Now getting sober after the dramatic ZIMDANCEHALL AWARDS 2020 held last week in Harare. There is something that got me thinking. Most of us simply Laughed off the WHATSAPP WARRIOR category. Well, it was kind of funny but ……. lets dig deeper.
By Plot Mhako, Earground
Here is is some interesting info. Music marketing and distribution in Zimbabwe and specifically Zimdancehall has uniquely different dynamics.
How does it move from the producers to the general audience? Are there plugs that connect the producers, artists, the DJs and the mass? The answer is yes! And who are these people and what media do they use? In the formative years of Zimdancehall the radio stations, Passa Passas (Street parties) played a key role in activating the music but that power has shifted. The music still hits the streets through other platforms. Other social media platforms and the internet play a part but the impact is still subjective.
Whatsapp is a Big deal!
So this brings us to the WHATSAPP WARRIORS. These people literary spend their entire day active on Whatsaap. They administer tens of groups each with its own title but all centered around music.
They are connected to other Warriors in other towns and cities and other Road Warriors (vanoisira vanhu music mumaPhone) who then export the music further afield. They have the goodwill of promoters, music producers, artists managers, and artists. They don’t only push the songs but videos, news, and help promote shows. They have their own value chain deep-rooted in piracy, affiliation and proximity to musicians which gives them powerful street cred.
WhatsApp is one of the most widely used communication platforms in Zimbabwe. Mobile phone companies offer affordable data packages for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Donald Dodger Zw Marindire “Whatsapp is easy to use, universal and relatively cheap compared to Youtube, Cloud, Itunes, and ana Audio Mack. As long as the warrior and artist mutually benefit up up the App Warriors.”
We often hear that this song or artist blew off from the streets then the other media platforms caught up (the Whatsapp Warriors are oftentimes the streets fire starters). They know the streets so well and they use the power of the street knowledge effectively. Some artists engage them as touts.
Jah Signal’s manager and music promoter who was instrumental in the promotion of Zimdancehall from the early days had this to say;
Hillary Mutake “This is exactly how PunchLINE Entertainment was born. Started using Bluetooth, Emails etc before WhatsApp came. I remember i once had over 400 WhatsApp groups which i used to distribute music.”
However, one writer, Tindo Nyatsanga had a different thought, “Whatsapp bloggers are the main pillar for Zimdancehall…..nothing laughable about the award. But bit by bit everything is going digital & I fear they are losing their position….artists are now using direct marketing methods (Facebook & Radio for marketing then SoundCloud, iTunes, Amazon & YouTube, etc for sales) so no need for Whatsapp Warriors. The biggest disadvantage of these warriors is they destroy music sales…they literary share an artist’s music for free. They make one a very poor celebrity.”
For those in the know! Do you remember the Dancehall Mixtapes that were part of the cultural and music push back in the days? Yes, the ROAD WARRIORS! These carried all the latest and top tunes.
I am not justifying the inclusion of such a category in the awards but felt the need to give some Insight on the other dynamics at play in music distribution in Zimbabwe.
The plot thickens ……..