Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Is local music talent dead?

By Prince Mushawevato

Late musicians Dr Oliver Mtukudzi, Leonard Dembo, John Chibadura, Biggie Tembo, Solomon Skuza, Fanyana Dube, Chiwoniso Maraire, Simon Chimbetu and Marshall Munhumumwe, were an acclaimed league of extraordinary ladies and gentlemen.

James Chimombe
James Chimombe

Others in that league include Tongai Moyo, Ketai Muchawaya, James Chimombe, Safirio Madzikatire, System Tazvida, Andy Brown, George Pada, Elizabeth “Katarina” Taderera, Daiton Somanje, Tedious Matsito and Cephas Mashakada.

To say there were epic battles for top honours among the musicians is an understatement.

Each and every one of them had the capacity to unleash spell-binding gems.

They had the rare ability to drop hit songs effortlessly.

The fierce competition extended to the national radio music charts.

Year-end and Christmas parties were always lit as these magicians of sound never disappointed.

They were chefs whose dishes never failed to titillate the palates of their fans.

Each time they stepped into the recording booth, fans were guaranteed an inevitable masterpiece.

At any given time, it was hard to select even the top 10 favourite songs.

So talented was the lot that one wonders what happened along the way.

We seem to now struggle to churn out stars that give us hit songs.

Currently, it is not easy for any music fan to count five artistes that have consistently unleashed hits in the last five years.

Most of the surviving artistes now deliver lifeless songs and seem to only thrive on goodwill.

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Without bias or fanaticism, how many of the current crop of artistes have consistently released hit songs in their last three offerings?

Remember, the likes of Dembo, Chibadura, Dr Mtukudzi and Munhumumwe would at times release two good albums per year. We are almost into the festive season, yet we do not even have a single local track making waves in showbiz.

Instead, it is South Africa’s Amapiano track “John Vul’igate” done by Mapara A Jazz that is already promising to be our festive anthem.

“Jerusarema”, done by Mzansi DJ and record producer Master KG and vocalist Nomcebo Zikode, dominated last year.

It only took rare collaborations between Freeman and sungura king Alick Macheso, and Ishan featuring Ti Gonzi on “Ngaibake” and “Kure”, respectively, to push back on the Mzansi onslaught.

A new find, Mambo Dhuterere, did wonders with his “Dare Guru” album.

Talented and youthful producer Maselo, real name Tapiwa Jere, says the shift in technology has caused this fix.

“There was live music back in the day, which was original. These days musicians are opting for digital and electronic music, and like copying South Africa and West African music, which compromises the quality of their work,” argues Maselo.

“It will be difficult for our musicians to match foreign standards for they will forever remain copycats, promoting other countries’ genres at the expense of their own. The older generations made an impact because they appreciated local beats and never copied each other unlike the current crop of musicians.

“Sadly, we now have artists that think you can only go international if you copy foreign musicians or another successful local artiste,” claimed the youthful producer.

Conversely, celebrated producer and guitarist Clive Mono Mukundu shares an interesting perspective.

“There was a contract system that was used by record companies back in the day, which meant artists were recorded free of charge by record companies. The record company would recover all these costs from the sales of the album and share percentages with the artist.

“Thus, the company, through its music producers, made sure that the musicians performed to their standard. All substandard music was turned down.

“These days artistes pay for studio time, so the producers do not have much of a say,” he said.

Mukundu reckons there are many talented artistes, some better than the ones we know, but have no access to studios due to lack of funds.

Veteran producer Bothwell “African” Nyamhondera, who produced most of Zim’s greatest musicians, including living legends like Macheso and Nicholas Zacharia, said many producers are no longer particular about the quality of their works.

“We had an effective gate keeping system. One needs to be original and genuinely talented to get a recording contract.

“These days we now have many studios and the owners don’t care much about the quality of the music, but how much you can pay for their services,” says Nyamhondera.

Among the top artistes that we currently have are Macheso, Winky D, Jah Prayzah, Sulumani Chimbetu, Leonard Zhakata, Somandla Ndebele, Baba naMai Charamba, Killer T, Andy Muridzo, Peter Moyo and Baba Harare. The Sunday Mail