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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.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

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The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

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