In the groove: Has Covid -19 stopped Zimdancehall fans behaving badly?

Kalado received a rude awakening when missiles were thrown at him during his performance.

With the advent of Covid-19 in 2020, restrictions such as limiting the number of people in a crowd to a maximum of 50 at concerts also followed.

This limitation frustrated a lot of Zimdancehall musicians and fans in particular as they were unable to go to concerts in their usual crowds. The musicians’ income from concert gate-takings also dwindled.

 Before Covid-19, a tradition of throwing missiles at the performing artistes by the crowds had already been established. Zimdancehall fans found it hard not to continue with this tradition due to these Covid-19 restrictions which limited their numbers at concerts.

One fan who had made it his hobby to collect and smuggle into concert halls empty beer cans in order to throw them at artistes, found these restrictions frustrating.

“I no longer enjoy going to these Zimdancehall concerts.  They are not fun anymore. Throwing empty beer cans at the musicians was part of my enjoyment there. Now that this has been stopped, I see no fun in these concerts anymore”, he said.

The last time I attended a Zimdancehall concert was at the Bounty Lisa and the late Souljah Love dancehall engagement party at Harare Gardens.

I must confess that what I witnessed there was depressing.

It seemed like the artistes were bent on showing off the bad boy/bad girl image. The audiences were equally bad.

Ganja (mbanje) was being smoked everywhere. The dancing styles such as Skinout where dirty dance moves by semi-nude girls with boys simulating sex moves behind them were the order of the day.

The encouragement of ganja smoking and hate anti-battyman lyrics were also commonplace among the dancehall artistes.

The artistes were singing tunes with unprintable words and the fans echoed these in chorus. Fans were pelting missiles, beer cans and sometimes stones at the performing artistes.

The promoter, Biggie Chinoperekwei, had to put a screen fence around the stage to protect the artistes.

However, at one point, some of the artistes themselves got involved in a fight.

Quornfused and Seh Calaz were ‘dissing’ each other and exchanging fists on stage. Seh Calaz’s fans who saw the fight turned on Quornfused to mete out instant justice as he tried to flee from the scene in his car. He was lucky because the police came to his rescue.

Otherwise there would have been more violence if the police had not intervened.

Zimdancehall gigs often end up this way.

Way back in 2014, before Covid-19 restrictions, I also attended the Jamaican artist, Kalado’s  Dancehall concert which was held at Old Hararians Sports Club. Kalado received a rude awakening when missiles were thrown at him during his performance. He was confused as he thought this was Zimbabweans’ way of appreciating him. He only realised later after the calm performance by Tocky Vybes and Souljah Love (who both came to perform after him) that the missile throwing meant to ask him to get off the stage. It was a good thing that he was not injured by the empty beer cans being thrown at him. That was just Zimdancehall fans behaving badly.

Imagine performing on stage in front of thousands of people, then something is thrown at you from the crowd.

That is no laughing matter for many artistes whose sole aim is to entertain and please their fans.

If a fan is not pleased about an artiste’s performance, he/she encourages others to throw missiles at the performing artiste and chaos follows. That is bad behaviour. One disgruntled Zimdancehall artiste commented: “I would rather play to an empty hall than having things chucked at me. I don’t understand  why  some fans are paying money to go and see musicians, only to start chucking things at them?”

However, there are some people who think that it is the artistes themselves who provoke such bad behaviour.

It seems there are artistes who are bent on showing off the bad boy/ bad girl image. These artistes, with names which suggest violence and bad boy/ bad girl images such as Killer T., Silent Killer, Lady (although sometimes vulgar) Squanda, Terminator, Bazooka, Daddie Distress, Guspy Warrior, Sniper Storm and Jusa Dementor have it coming for them in Zimdancehall circles.  

At one Zimdancehall concert, the audiences were equally bad. Ganja (mbanje)  was being smoked everywhere. The artistes were singing tunes with unprintable words showing off their bad boy images.  They want the world to see them as assertive and confident. Bad boys are usually described as confident, brave, dominant and assertive. These traits give them a strong persona which indicates that they won't allow themselves to be pushed over by anyone. They're totally the opposite of what a gentleman would be. It's more about assertiveness! A typical bad boy doesn't care that much about trying to please others—He is comfortable speaking his own mind. Zimdancehall is infamous for its sometimes 'dirty' lyrics and the stereotyped 'ghetto'/dancehall culture of drug and alcohol abuse, sex and homophobic lyrics.

  The line really gets crossed when the artistes start being disrespectful and going too far.

 It is equally bad when some fans join in chanting the dirty lyrics. Some of them do not even know the meanings behind such lyrics. They just sing along.

 That is what is referred to as mob spirit. Some fans just follow what others are doing without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Before Covid-19 restrictions, this kind of bad behaviour was commonplace among Zimdancehall fans. Some would actually leave their homes with the intention of pelting the performers. For instance if a performer came  from Mufakose to perform in Mbare, a war between Mufakose fans and Mbare fans would ensue for no reason.

Others would go to concerts with the idea of settling gangster scores.

This disrespectful and very dangerous trend seems to have come to an end, thanks to Covid-19. Performers need to be respected and protected.

Asked why the bad boy/ bad girl behaviour was rife at Zimdancehall concerts , one psychologist had this to say: “If you separate the individuals chucking things at the performers from the rest of the crowds, they do not have real reasons behind their behaviour. Very often, it is due to the fact that they saw someone else doing it and they just followed suit. They think it’s fun."

 This phenomenon is known as mob spirit.  They just follow what others are doing whether or not something displeases them. They are likely to take the law into their own hands as part of the fun in an attempt to impose their conclusions without consideration for the method of others who may or may not be in agreement with their views. They only realise the consequences of their actions when someone is injured or when reprimanded. When asked why they were doing it, their usual answer is: “I don’t know!”

Recently, there was news of a  Nkayi-based constable identified as H. Masimbe who was arrested after attending a Citizens Coalition for Change rally where he excitedly chanted CCC party slogans: “Ngaapinde Hake Mukomana”, ”Icho Icho Uyo Mukomana Apinda” and was observed clapping hands acknowledging the speech being delivered by Nelson Chamisa CCC, president (Source: New Zimbabwe) We don’t know whether Masimbe was following the mob spirit or was in agreement with the views of others. That will be determined by his superiors.

 One senior police officer I interviewed about this happening commented philosophically: “Perhaps Masimbe has seen the light. He can see change coming and sees no reason to follow the existing order for his survival.  As you well know, one maybe more powerful today, but remember, time is more powerful than one person. Regimes come and go. Where is Chihuri now?

When a bird is alive, it is more powerful than the ants it eats, but when it is dead, ants come to eat it. Time and circumstances change at any time. As we all know, one tree can make a million match sticks, but only one match stick can burn a million trees as evidenced by recent events in Hawaii, California, China and Sudan”.

 I was amazed at this philosophy.

We anxiously wait to see how Mr. Masimbe who has now been charged with conduct against ZRP Code of Conduct and Police Act will respond to the allegations.

Although the restrictions on Covid-19 have been lifted, we have not seen any major Zimdancehall concerts taking place. Perhaps Biggie Chinoperekwei and Partson Chimbodza aka Chipaz are still assessing the situation before they engage in a major event. Or is Zimdancehall dead? It is a question of wait and see. If this happens, perhaps we'll see more efforts from fans themselves to ensure performers are more respected and protected as they perform.

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