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Winky D "Dissapear" (YouTube)

10 Zimbabwean Dancehall Artists You Should Know

These are the musicians behind Zimbabwe's massive dancehall scene.

Dancehall music is arguably the biggest genre in Zimbabwe right now.

The vibrant music has steadily gained a massive following and widespread popularity especially among the youth and it's the norm to hear various hits blasting from the speakers of public transport on the streets of cities like Harare.

Zimbabwe's brand of dancehall originally has its roots in reggae and was largely influenced by the likes of Bob Marley and his performances in 1980. Zimbabwe had just obtained independence from the British and it's no surprise that the music released by dancehall artists of that time, the likes of Major E and Booker T, had a Jamaican-style lyricism to it.

Fast-forward to present day and Zimbabwean dancehall has almost abandoned its reggae influence. Instead, artists have opted for singing and rapping in vernacular languages such as Shona and Ndebele coupled with computer-generated beats that create a distinct local flavour that sets Zimbabwean dancehall apart from the dancehall produced in other countries.

As with a lot of the music that's been largely produced under the Mugabe-era, dancehall has also not shied away from highlighting the economic and socio-political issues facing many Zimbabweans daily.

From veteran artists such as Winky D to fresh talent including Tocky Vibes and Lady Squanda, Zimbabwean dancehall shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. And so we put together a list of the 10 Zimbabwean Dancehall Artists You Should Know below.

This list is in no particular order.


Winky D

Winky D has been around since the inception of Zimbabwean dancehall in its present form back in the early 2000s. Often referred to as the 'King of Dancehall,' he's put out several hit songs including "Musarove Bigiman," "Paita Party" as well as "Bassline Rock" which was a collaboration he did with Jamaican dancehall musician Hawkeye.

Lady Squanda

Lady Squanda is undoubtedly the leading lady in the male-dominated Zimbabwean dancehall scene. While she has put out several hits including "Ndinovhaira" and "Bhaisikopo", a track she did with fellow dancehall artist Freeman. Having drawn inspiration from female Jamaican reggae artist Lady Saw, Lady Squanda has often come under fire particularly for her use of "provocative" language in many of her songs.

Soul Jah Love

Soul Jah Love is definitely one of the more popular dancehall artists and shot to fame after putting out "Ndini Uya Uya," "Gum Kum," and "Pamamonya Ipapo." The musician is also known for his beef with veteran sungura artist Alick Macheso and while rumours of a collaboration between the two (in an effort to squash the beef) have been hanging in the air for years now, fans of both musicians really shouldn't hold their breath.

Killer T

Killer T burst onto the dancehall scene after he released the popular tracks "Makarova Ganaz," "Itai Ndione," "Hauterere," and "Tavakuda Kumbofarawo". While the young artist has enjoyed overwhelming success following his debut project, he has however received criticism for his latest album Mashoko Anopfuura with fans reportedly struggling to connect with it in the same way they did his previous work.

Empress Shelly

Empress Shelly initially started out making music with fellow musician Badman. However, after he relocated to South Africa, Empress Shelly embarked on a solo career in 2013 and then went on to win "Best Female Artist" at the Zimbabwe Dancehall Awards the following year. Some of her popular tracks include "Misodzi Yangu," "Fresh and Clean" as well as "Mufare".

Seh Calaz

In 2013, Seh Calaz officially stepped into the music industry following the release of his track "Mabhanditi." While the song itself caused quite a stir and went viral, it didn't receive any airplay on local radio stations. His follow-up track "Mumota Murikubvira," which was an ode to marijuana, was extremely popular and received ample airplay on several local radio stations in Zimbabwe. Seh Calaz is definitely one to watch.

Tocky Vibes

Tocky Vibes jumped into the spotlight back in 2014 after he released his hit single "Mhai." The heartfelt track spoke about a young man leaving home in search of his big break in the city but always making sure to remember his mother and her well-wishes for his life. The song resonated with many Zimbabweans and allowed the artist and his newfound success to go on to release several other hits including "African Queen" and "Tushiri."

Daruler

Daruler or 'mambokadzi' (which translates to 'queen') as she's popularly known, started out doing backing vocals for Lady Squanda on her track "Rudo." Thereafter, she was mentored by fellow dancehall artist Freeman and went on to produce a slew of popular tracks including "Mangoma Hatimire," "Pemberera Life" and "Ndakanyarara."

