HomeNewsZimbabwe's sungura music in quagmire

Zimbabwe’s sungura music in quagmire


THE Chibuku Road to Fame has since 2001 — the year of inception — been an emblem of the promotion of Zimbabwe’s township culture by supporting upcoming artistes.

The annual competitions that engage upcoming Zimbabwean musicians from the country’s 10 provinces has afforded a chance to several aspiring musicians to dance with the country’s best musicians in the sungura genre like the late Tongai Moyo, Alick Macheso and Sulumani Chimbetu.

But of late, other genres, jazz-inclined, seem to have taken over.

A good thing it is, for culture is diverse and does not remain stagnant.

Yet still, that genre appears to have tainted, if not overtaken, what appeared to be the idea behind the competitions.

For some reason, sungura, which has been the catalyst behind the selling of the various Chibuku brands over the years, has been strangled.

It is either because of the poor preparations by the sungura competitors or the refocusing on the competitions.

Afro-jazz has become the most marketable genre of music from the continent.

Mokoomba, small boys in the game of music, have toured the world and probably spent more time abroad than at home because of their genre of music which is inclined to Afro-jazz.

Rome Gasa, a former winner of the Chibuku Road to Fame contest, has not performed beyond Zimbabwean borders.

Gasa is probably the best of all past winners and has been resisted outrightly after going it alone despite his eccentric guitar skills.

Yet it is the people who follow the same Gasa that buy Chibuku and contribute to its balance sheet and not jazz music lovers.

A DJ playing jazz at Chitubu Junction where bingers predominantly drink opaque beer is committing a dismissible offence.

The reason is simple: Jazz is not the music that speaks to the people in the townships.

Not to say that a sungura outfit should win at all costs, no.

Delta Beverages, the owners of the Chibuku Brand, appear not to be doing enough.

There is no continuity and no grooming even.

Gone are the days when sungura would unleash a jam after every few years.

This time those who excel in music invest a lot of energy, time and, of course, the talent to make a mark because guitar playing is no longer a new phenomenon.

One has to be exceptional and if Delta Beverages or anyone could go back to the grassroots even before the competitions and groom artistes, then the sungura culture will be guaranteed survival.

The trend currently may mean Chibuku Road to Fame will be an Afro-Jazz or even dancehall contest in the next five to 10 years because they are important facets of Zimbabwean pop culture.

But sungura, despite its serious international branding challenges, remains the hallmark of Zimbabwean township culture just as opaque beer.

It is just upon the organisers to revert to that or maintain the dictates of commercialisation even when it is clear the international market probably does not know a single thing about an opaque beer brand called Chibuku.

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