Nobody knows for certain what this will all mean in the annals of history, but there is something happening. Lest I bore you with details that you are overwhelmingly familiar with, here are fifteen urban songs to get your #ZimbabweanLivesMatter playlist started.
By Shingi Mavima, Michigan, USA
1. Havazviziye-Maggikal (May 2017)
“Ndagara pasi ndabata shaya, zvino ndatanga kunyatsogaya/
Vari kuti vari kumutsa maghetto, but hatizvione zvavanotryer/
Busy kudadirana ma dresscode/
Isu paghetto take-take nema landlord…”
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen: Maggikal has been underrated in the game. This track, off his 2017 offering, Long Journey, imagines a world in which, for a day, the haves in Zimbabwe switch places with the have-nots. The vivid imagery paints a stark picture of the continuously growing disparities in the country. This song is pointed, as it singles out government officials in its imaginary scenarios, including “VaChinamasa, vachifumiro forera basa” among others.
That the song came out months before the removal of Mugabe yet retains relevance today also shows how deep-rooted the rot is, and this brings me to the second entry.
2) Hate to Say (Freestyle)- Asaph (April 2018)
“Now I’m hoping ED got the answers/
We cut off the head but how deep was the cancer?
Man I swear for my career, Imma vote for change
But I know I’ll still be rapping if it stays the same”
From a track that came out months before coup-not-a-coup (CNAC) to one that came out months after, Asaph could not have been more explicit in articulating the lingering uncertainty that seeped in after the Euphoria of November/December 2017. Most jarring is the resignation to the fact that the vote probably won’t bring about the change hoped for: party, delivery, or otherwise.
(Also, the song is an incredible remix of a Tory Lanez song. I wonder if the Canadian artist has heard it? He’d be impressed.)
3.) Ambuya Nehanda- Freeman ft Nutty O (November 2018)
“Tinongopfugama kuna musiki king
Kuti vana veZimbabwe muchavayeuka rinhi?
Tapinda kune dzimwe nyika ndopatinowana ma sinhi
Tipeiwo zvakaringana nesu vana veZim”
If you know me, you already know this is one of my favorite songs of the past few years. The tune, evoking the maternal spirit of Nehanda much in the same way that Solomon Mutswairo did with “Nehanda Nyakasikana” during the colonial era, screams out to the spiritual realm for respite. Released a few months after the ill-fated 2018 elections, the song betrays the seeping feeling of entrapment in an endless cycle of poverty.
- Greed- Synik (May 2016)
“Because of greed, they abuse their positions of power/
When they meeting in the towers only mission’s to devour”
Taking it a few years back to the high tide of #ThisFlag, this track is bananas, and it’s frankly an injustice that it didn’t catch on as it could have. (I notice the song-complete with lyric video isn’t on YouTube either, for some reason.) The hip-hop song, laced over Fab’s “Breathe” beat not only indicts the current system of corruption and injustice, but situates it within a long tradition of slavery and colonialism that have deemed the lives of the Black masses inconsequential. Just that this time, it’s tough when your supposed liberators are the ones telling you that your lives don’t matter.
- Zvitori Nani- Tocky Vibes (January 2019)
“Handichina nguva yekubigga masoja
Vanongotiirova zuva nezuva ndapota
Kwahi boss watituma ndiwo ka wakosha
Zvimwe ramba, inga tese tiri maroja.”
Chamakuvangu was not having it.
In January 2019, folks in Harare took to the streets to protest the recent fuel increases, which meant the country now had the most expensive gas prices in the world! True to form, the armed forces came out swinging and beat the city to a pulp, killing at least 12 people in the process. This was accompanied by an internet blockade, which only inflamed the tensions.
Out of this tear-gas induced, blood-tainted, smoke came this brazen track from Tocky Vibes. His declaration that he had lost all respect for the soldiers was not only telling of the moment, but especially juxtaposed with the amount of love the troops had been receiving in the aftermath of Mugabe’s removal. Never before have I seen so much goodwill squandered so quickly!
6) Tongogara- Junior Brown (February 2016.)
Vatora chingwa chese vobva vatifonyora brain/
Wosiya tichirwira mafufu zvekutorovana nemheni”
While April 2016 saw the introduction of the #ThisFlag hashtag by way of the poem that bore the name, the current wave of frustration had been rumbling before then. In February 2016, Rapper Jnr Brown dropped what many insert in the conversation about greatest Zim hip hop songs.
The lyric above encapsulated the frustrations that the Zimbabwean masses continue to hold towards rampant governmental corruption that manifests itself prominently in a patronage system that richly rewards cronies. The invocation of Tongogara, a Chimurenga leader whose legend has grown to be one of virtue in contrast to the postcolonial leadership (and long suspected to be an early casualty of the would-be regime), amplifies the pain of “what-may-have-been”
- Vanhu Vatema- Garry Tight (January 2019.)
Ndati ndironge musika ku Coppacabana
Dhimoni rekanzuru rabva rabata
Ndati ndifayise madhiri kumbare,
Babylon rabva rakanya!”
When young Tight stepped up to remix arguably the most iconic Black empowerment song in the country’s history, he had his work cut out. To his credit, he…he did his thing.