Freeman

Similar to Winky D, Freeman is a veteran of Zimbabwean dancehall. His debut track "Joiner City" catapulted him into the spotlight where he has since stayed and produced numerous hits such as "Shaina Mwana Iwe," "Doctor Wemagitare," and "Handina Godo." Unlike Soul Jah Love, Freeman has collaborated with Alick Macheso and their joint track "Ngaibake" became quite popular. Additionally, he's also collaborated with the majority of Zimbabwe's dancehall artists.

Jah Prayzah

While some may argue that Jah Prayzah has pivoted towards Afropop in recent years, a large part of his music career has been in dancehall. Known for his signature aesthetic of wearing military regalia, Jah Prayzah or 'Musoja' as he is often referred to by his fans, is perhaps the most successful cross-over artist who's not only popular with Zimbabweans in the country but abroad as well. His numerous hit songs include "Dangerous," "Ngwarira Kuparara," and "Sendekere," a track he did with South African Afropop duo Mafikizolo.

Events
Photo by Ransford Quaye.

Fun Places in Accra, Ghana to Visit This Weekend

From Winged Wednesdays at Cachie & Cachie to Open Field Day at Bambo’s Adventure Park, Accra is packed with places to have fun.

This weekend is packed with places to have fun at! Enjoy unlimited wings, sides, and free drinks at a cool new restaurant, or sign up for a “Capture the Flag” paintball tournament with your entire squad. Whatever your choice of fun is, here is a list of places to visit this weekend in Accra, Ghana.

Right from the midweek all through to the weekend, here is a list of fun places to visit in Accra, Ghana.

Winged Wednesdays at Cachie & Cachie

Cachie & Cachie is a budding restaurant and bar located at East Legon, Accra that offers a diverse culinary experience. However, despite their distinct menu we’re here to highlight their signature weekly attraction - unlimited wings! Yes, you heard right, unlimited. Cachie & Cachie offers unlimited wings and sides every Wednesday evening for a flat rate that’s easy on the pockets. Also, show up early for a free mocktail from 6 - 6:30 p.m. only.

Date: Wednesday, 24th May, 6 - 10 p.m.

Venue: Cachie & Cachie, West Legon

Cost: From GHC85

Happy Hour at The Honeysuckle

The Honeysuckle is a popular sports bar themed after the famous British sports bars across the United Kingdom. Well known for its great food and ambiance, The Honeysuckle is regarded as one of the best spots in Accra for after-work leisure. On Thursdays, you can pass by to enjoy discounted food and drinks during Happy Hour. Also, there are multiple Honeysuckle locations in Accra, so take your pick, have a drink, and watch your favorite sports match for your pre-weekend unwind.

Date: Thursday, 25th May, 2-5 p.m.

Venue: The Honeysuckle, all locations

Junkie’s Burgers New Location Launch

If you’re a foodie and you haven’t tried Junkie’s Burgers, what are you doing? Junkie’s Burgers is home to Accra’s Best Burgers, and they’ll be launching a brand new location on Thursday. The new Junkie’s will be at Labone, so pass through for Junkie’s signature Fully Loaded Burger or any burger of your choice. Vegetarian options are also available.

Date: Thursday, 25th May

Venue: Junkie’s Burgers, Labone

Open Space at Kukun

Open Space is a conversation platform that periodically hosts panel-type conversations on intriguing subject matter facing young Africans across the world. It’s comparable to a live podcast, and their events are free to attend. Their mandate is “building and connecting Africans across the world through honest conversations,” and their conversations are intriguing, thought-provoking, and sometimes even humorous. This week’s topic is a hot one, so make sure to tap in for a night of great conversation.

Date: Friday, 26th May, 6 p.m.

Venue: Kukun, Osu

Cost: Free

“In Relation To Light” Exhibition at The Mix Design Hub

Curated by Mamoud Brimah, “In Relation To Light” is a solo exhibition featuring the work of Ghanaian illustrator and artist Michael Badger. The exhibition explores what constitutes true self-expression with a series of surrealist, figurative paintings depicting varying human emotions on a journey toward self-discovery. The artist involves these figurative subjects in an exploration of what it means to stand in the light.

