ZimDancehall: The Voice of Zimbabwe’s YouthMixologi traveled to Zimbabwe, a country that has long since identified with the island of Jamaica. Most point to Bob Marley’s visit in 1980 as the pivotal moment that they embraced the Jamaican music and culture. Recently, however, young Zimbabweans, faced with high unemployment and poverty, have re-imagined this love affair into a new localized brand of Dancehall. During our trip, we experienced firsthand the rise of a new global music phenomenon.

Posted by Mixologi on Monday, April 11, 2016

Zimbabwe has long since identified with the island of Jamaica. Most point to Bob Marley’s visit in 1980—and his subsequent musical tribute to the Zimbabwean people’s fight for independence on his album, “Survival,”—as the pivotal moment that Zimbabwe embraced the music and culture. Soon after, local established artists, such as Thomas Mapfumo, as well as new up-and-comers began gravitating towards the reggae sound and incorporating it into their recordings.

This sentiment continued throughout the 1990s and early 2000s when mobile dancehall sounds systems ruled the streets of Harare, playing the latest hits from the likes of Capleton and Sizzla.

In 2012, a distinctly localized, Shona-infused version of Dancehall (otherwise known as ZimDancehall) broke through the mainstream and completely took over the airwaves and nightclubs of Zimbabwe.   For years, the music was strictly an underground movement, relegated solely as the soundtrack for ghetto youth hailing from the high-density impoverished suburbs in and around Harare.

However, everything changed when the government mandated all radio stations to feature a majority of local music on their playlists. Scrambling for content, and adhering reluctantly to the growing demand by young fans, radio deejays had no choice but to turn their attention to this locally bred urban sound.

Like it’s Jamaican predecessor, elders and conservatives often view ZimDancehall as crude, misogynistic, and violent. However, fans are quick to point out that this is a shortsighted view of the genre, which they say often speaks about the harsh realities of poverty and ghetto life. As such, ZimDancehall artists have a commanding influence over Zimbabwean youth, coming in second only to the country’s aging political class.