Also dropping during the 2019 fuel protests, the song is a contemporary take on resistance in which the villain is unequivocally the current law enforcers and their bosses, the song resurrects the essence of Chimurenga Music for this moment.
- Kanyika Aka Aiwa Bodo- Taffy TheMan (August 2019)
“Hatina democracy muno muZimbabwe/
nhasi ndozvidura handimbotaura zvirahwe
Kune dzimwe nyika unogona kucriticizer
Hurumende yako asi haumborohwe!”
When I first heard that humorist Taffy theMan had done a Shona rendition of Notch’s Nuttin’ No Go So (#BuyOutRiddim), I thought it would be clownish. It was not. Although not devoid of Taffy’s signature silliness in parts, it is a solid lyrical rebuke of the Mnangagwa administration in the aftermath of the election. One of the more memorable lines from the song is “hatina kumboramba kuti chinhu chenyu, but uyu hupenyu hwedu, musatidaro ED.” (“we don’t deny that this ‘thing’ is your thing, but these our lives, please don’t do this to us ED.”) The desperation in pleading for the president to keep the county and its reins if please him, but to at least look out for the people, is palpable.
- R. Peels- Moto (October 2019)
“Ichanaka here nyika, I really really doubt it
Kana paine same system
Fuel 10 bond, 10 US i 50 Bond
That’s a Bunch of BS.”
In the middle of this archetypal hip-hop flex song, the boy Peels puts a dollar figure to the mess. Admittedly being away from home for eons at a time, I had to run through that math a few times to make sense of that fuel cost. Those are astronomic figures even by middle-income economy standards.
It is, indeed, a bunch of BS.
- Freedom- Poptain (October 2018)
“Ey, we never free
Although dem claim seh we born free!”
Perhaps the least overtly political song on this list, the YardBwoy hits at the fundamental hypocrisy of post-colonial Zimbabwe: Merely 40 years removed from Rhodesian rule, there is a generation of adults now who have never known a ‘good Zimbabwe.’ Think about that. People in their early 20s were born into the rot. What are the ways the people are free?
11. Vatiregerera- Sanii (November 2019.)
“I work, you steal/I hustle, you beat
I just wanna look after my family, is that too much to ask?
I cry, you laugh/I fall, you rise…”
You know it’s on another level when the OG urban groover, far more renowned for his love serenades than political commentary, Mr. Makhalima chimes in with this uncompromising song. Heck, the video is footage of police and military brutality in the Mnangagwa years.
It’s powerful, and if you need the revolution crooned to you (as opposed to chanted or rapped), consider giving the smooth stylings of Sanii a listen.
- 25- Winky D (October 2016.)
“Zuva nezuva ndirimo ini mu soccerbet
Profit yachona idiki tiri four pazhet
Kune maguta hakuendeki nekuti vane mari
Vakatenga zi chain, ndokulocka gate”
I could have picked from a myriad of Gaffa’s works here: Gaffa muParliament, Kasong Kejecha, Ijipita. I, however, do not think there is a better song to articulate the trauma of a lost generation than 25. It’s the Gaffa in vintage form, as he establishes a timeline of his own life, with innocence and hopes of a brighter future depleting with each passing phase.
The viby Oskid instrumentation and witty lyrics can only ill-conceal the very solemn tale being told here.
13: Expect Nothing- Begotten Sun (December 2018)
“ED Says you can’t move forward watching the rear view/
But please dude, we’re back to money changers and fuel queues/
Now the same troops that had them kids on the tanks/
Turned Harare streets into the streets of Iraq.”
I don’t know how y’all came across Begotten Sun, if you’ve come across Begotten Sun at all. I’ve known him as the “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention” ranter on FB Live, managed Tytan for a bit, worked with Fadzayi’s campaign, and is now the “Fresh-in-a-Box” guy. He seems to do a few things and do them well.
Turns out he is also a good rapper. Great, in fact.
A week and a half before the CNAC, Sunna released Expect Us, a rage-filled anthem for a generation rising to reclaim its country from the debauched grasp of its leaders. That was then; November 2017.
The follow-up track, Expect Nothing, from December of the following year, is devoid of all the hopeful rage. Begotten Sun bemoans the loss of his first love, the torture at the hands of government operative, the desertion by trusted allies; all for change that never came. And to show the inescapability of it all, he recalls how opposition leader Chamisa called protesters ‘stupid’ in the aftermath of their post-election slaughter in August 2018.
Such has the space done to its brightest.
- ‘Already’- Karizma (August 2020)
“Why aren’t the doctors getting paid already/
When ministers are buying cars, new range already…
Why is Hopewell getting jailed already/
When he’s the one doing the work coz you failed already?”
One of the dopest hip-hop artists out of Zim, Karizma is also not playing games. The tune, released in and for the moment, names names and pulls no punches. The people are tired. This generation is tired and getting more and more restless. Something has to give soon, no?
15: Safe- Nutty O (August 2020.)
I’ll close the list out with this tough, albeit less confrontational, tune. Dropped in the epicenter of the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, what on the surface looks to be a song from a loved one asking “uri sei?” and “are you safe” has turned into a defacto-check in call for each other.
It’s also just a good song- and we need good vibes right about now.
Saka muri sei? Are you safe?
We’ll continue to curate this playlist; let us know what songs you’d like to see added!