There has been growing debate over the future of Zimbabwean music and of late more attention has been placed on Zimdancehall and so many comparisons made in relation to the unfortunate fate of Urban Grooves music. In the quest for answers and need for a deeper understanding i linked up with one of the veterans of the once dominant music genre, Joe Machingura.
By Plot Mhako
Who is Machingura and why is he an important puzzle to the Zimbabwean music conversation? In the United States of America they have the P.Diddys, Suge Knight, Dr Dre and in Zimbabwe we have Bothwell Nyamhondera, the late Fortune Mparutsa and a later generation of Delani Makhalima, Flash Gordon who were later preceded by Machingura et al.
Joe Machingura is a music producer, sound engineer artist manager-cum-actor who has also tried his voice on radio. He started music back when urban grooves started, playing behind the scenes observing and learning from the likes of Delani and other guys and driven by a passion to help nurture the young talent especially those with less oportunity but great talent.
Before joining the exodus to South Africa Machingura had been the other half behind the once popular Heshi Mfeshi music studio together with Urban Groover Leonard Mapfumo and had previously managed more than 15 artists. The record label then managed artists such as Shinsoman, Cindy Munyavi, Sanii, Trevor Dongo, Leonard Mapfumo, Taurai Mandebvu, Yoz and many more.
What could have gone so wrong that an entire music genre crumbled and for a record label co-owner to throw in the towel and leave behind such amazing talent and catalogue for South Africa?
“Urban Grooves was mainly affected by the economy“ retorted Machingura. “The more time you spent in the studio was the less the money you made those days because the economy was on a freefall and you will recall 2008 was a year of the black market and money changers”
“Most artists left the country during that period. Decibel, Delani Makhalima, Roy and Royce and tens of other very talented artists. So economy was the push factor other than the change of sound because some artists from the era are still in the country doing the same style and surviving“
But, interestingly in the midst of that chaos and dispair a new frenzy gripped the country and has not let loose that stranglehold to date. Zimdancehall defied the circumstances and created a new generation of artists, a new sound and charmed the hearts of every Zimbabwean at home and in the diaspora, filling the void left by Urban Grooves and breaking new ground, creating a new economy.
Machingura is the man who discovered and nurtured Shinsoman way before the genre blew up thinks otherwise, “Zimdancehall blossomed in the US dollar era. Remember the country adopted the multi-currency system in 2009”
What could be the biggest threat to Zimdancehall today? I was tempted to ask that now that the economy is no longer liquid, will the music genre go through the same road as Urban Grooves? “Zimdanchall is not necessarily affected by the economy. Its biggest threat is lack of depth in composition, poor production, quality control and also lack of investment for the future.“
Instead of investing in music with the money they made, most artists mistakenly think that they control, own the scene and the listeners´ears
Joe added, “Music evolves and revolves, it is never the same for years, and you need to understand the game to last longer in the game but unfortunately I don’t see many surviving. Most Zimdancehall artists are gone and buried because of their lack of vision and the ability to adjust to the demands of the industry.
Myopic minds and a sense of entitlement are killing Zimdancehall. No matter how big you become as an artist, if u do not invest in your music, future and assume the Zimbabwean market belongs you alone iam sorry“
The future belongs to those who see far from where they are, adjust to the current demands and future trends. The likes of Killer T real name Kelvin Kusikwenyu, whom he liken to the late great John Chibadura and also Enock Munhenga konwn as ExQ for their shewdness.
If people want to survive in the music industry they should learn from ExQ. „He is a true survivor.“ Joe went on to chronicle ExQ´s remarkable journey and survival story.
One of the few survivors from the Urban Grooves era who has not only remained relevant but has continously reinvented himself and managed to stay in the premier league of music.
“Over the years his music has shifted from Hip Hop, you recall the Musalala early days he then changed to Exq during the Chamhembe era, he again moved to Mr Urbangroover when he worked with Heshi Mfeshi then Russo and Nitredy.
For years he maintained his appeal as he switched from one producer to another.
In an unstoppable fete he shifted to ZimPraise`s Joseph Madziyire and produced a masterpiece on the Expandables project with XtraLarge and Rockford Josphats.
A lot of artists´careers remained stagnant and some died when the producers and stables they were connected to lost the magic or simply went under but for Exq fate was different as he knew the right time to switch and the new sound to adopt to.
When we thought he was finished we saw Exq resurface from Kenako Studios with a smash hit featuring Roki, Aallelujah. Before the flames went out Exq moved to Military Touch Movement and has continued his charm offensive with the Magixian Dj Tamuka, churning hit after hit and becoming one of the most sought after performers in the country.
Now with so many titles to his name all coming from successive hit songs, Mr Putiti is here to stay longer than we think all because of his deeper understanding of music trends and shrewd business approach whic most artists in the country lack.
Machingura poured out his heart on unscrupulous and clueless hangers on touting as artist managers who most oft hem quickly varnish when the artist`s fortunes hit rock bottom. “They are destroying and frustrating real talent”
The outspoken producer believes the Zimdancehall era is slowly coming to an end. Well, this is one thought that can invite the wrath of Zimdancehall fanatics and ethusiasts. They support the movement religiously and will not take lightly anyone who speaks ill of their cherished movement.
“After Zimdancehall, Afropop is taking over unfortunately” For an artist to survive they need to think beyond Zimbabwe.
“If u do shows in UK and South Africa but for Zimbabweans only then you are still a novice in the game.“
“Great artists play at festivals in other countries and appeal to beyond their nationality. Look at what Bundu Boys did during their time! I think Jah Prayzah is on the right“.
Iam sure most people could be wondering why the producer chickened out and if he will bounce back to music one day? “I never left music. Iam studying sound engineering and music business management which will equip me to come home and contribute to the industry. So when iam done with school iam hearding home.
Until next time, the plot thickens.