Date: Friday, 26th May, 6 p.m.

Venue: The Mix Design Hub, Osu

Cost: Free

Dance Class at DWP Academy

For a dose of fun, great vibes, and some physical activity this weekend, you can sign up for a dance class at DWP Academy. Dance With a Purpose Academy is Accra’s most prominent dance studio, located at East Legon. DWP Academy dancers have featured in Beyonce music videos, performed alongside Usher at international festivals, and more. If you’re passionate about dance, DWP Academy is definitely a place to check out.

Date: Saturday, 27th May, 12:20 - 3:30 p.m.

Venue: Lizzy Sports Complex, East Legon

Cost: GHC50 for a session

The Awakening Live Recording Concert with Akesse Brempong

For fans of contemporary Christian music, there’s an event for you as well! Akesse Brempong, one of Ghana’s leading voices in the gospel music scene is hosting a live recording concert called “The Awakening: Anthems of Revival.”Other top gospel voices are on the bill as well, such as Pastor Isaiah Fosu Kwakye Jnr., MOG Music, Efe Grace, and Kofi Owusu Peprah, so it promises to be a night of gospel music excellence and one you definitely don’t want to miss.

Date: Saturday, 27th May, 4 p.m.

Venue: Empowerment Worship Centre, Achimota

Cost: Free, but register to attend

Vine Brunch

Vine Restaurant is a premium restaurant, bar, and lounge located at Labone. They offer a choice selection of continental and African dishes and drinks, and on Sunday you can catch the Vine Brunch for premium cocktails and mouth-watering dishes prepared by master chefs all throughout the day. Trust me, there’s no brunch like a Vine Brunch.

Date: Sunday, 28th May, 12:30 - 9 p.m.

Venue: Vine Restaurant, Labone

Open Field Day at Bambo’s Adventure Park

Bambo’s Adventure Park is a recreation center located at Labone, Accra. On the last Sunday of every month, they host Open Field Day, a fun games event. Their arena-style paintball tournament is the main attraction, however, there will be loads of other activities, as well as music, food, and drinks. Play capture the flag with a team of friends, or relax and unwind with board games at Bambo’s Adventure Park this weekend.

Date: Sunday, 28th May

Venue: Bambo’s Adventure Park, Labone

Cost: GHC180 per head

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Interview: Nevermind the Legend Talk, Wande Coal Just Wants To Make Good Music

We talk to the Nigerian icon about his fourth studio album, Legend Or No Legend, his much-awaited collaboration with T-Pain, and being the blueprint for Afrobeats.

There is no Mount Rushmore of Afrobeats without Wande Coal. If there ever was an emblem for the hallmark of Afrobeats as we know it today, that emblem would have his face on it.

When Afrobeats slowly evolved from its hip-hop and R&B influences, shepherded by forerunners 2face and D’banj, Wande Coal emerged with arguably one of the most defining imprints on the Nigerian pop scene: his 2009 debut album, Mushin 2 Mo’hits.

Released under the Don Jazzy & D’Banj led Mo’hits record label, Mushin 2 Mo’Hits shot Wande Coal to instant superstardom, spawning hit singles such as “You Bad”, “Kiss Your Hand”, “Bumper To Bumper,” and much more. The sixteen-track album also set the blueprint for Afrobeats melodies, delivery, and the overall soundscape, eventually setting the stage for the rise of pop-icons such as Wizkid, Davido, and more.

It would take another six years after his debut before another Wande Coal album would see the light of day. After a drawn-out departure from Mo’Hits Records to start his own imprint, Black Diamond Entertainment, and an intermittent presence within the music scene, Wande Coal released his critically-acclaimed 2015 sophomore album, Wanted.

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Mr Eazi Launches New Group ChopLife Soundsystem

Listen to the new 14-song album Chop Life, Vol. 1 Mzansi Chronicles.

Mr Eazi, the acclaimed music superstar, business visionary, and globe-trotter, extends a heartfelt invitation to music enthusiasts to embark on a sonic journey to South Africa with the release of Chop Life, Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles (Choplife Limited/emPawa Africa), the inaugural offering from his newly-formed pan-African music collective, ChopLife Soundsystem.

