, MaNinja, Dangerzone clan among others and most of these crews do not see eye-to-eye.
Such stables can negatively influence young people since they divide rather than unite.
For example in Jamaica the rivalry between Gaza and Gully resulted in many deaths among young people with gun battles in ghettos being a common phenomenon.
This prompted the Jamaican government to call the now incarcerated popular DJ Vybz Kartel and his rival Mavado to sign a peace treaty in 2008.
Tapfuma Chiwenga, a social commentator said children idolise these artistes.
“People will integrate music in their lives if it’s coming from a source they want to identify with. These youngsters are still in search of their identities and are likely to follow the example portrayed by the artistes,” said Chiwenga.
A snap survey conducted by NewsDay established that many teenage boys do affirm allegiance to these crews and have created their own divisions whilst adopting and the themes as part of their lifestyles.
Some students within these divisions have become bullies at their respective schools.
No age restriction in bars
Chiwenga added that the influx of young boys and girls at clubs has been fuelled by both poverty and the popularity of dancehall music.
A Unicef report entitled Child Sensitive social protection in Zimbabwe said 6,6 million Zimbabweans cannot meet their basic needs and some 3,5 million children are chronically hungry thus forcing many youths to seek an easy way out.
Whilst the Liquor Act prohibits the selling of alcohol to children under 18, nothing has ever been done to ensure that law is upheld.
Girls as young as 12 can be seen in local bars, displaying deviant behaviour, wearing high heels, skimpy clothes, bright red lipstic whilst gyrating to the sound of Guspy Warrior hit song Seunononga.
Young boys can be seen playing pool, puffing cigarettes and drinking beer. In some bars, students in their school uniforms can be seen drinking yet no-one seems to care.
Last week the Body Slam riddim was launched at Takashinga Cricket Club in Highfields, where a lot of dancehall artistes performed. The event pulled a huge crowd, but some of those revellers were children of school-going age.
Ruvarashe (15) who attended the event said most teenagers go to these popular shows.
One manager at a local bar said it was not their concern that underage boys and girls attended these events as they bring in a lot of business.
“Most teens flock in here either for shows or other reasons, but really that is not our concern that they are young. We are after making money and they seem to bring lots of it,” he said.
Drug abuse rife
Peer pressure was cited as the major factor why teenagers indulge in drug and substance abuse. But it is no secret that dancehall artistes promote the use of marijuana.
Some of the artistes are known abusers of cough mixtures and it is now prevalent among the youth as it is perceived as “cool”.
Tulani “Ricky Fire” Takangovada admitted to his fans that he smokes mbanje raising a lot of ire from community members.
Hits like Ndiri Rasta and Mzii by Winky D, Timone Mone by Guspy Warrior and Mumota Murikubvira by Seh Calaz are some of the dancehall songs that glorify the use of marijuana.
A snap survey around Chitungwiza also established that among the commonly abused drugs is broncleer and Histalix D.
A 100ml bottle of Broncleer ranges between $3-$4 in the streets.
Tendai (19) who resides in Unit J, Chitungwiza and is a school dropout spoke to NewsDay while “downing his afternoon fix”. He said the “feel good drug” is a way out of his miserable life.
“I have no job and spend most my time here at the shops and Bronco knocks me out for hours, such that I forget all my problems,” said the teenage boy.
The abuse of such prescription drugs is dangerous. At least 50 % of admissions at mental institutions in Zimbabwe are attributed to substance-induced disorders.
The Ninja President Winky D, however, sparked controversy across the dancehall scene when he released his song Mafira Kureva that attacks the rampant drug abuse in the ghetto.
In a nutshell Zim Dancehall
can grow internationally if the artistes promote cleanliness in the industry.
The incarceration of Vybz Kartel can be a useful testimony that making music and doing crime results in the downfall of promising talents.
Dancehall promotes sex and prostitution
Many parents blasted the lewd lyrical content in most of the dancehall songs which glorify sex.
Female artistes like Lady Bee and Lady Squanda are known for exploiting their sexuality with intention of attracting a wider audience.
“Music can affect the emotional behaviour of people, particularly children and this genre makes sex a casual activity, telling them descriptively how to do it whilst they are failing to educate them on the dangers surrounding the issue,” said Patience Matimbe (45) from Warren Park.
She added that with the rise of “passa passa” streets dances in most high density suburbs, most teenagers can easily engage in sexual activities leading to the increase of teenage pregnancies.
The Zimbabwe demographic health survey (ZDHS 20O5-2006) reported a 21% rate for teenage pregnancies from the 15-19 age groups whilst HIV prevalence was three times higher in young women between age 15-24 (11%) than among men of the same age (4,5%) and was being fuelled by intergenerational relationships.
A Form 3 Seke boy appeared at Chitungwiza court alleging that a female prostitute had raped him when in actual fact he had picked her up in a bar and paid her for sexual favours.
Trouble only followed after the boy contracted a sexually transmitted infection propelling him to report to police.
Teenage girls are also in the same predicament as they fall prey to the bait of older men they meet in the bars, with most of them admitting to have slept with men in exchange for money.
“I started going to these dancehall shows just to have some fun with my schoolmates, but after having been offered some money by men in these bars, which was an offer too good to refuse, I have since dropped out of school and I am now a fulltime sex worker,” said Melody Moyo (not her real name).