Of musicians and culture

BY PRECIOUS CHIDA

CULTURE music has long been considered flabby among youthful artistes, despite it having placed the country on the world map through artistes such as Stella Chiweshe, who is well known globally for her singing and playing of the mbira dzavadzimu, a traditional instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe (a Bantu ethnic group native to southern Africa).

There seems to be a shift in the music industry as artistes of this era retrace their roots, with many of them making music which leaves fans in a trance.

Popular dancehall musician Winky D became immensely spiritual in his previous album Gombwe, the name that has a deep Afrocentric self-titling which shows someone who is steeped in spiritual wisdom, digging into his traditional African social and emotional repertoire to create a discography that makes him the social n’anga.

Killer T’s album Handigumbuke showed his understanding of the religious dynamics in Zimbabwe and delivered songs that connected to the masses who often view dancehall as secular music and also appealing to the mature and traditional audience with Rovai Makuva.

Ashton “Mbeu” Nyahora with his latest album The Mhodzi Diaries also shows a shift in his music with themes that relate to ancestral spirits dominating the product.

Mbeu believes his music is moving towards culture since he now appreciates the importance of tradition.

“The driving force behind my shifting or moving towards singing about our tradition or having our traditional sound dominating their signature, is because it’s been a journey of finding myself and a time comes, as you mature, that you relate to your culture and as you grow older, you begin to appreciate the richness of your indigenous language so much that even on an international collaboration you feel you want to do it with your indigenous traditions,” he said.

Arts promoter Benjamin Nyandoro said musicians had been affected by globalisation, but have become exhausted with it which has made them retrace their footsteps back to their roots.

“Musicians as they become more influential assume a role of setting the way of doing things and they sing about a way of life that speaks to what people can relate to. Globalisation risks one losing own culture and values, but once they have been there, they begin to feel the void,” he said.

He applauded artistes who have adapted to this mantra which he says is helping to preserve cultural norms.

“It is important that young Zimbabweans now lead the conversations of preserving our culture, norms and values. The role of musicians cements the growing trend. You may notice how we now like calling ourselves by totem, how we celebrate giving our kids native names. It’s a great wave and builds a strong foundation of belonging,” he said.

Veteran producer Clive “Mono” Mukundu said there is some kind of cultural awakening that is happening among the youths.

“Remember it used to be very taboo or was seen as backward to be seen holding a mbira instrument, but because of the influence of artistes like the late Oliver Mtukudzi and so much information on social media there are many young artists who are beginning to embrace their culture more,” he said.

“I notice this a lot since I work in the studio. As a result, I interact with artistes a lot and I am noticing this too. This has, therefore, proved that it has become a silent revolution against how religion was used to suppress our culture.”

Several artistes, who however, established themselves from the onset as traditional musicians include Thomas Mapfumo, Mukudzei ‘Jah Prayzah’ Mukombe, Hope Masike, Vee Mpofu and Diana Samkange, among others.

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