By Andrew Moyo
About a decade-and-a-half ago, there rose a legion of talented young artistes who started a movement that revolutionized the local music industry.
The movement that came to be known as urban grooves brought with it a wave of raw talent that produced a youthful sound encompassing various genres.
With the introduction of a law that accorded more radio airplay to local music, the urban grooves sound flooded the airwaves and grew in popularity over time.
Some of the artistes who became superstars under this banner include Decibel, Ngoni Kambarami, XQ, Roki, Stunner, Leonard Mapfumo, Tererai Mugwadi and David Chifunyise to name just a few. With the movement of time, most of the artistes who dominated the music scene under the urban grooves banner seem to have vanished into thin air.
Right now Zim dancehall is the sound of the moment and many people have been spelling the death of urban grooves but in reality it is the other way round. The Sunday Mail Leisure recently caught up with one of the pioneers of urban grooves, Sanii Makhalima, who shed more light on the movement and how it has evolved over the years.
Makhalima, whose career kicked off in 1999, became a sensation after the release of his first album “Usadaro”, which carried the hit songs “Ndofefeterwa” and “Hakuna Mumwe”, which were accompanied by good videos.
As a producer, he has worked with almost every urban music artiste in the county, producing several number one hits with some of them scooping awards.
He is currently working on a new album titled “Centurion”, with 16 tracks, which will bring the tally of his commercially released songs to 100. He is also planning to release a biographical DVD, which includes both new and old music videos as well as interviews and commentaries.
Although there have been several arguments as to the existence of urban grooves, Makhalima believes it is alive and well.
“There are a lot of people who say that urban grooves has fizzled out and dancehall has taken over but that is not the case. When we started urban grooves, there was Decibel who is now said to be a dancehall artiste, when Sniper started he was also under the urban grooves tag so I don’t understand what people mean when they say it has fizzled out because I would rather say it has evolved,” said Makhalima.
When urban grooves took off, many young artistes who were singing music genres that included r&b, hip-hop, dancehall, house and pop were associated with the tag but as time went on some of the artistes branched off and solidified their specific genres, independent of the term urban grooves.
“When we started music, it was different from now because nowadays everybody wants to segregate into genres.
“Urban grooves is not a genre, because I can’t go to another country and say I sing urban grooves, there is nothing like that but I would rather say urban grooves is a lifestyle, this is urban music, all of it.
“Urban grooves is a way that young musicians 15 years ago, got together in the name of music, wanting to differentiate themselves from Tuku music, from museve, from dendera so they basically had to come up with an identity and this was the only way we could be identified.”
This crop of artistes hailing from various genres had to put up a united from in order to be identified in an industry that was dominated by the more traditional sounds like sungura, chimurenga and dendera.
“Back then it was difficult for an artiste like David Chifunyise to say I am a hip-hop artiste or for Sniper to say I sing dancehall and make a significant impact in the industry because the power was in the numbers.
“To make up the numbers we had to come under one roof so under that umbrella we had r&b artistes like myself, dancehall artistes like Sniper, hip-hop artistes like Stunner and a bunch of other genres that were associated with youth culture. We needed to come together as a movement, to establish ourselves as young artistes and that was the only way we could make a statement.”
Although most of the artistes who are singing music with urban influences have lately been distancing themselves from the urban grooves movement, it cannot be disputed that the movement paved the way for most of the genres that are now popular.
“All the music that is being sang by these young people evolved from the urban grooves movement because if we had not put up that united front to begin with we would not be talking about hip-hop or dancehall being in the mainstream industry.
“The major problem is that most people don’t really know where the term urban grooves came from.
“There was a compilation CD that was made by Delani Makhhalima, who I can say is the father of urban grooves and it was called ‘Urban Grooves Vol 1’ and on that album there was a variety of sound and that is how the term came about.
“So simply put, urban grooves was a collection, a coming together of young artistes for a common purpose, which we can say was a movement for the betterment of Zimbabwean music so we cannot classify it as a genre.”
Makhalima is happy that the movement managed to yield positive results as evidenced by the growth of Zim dancehall.
“I am just happy that the movement that we started produced offshoots that have grown to make a significant impact on the industry but just like any other industry there have been positives and negatives.
“These young artistes have managed to make a statement on the local market but we have been failing to find the formula to fully export our product just like what Nigerians and South Africans have done.” The Sunday Mail