Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) is often under fire for its apparent lack of transparency, especially when it comes to dishing out appropriate royalties. Thus, when the organization announced in May that it would be distributing ZWL$23 Million in royalties to local artists, the air was filled with excitement. After all, this figure was almost $20 million dollars more than the $4 Million distributed last year.
Here are some things we learnt from the list, as they stood out to the current commentator!
1. ZimDancehall is King
The Dancehall Genre in Zimbabwe has been a constant source of debate since it burst on to national prominence at the turn of the 2010s. In fact, so divisive is it that I bet someone will contest the date in the previous sentence. There are debates on what it should be called, who started it, its impact on the community and, as of late, whether it has run its course.
While the arguments rage on and the sound is undoubtedly evolving, the genre remains extremely popular, and the numbers back it up. Of the 20 highest earners, according to ZIMURA, ZimDancehall contributed six. That’s right, 30% of the list comes from the mangoma culture. That is more than any other genre contributed to the list. Leading the pack is, as expected, Winky D in third place, followed by Freeman in fifth. Killer T, Soul Jah Love, Tocky Vibes and Nutty O were the other inclusions.
ZImDancehall remains the sound of the street- and beyond.
2. Long Live the Dear Departed.
Some artists make music that is only here for the moment. Unlike many other people, I am actually okay with that. Some things are meant to last, and some things to pass us by; there is enough space in the world for both.
It is, however, important to acknowledge those among us who make timeless work; those whose creations continue to live on long after they are gone. The list offered no shortage of such greatness. Five of the twenty are no longer with us, with Oliver Mtukudzi coming in second, while Simon Chimbetu and Leonard Dembo are also in the top ten. Soul Jah Love and Solomon Skhuza are also on the list.
Admittedly, with Jah Love only recently passing on, much of his revenue considered here would be from when he was still alive. However, Skhuza and Dembo died in 1995 and 1996 respectively, so it is remarkable to see them maintaining a stronghold two and a half decades later. It is also interesting to see Dembo sitting well ahead of Alick Macheso and Nicholas Zakaria, arguably the two biggest Sungura stars since Musorowenyoka left us.
3. NO Gospel?
This was baffling to me.
Gospel music is immensely popular in Zimbabwe. And not just among the church regulars (who make up a sizable chunk of the population), but among the general populace as well. From the Charambas to Fungisai to Vabati vaJehovah, those who croon for the Lord have no shortage of fans and esteem! I have lived in, and travelled to a few other countries and communities; and Zimbabwe is one of the rare places where gospel artists can match the secular artists in star power with ease among the public. I mean, isn’t Mambo Dhuterere one of the biggest names to emerge in the past couple of years?
Whether it is Mai Patai winning the People’s Choice Award at the NAMAS in 2019 or Mathias Mhere casually racking up millions of views on YouTube, you may be inclined to think at least one gospel artist would break the top 20.
None did. And that’s strange.
4. No Women!?
This point, in my opinion, is more dire than the previous one, although not completely divorced from it. After all, most of the biggest female artists in Zimbabwe are also gospel musicians. Non-gospel artists, such as Mbuya Stella Chiweshe and Chioniso Maraire are beloved yesteryear greats, while the likes of Ammara Brown are popular contemporary names.
It is jarring, then, to note the absence of women entirely from the top 20. I don’t have the answers here; just wish it wasn’t the case.
5. Something Old, Something New
There is an almost even split between the artists who got their break in the 1990s, and those who broke out within the urban genres of the 21st century. For the latter, the earlier list of ZimDancehall artists is added to by Jah Prayzah, who is number one on the list, Jeys Marabini, as well as the evergreen urban groovers ExQ and Alexio Kawara. The old school folks include the deceased icons mentioned earlier (with the obvious exception of Jah Love), as well as the likes of Zakaria, Macheso, and Lovemore Majaivana.
There seems to be a healthy appreciation of the yesteryear combined with an embrace of new sounds.
6. List Mimics Zimbabwe’s Ethnic Diversity
Recent estimates place Shona-speaking Zimbabweans at 80% of the country’s population. In an almost perfect parallel, 16 out of the 20 artists (80%) sing predominantly, or at least significantly, in Shona. The other four prominently sing in Ndebele (14% of the national population.) Sizwangendaba Ncube also sings in Nambya and Tonga, Macheso and Zakaria chime in with Chichewa, while the late greats Oliver Mtukudzi and Solomon Skhuza belted out top tunes in English too, and many of the younger artists move seamlessly between Shona and English within the same song.
On the surface, the ethnic breakdown of the list appears representative. Yet with Skhuza, Majaivana, and even Marabini breaking out decades ago now, it would be nice to see a more contemporary non-Shona artist or two making a mark on these charts.
(Also, it is not lost on me that the collective “Shona” identity has its own marginalizations at play. A quick look at the list shows that there are no Mutare/Manicaland artists represented for example!)
7. The JP/Winky D Duopoly
Pac and Biggie. Prince and Michael. Thomas and Oliver.
For one reason or another, the human mind is given to creating dichotomies: a left and right; an “is” and their “isn’t.” In this generation, the definitive dichotomy has been that of Jah Prayzah/Winky D.
Arguably the two biggest artists of the past decade, the two have grown to represent dueling forces, at least among the younger people. While JP is the Uzumba-bred traditionalist Superstar who has been seen as a proxy for the government, Winky D hails from the ghetto that is Kambuzuma, is a dancehall chanter and has been branded as the “poor people’s devotee.”
In all this, it is no surprise to see that they make two of the top three spots here; with JP in first and Winky D in third, with arguably Zimbabwe’s greatest ever musician, Oliver Mtukudzi, sandwiched between them.
Long may they flourish!
Other (minor) Points:
- Was anyone else surprised to see Alexio that high up on the list? Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Alexio fan; I bought his Usazondisiya tape back in 2002, and have thoroughly enjoyed his work since. I just did not imagine that, of all the Urban Groovers emerging since the early 2000s, he would be outpaced by only ExQ on this list!
- The absence of Thomas Mapfumo is jarring. Often spoken of in debates about Zimbabwean music GOATs, it is an injustice not to see him! One suspects his criticisms of the government over the years has led to him being somewhat blacklisted on ZBC channels. And that’s a shame.
So that’s what stood out to me. What stood out to you?
TOP 20 ZIMURA ROYALTIES EARNERS LIST _ 2021
Below is the list of Zimura Top 20
1. Mukombe Mukudzei aka Jah Prayzah
2. Mtukudzi Oliver
3. Chirumiko Wallace aka Winky D
4. Munhenga Enock aka Ex Q
5. Chizanga Emegy aka Freeman
6. Kusikwenyu Kelvin aka Killer T
7. Shonai Takura Bernard aka Takura
8. Chimbetu Simon
9.Tazvivinga Dembo aka Leonard Dembo
10. Macheso Alick
11.Musaka Soul Muzavazi aka Soul Jah Love
12. Tshuma Lovemore aka Lovemore Majaivana
13.Chiwadzwa Carrington S aka Nutty O
14.Makamure Obey aka Tocky Vibes
15. Skhuza Solomon
16. Majahawodwa Ndlovu aka Jeys Marabini
17. Kawara Alexio
18. Zacharia Nicholas
19. Sizwangendaba Ncube