Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: Kanjiva, a quintessential political metaphor and social soundtrack of our time

By Hopewell Chin’ono

I first heard a rendition of Enzo Ishall’s hit song, Kanjiva, when someone sent a video to me of a lady pastor who used it to illustrate something in her biblical sermon.

See Original Song:

Church Sermon version

I eventually watched the original video for the song last night when someone again told me that the original song was currently a massive Ghetto (and beyond) anthem.

Having grown up in the ghetto myself, I was impressed by the guy’s ability to marry the music to what seems like a central message of a dance style which has various metaphors attached to it.

It reminded me of the late Jamaican dance sensation, Gerald “Mr Bogle” Levy, whose dance moves were immortalized in dancehall music hits like Bogle by Buju Banton.

To this very day they define an era where reggae dancehall music reached its culmination.

Mr Bogle was part of the dancehall popular culture in Jamaica that married dancehall sound anthems (called Riddims) to specific dance moves like Wacky Dip, Urkle Dance, Sesame Street and the iconic Bogle dance.

Unfortunately the postcolonial Zimbabwean governments have not fully invested in giving people like Enzo hope to not only innovate, but learn and train whilst developing many forms of local and yet popular culture.

In Europe that is how the Michael Flatleys of the River Dance fame and Andrew Lloyd Webbers developed into global stars.

They were nurtured and allowed to express themselves creatively and today we respect and envy them and yet we fail to invest in our own Flatleys like Enzo.

In the Ghettos of Harare, youths and artists like Enzo give the downtrodden ownership of their way of life as opposed to being subjects of imposed “foreign” popular culture.

They create, project and own the cultural aspects of their living just as the South Africans have done with Kwaito and House Music that has created superstars rooted in popular and yet local culture.

My own Ghetto generation was rooted in Jamaican reggae dancehall music and the affluent kids listened to American R&B music powered by ZBC’s Radio 3.

This was deconstructed post 2000 at the same time as Robert Mugabe’s Land revolution took root.

This is one thing that regardless of how we feel about him, Jonathan Moyo’s Ninety percent local content revolution must be credited for giving a voice to the voiceless ghetto youths when the history of local Zimbabwean popular culture is eventually written.

The Ninety percent doctrine gave the youths a platform to showcase what they could do with their own imagination and all the suppressed creativity in the ghetto burst to the fore creating folks like Winky D and Stunner.

They could now express how they felt using their own sound and speaking through their own lenses and language.

All along they had been prisoners of international music from either Jamaica or America and in the Southern parts of the country they were hooked to South African music.

Culture is a lens in human Geography and what we see in Kanjiva is a specific chapter in the lives of these people that has book marked itself into history.

As we can see in these videos, the masses congregate to see their local stars entertain them and probably help amplify their thoughts and frustrations.

It is a way of life and it carries many subtle messages some deliberate and some subconscious but powerful non the less.

They make us ask questions in the comfort of our homes thanks to the Internet which gives us a front row seat to this music and culture.

We ask questions like, shouldn’t all these people be at work or school?
Popular culture underpins how the youth respond to social and political conditions around them.

Bob Marley’s rise to being the first Third World superstar was underpinned by the messaging in his songs that have now come to define not only his iconic status, but also how we look at that era both politically and historically.

His sound was very local but it expressed international frustrations that made sense to Trench Town as they also made sense to someone at Goromonzi High School in 1977.

Kanjiva and many songs like it might have been made in Matapi in Mbare but its usage in churches and northern suburbs is a lesson in how music transcends social boundaries.

It is not a surprise therefore that Kanjiva has made its way into the British play-list at the BBC. See: http://hmetro.co.zw/kanjiva-hits-bbc-1xtra/

In 2008, Zimbabwe’s first Information Minister, the late Dr Nathan Shamuyarira told me that he set up Radio 3 (now Power FM) for political reasons.

He said that the youth station was meant to dissuade the youth in postcolonial Zimbabwe from listening to South Africa’s Radio Jacaranda and many other such stations on Short Wave radio.

That is how powerful and relevant youth popular culture is to students of mass communication like myself and that is where Jonathan Moyo’s 90 percent local content is located in a scholarly context.

It was not accidental. It wasn’t just meant to create for the sake of it, it was also meant to localize the political discourse hence the dismal attempt by people like Tambaoga and crew.

The youths are not stupid, so whilst the sound and beats of Tambaoga were enticing, the youths didn’t like the messaging, they could see through it, that is why Tambaoga and his ilk were thrown to the dustbin of music history.

So whilst Kanjiva might sound like some random catch phrase, as we saw recently, it is now being used in biblical illustrations to teach the word of God, It is a sound track to dance parties and it is also being used to define and refine social and political messaging.

Everything is political so you pick whatever meaning you want from it.

Such is the power of creatives and as with Kanjiva, they can be found in the poorest of the poor communities but as with anything and everything good, it transcends class and background.
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKxtJ-_mbaI

What is missing is a solid national broadcaster that can harness this talent of youngsters like Jah Signal and Enzo Ishall and make our local popular culture international through marketing these musicians via album compilations.

The BBC has done it for its popular culture products, a well-led ZBC should also do it for our very own stars.
That is why public broadcasting is important for any nation to retain its identity and not the propaganda that ZBC has come to be identified with.

Music is infectious, that is why Salif Keita and Youssou N’dour sell millions to people who don’t understand a word of what they are saying.

Kanjiva is on auto play in my Ride, I am now looking for the creator to see how we can use it to tell a deeper story about how they live and how much such music brings joy and also acts as a painkilling act in subduing the economic terror of our times.

All being done throught songs like Ikaka, Kanjiva Ikaka.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year. He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

State of Mind has been nominated for a top award in Kenya. You can watch the documentary trailer below. Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @daddyhope