By Mtandazo Dube
Forget the nuclear and naval arms races between nation states; Zimbabwe’s music industry, pop culture in particular, has its own “arms race” taking place right now.
While the existence of fierce competition between Jah Prayzah and Winky D is generally accepted, albeit discussed in muted tones, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore.
When Jah Prayzah released “Kutonga Kwaro” last year, Winky D immediately released singles, some of which, like “Dzemudanga”, were said to be a response.
As political factional fighting raged in Zimbabwe last year, Jah Prayzah’s music became the soundtrack to that drama, right to the end.
That is when Winky D released “Dzemudanga”, a track that apparently spoke about not getting oneself involved in internal disputes, lest they get burnt. The track, together with “Madrinks MuCup” was released on October 31, 18 days after Jah Prayzah dropped his album.
Winky D did not end there. On November 6, he dropped “My Woman”, featuring one of dancehall’s finest sons, Beenie Man. The video went on to beat all of Jah Prayzah’s songs on the Coca-Cola ZTV top 50 video competition.
Fast forward to February 2, 2018, Winky D launches an album, which many pundits believe to be encroaching into Jah Prayzah territory because of its deviation from dancehall, and Jah Prayzah responds.
Twelve days after “Gombwe”, Winky D’s new baby, Jah Prayzah is set to release one of his biggest collaborations to date, a duet with top dancehall act, Jah Cure. Title “Angel-Lo”, if it happens to be a hit — this could be a huge coup.
That is not all. Jah Prayzah has brought along Winky D to some of his biggest events, including Fill Up HICC 2015 among others. Even when Davido was a no-show at Jah Prayzah’s launch last year, his camp immediately turned to Winky D.
This setup has often provoked debate with music fans asking who among the two would have actually filled up the venue or attracted the biggest crowds. But last week, as Winky D made a bold statement, attracting “unsafe” numbers for a mere 5000-seater, which saw scores of people being turned away at the gate as the venue was full to capacity, Jah Prazyah was snubbed.
The “Eriza” hit-maker did not have a show on that night, most of his band members and his manager actually attended the album launch. This was definitely a statement by Winky D that he could fill up the HICC without Jah Prayzah’s help. But more importantly, this was a message that he too, is a major star, capable of doing, even better, the things that Jah Prayzah can do.
Now that the issue of filling up “small” venues is out of the way; are we likely to start hearing talk of stadia? Soon, like the Nigerian superstars, they will both run out of international acts to collaborate with. What will happen then?
Call it whatever you like, a game of thrones or chess, what is certain is that there is an escalation of tension in the rivalry between these two superstars. It is a battle of Zimbabwe — to see who the biggest dog in the yard is.
It is also a battle of followers, not fans, but copycats. As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery. On the dancehall scene, and now on a national level, Winky D is also setting the pace, influencing the direction music in Zimbabwe is taking, just as Oliver Mtukudzi has influenced numerous musicians who today have carved decent careers in music.
The same goes for Thomas Mapfumo and his Chimurenga beat and now Jah Prayzah, whose many copycats keep on sprouting from all corners of the country and beyond.
After seeing Winky D fill up the HICC, which is every Zimbabwean artiste’s dream, it is easy to predict who every single Zim dancehall singer would want to emulate. That aside, one wonders – when next these two share the stage — who will take to the stage first? As has happened before when they have combined for shows and there have been accusations of sound tampering; who will man the engineers’ booth? Whose PA system will be used?
When it comes to celeb followership, there are no 50 shades of grey in that debate, everything is black and white; there is rarely, if ever, any middle ground.
So who is your guy and why – Winky D or Jah Prayzah? The Sunday Mail