Crafted amidst the vibrant locales of Cape Town and Johannesburg, this 14-track album serves as an exuberant tribute to amapiano, the electrifying dance music genre that has burst forth from South Africa and garnered international recognition. Joining forces with an excellent lineup of South African music luminaries such as Moonchild Sanelly, Focalistic, Nkosazana Daughter, Ami Faku, and Major League Djz, alongside a host of emerging talents, Mr Eazi presents his interpretation of the scene's captivating elements.

Mzansi Chronicles is an ode to the amapiano sound that has been the soundtrack to my parties and me going to clubs,” Mr Eazi said of the project. “It’s me working with some of my favorite artists and capturing my interpretation of elements I love from the scene.”

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Film
Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

Rosine Mbakam on the Power of Family and Returning Home in Filmmaking

The Cameroonian filmmaker uses her documentary skills to create her first fictional feature, Mambar Pierrette, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

After a critically lauded career as a documentary filmmaker, writer/director Rosine Mbakam arrives at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight program with her first narrative feature: Mambar Pierrette. The film sees Mbakam returning to her homeland of Cameroon to tell the story of a dressmaker — Pierrette (Pierrette Aboheu Njeuthat) — as she deals with mounting financial calamities that threaten her children’s school year and the health of her business.

It’s a conceit that feels familiar to Vittorio De Sica’s film, but with a different, uniquely African touch. While Mbakam has switched mediums for this film, the story, and its translation is similar to the director’s previous films, such as Chez Jolie Coiffure, Delphin’s Prayer, and The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman in their focus on Black women who use their respective craft to cope with the hurdles they encounter. For Mambar Pierrette, Mbakam retools these familiar themes for Cameroon. The result indicates a change of direction for the filmmaker with regard to mood and tone, switching from ruminative to joyous, from staid to colorful and vibrant. Because all around Pierrette is life: It’s her children, it’s her village; it’s her vivid customers and the lively dresses she designs.

With Mambar Pierrette, Mbakam offers the unique cultural lens she’s spent nearly a decade crafting to give viewers a vision of radical empathy and a change in perspective. After having spent several years working in television, she attended film school in Belgium, where she is now based, before going on to create her first trio of feature-length documentaries that shared stories of Cameroonian women.

She talks to OkayAfrica about wanting to show a different Africa, making a film with her family, and subverting the traditions of Western filmmaking.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve spent your career doing documentaries, but this is your first fictional film. Why did you feel you needed to switch for this particular story?

Fictional features were my first desire. I discovered documentaries when I was in film school. But my desire when I wanted to do cinema was to do features because it was what I was seeing on television in Cameroon. It was not documentaries. When I was in film school I really didn't know what kind of fiction I wanted to do. And when I discovered the documentary [form], it gave me a lot of freedom to be myself, to really experience what I wanted to, because I didn't want an intermediary between me and the people that I wanted to film.

Because of all the legacy of colonialism — I was in Belgium — I didn't want to use a white person or a person that didn't know what I wanted to question. But the documentary really helped me to deconstruct my gaze, and to just find my way and really see what kind of fiction I could do. Because the fiction that I learned in film school was Western fiction, and it was difficult for me to apply it in my reality in Cameroon. I'm really happy to come to my first desire of cinema, of doing fiction and really the fiction that I want to do with all the knowledge that I had from documentaries.

An image of the filmmaker, Rosine Mabakam, holding a microphone.Rosine Mabakam speaks at the premiere of her film in the Directors’ Fortnight program at the Cannes Film Festival.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight / Delphine Pincet.

Your previous films are set in Belgium, but for this one you returned to Cameroon. Why did it make sense to return now?

Because when I was in Belgium I was there in the context of the legacy of colonialism. And I was confronting it every day. I wanted to really find my position there because I chose to live there, even though my inspiration was Cameroon. I wanted to deconstruct that and find my way because I knew that when I was deconstructing it that it would help me to see my reality differently. Because when I was in Cameroon, I was colonized. I didn't know I was reproducing all the things that I was seeing from the films I was watching in Cameroon. I wanted to discover how the rest of the world saw people like me in Belgium. It was important for me to deconstruct that first and to go back to Cameroon afterwards because I didn't want to reproduce the power of Western cinema on people that I wanted to film in Cameroon.

I love that you see it as a deconstruction of the image white people have of people from Cameroon or really any African country. You always get to the inner lives of the people you capture by looking at their craft. With Chez Jolie Coiffure, for instance, you focus on hairdressers. What draws you to a person's relationship with their craft, and why did you choose a dressmaker for this film?

In Cameroon, in my culture, all of those small spaces are where people come and drop stories and drop pain and also reconstruct their mental health. And I want to underline those spaces that sometimes people neglect because for them, maybe, it's not important. For me, for Chez Jolie Coiffure, with the hairdressers, it's the same thing. It's the space where women, and some men, come to just drop something and or take something.

I want to make people understand that sometimes it's not big spaces or important spaces that make us feel confident or that make us feel fine. I grew up in those smaller spaces. My mother was a dressmaker and my grand sister was her hairdresser. I really know those spaces and I know how it's built my imagery for stories of strong women. I wanted to show that.

I love the designs of the dresses; they’re so vibrant and vivid. What do they represent to you and to the character of Peirrette?

It's the dresses and how people can rebuild themselves through them. It's the space where your life can change with the world, with solidarity and also with love that people have brought to you through those spaces. You are surrounded not only by one woman, but by all these people who are coming. And yes, I really like fashion and also the colors.

In Cameroon, we don't have enough confidence in what we have. Even in fashion, we’re always looking at the West and how the West dresses without taking into account what we have. I wanted to show that it's beautiful and our story is important by just talking to ordinary people to show that even if we are ordinary, we have something important to say.


A still from the film of a group of women outside a rural dress shop.Rosine Mbakam’s first narrative feature is set in Cameroon.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

The actress who plays Pierrette is your first cousin, correct? And it’s her first time acting?

It's not only my cousin. All of the cast are members of my family except for two people. But the rest are my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my sisters, my grand sisters.

Did you find it challenging directing people who you're not only related to but are in a situation where they’ve probably never acted before?

It's more challenging. There is a power in cinema and we know how that power has been used to stereotype Africans. I know the consequences of that power. And even more so with my family. Because they didn't really don't know what is the cinema, and how that power can be destructive. It's easy to take that power and to make them do what I want. It's important for me to be more vigilant and to give them the space to express themselves. That was really challenging because I had to be more careful about that.

With all of the travesties that befall Pierrette, a woman on an economic edge, I was really reminded of Vittorio De Sica’s films like Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D. And yet, you don’t remain on a track toward heartbreak like those films do. It’s almost like a De Sica film would be impossible to pull off because the idea of community is so present here?

I didn't feel it was possible to end like that because, usually, it doesn’t end like that in my family. With every problem you have people going together to resolve something, to bring joy, even if there is something very painful. For me, it was a perspective that I wanted to give to that story. And I wanted to give the perspective of that power that I can see in Pierrette and all of the members of my family. I wanted to show that power is higher than the difficulty. That was the intention behind that ending with the mannequin, and of all the neocolonialism that exists. Our power can overtake those problems.

A still from the film, 'Mambar Pierrette,' of a woman walking next to a girl carrying a bucket on her head.In ‘Mambar Pierrette,’ Rosine Mbakam enlisted family members for the film.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

Her shop is also very small, yet open. Whenever Pierrette is making dresses, in the background you can see the street and you can see the life of her neighborhood. Could you talk a bit about why you framed her in that way as opposed, to say, close-ups?

If you see my film Chez Jolie Coiffure, you’ll notice it's really close. But if I close the perspective, here, it's not how we live in Cameroon. There is always a door open somewhere or someone can open the door to give you something, to give you help, to give a testimony. But in Chez Jolie Coiffure, in the West, Black people are closed into their space. In Cameroon it's different. There is always a perspective, there is always a solution. And I wanted to show that, to open that place, even if it's small. In Chez Jolie Coiffure, in the salon there is no door open anywhere. It's really close. It's like a prison. It's really close. In this film, it’s different. You can see the life of the earth coming, you can see light coming.

What do you hope people take away from this film when they’re finished?

I hope people will see another Africa and another way of filming Africa, another way to imagine Africa, and how we can look at Africa differently. I don't think we usually see that perspective, to be in the position of someone in Africa. I want people to be with these people and to help them understand what they want to say. I hope that people will watch the film and will remember the images and the words of this Black woman.

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