HomeOpinionWill Zim produce another international superstar?

Will Zim produce another international superstar?

DEEP into his live performances, Oliver Mtukudzi or simply Tuku, as he was affectionately known by his fans, would swing away his guitar to the side and get to the dance floor.

With the guitar swaying by his hips and the sounds of the drums perforating the stage, he would establish an unbreakable connection with his fans, no matter which place on the globe it was.

He was at home with his undiluted beat whether it was in Kobenhavn, Denmark; Cape Town, South Africa; or even in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Tuku music remained Tuku music no matter where it was played right until his demise and even now, from the grave, he owns that beat.

Arguably, only one other Zimbabwean artiste has reached those levels. Holding the microphone with both his hands, with a wide smile on his face revealing the small gap between his teeth, who could forget the euphoric moments when the whole show venue would start reverberating with chants of “Mukanya woye!” 

Or how he would get everyone onto the dance floor just as the guitars started strumming his all-time hit Nyoka Musango. The Chimurenga music genre is undeniably a product of Thomas Mapfumo, his fans across the globe identify it with him and he has kept it to a very large extent, scintillating over the years.

These two artistes, Tuku and Mukanya, have set the bar high in as far as Zimbabwean music is concerned on a global stage. They have been original and authentic.  A lot of musicians have struggled to scale these stratospheric levels these two legends have set.

If there were ever to be a Hall of Fame of Zimbabwean musicians who have made it on the international scene to earn the superstar status, that Hall would be sparsely populated.

There have been very few Zimbabwean artistes who have been able to perfect their local beat undiluted and have it accepted in faraway lands to earn the accolade of being termed Zimbabwean music superstars.

Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo can rightly claim their seats in the Hall of fame, their music is unique and has that Zimbabwean feel so much so that even when played to a packed foreign audience who cannot understand a word being said, they can appreciate it and dance to the universal language called music.

The Bhundu Boys could have been in the Hall of fame too, their light flicked but unfortunately faltered with time as their music was diluted by foreign influences.

They had the talent, they had the stage set out for them but their personal demons and constant struggles upset the cart for them. Their time in the sun reached a nadir they never recovered from when they attempted to remix their classic hits such as Nhai Mukoma Wangu into English songs (African woman).

Their music started lacking an identity, and as such they lost out and had the lights switched off after the carpet had already been rolled out for them just as they were set to acclaim glory on the world scene.

The lack of musical identity has been the Achilles heel for most local artists who have tried to get their music global. Most current artists lack originality and fail to develop a beat that is peculiar to themselves. Their music lacks authenticity as it is a tapestry of eclectic genres.

Granted, there is no shortage of musical talent in the country. There are youngsters, and not so young musicians who sit on superfluous talent that is sadly seeing the years go by without having made much of an impact.

It is one thing to have a fly-by-night hit song, but it is certainly another to have songs that can withstand the test of time and cross geographical barriers and go global.

Up to this day, a lot of Zimbabweans reminisce with pride how the Zimbabwean song Chitekete by Leonard Dembo was once played out at a Miss World event beamed to the whole world almost 30 years ago!

This is the sort of music that as the golden generation of Tuku and Mukanya bows out to time, Zimbabwe yearns to have come up again. We need musicians who can fill up the boots of the legends. There are hardly any current musicians with prospects that could eclipse the achievements of the yester-year musicians.

Today’s musicians are so engrossed with achieving overnight success that they have literally thrown away their musical identity and originality in order to gel in with music that is currently topping the views of YouTube.

Although in the short term, it might be commercially viable, it is just brutum fulmen, emptynoise lacking substance. In the long run, the views will run out and there will not be any musical legacy left for future generations to identify with on the sounds of home.

There is probably no greater feeling one has in identifying with their home music than hearing it being played in far-away lands. To hear a Zimbabwean song being played by a radio station thousands of kilometres away from the motherland or to have it playing in a restaurant devoid of any Zimbabweans invokes a silent feeling of happiness that makes one almost stand up and shout to everyone listening that they know the artist singing and speak their native language.

Unfortunately, the quality of music being produced by Zimbabwean artists might literally not run the distance in the long term. We are at risk of having music by our local artists only appealing to Zimbabwean nationals for a brief moment and not creating lasting memories. It is unable to transcend national borders.

The target market for most musicians has been the millennial generation and they have tried to produce music that would appeal to these youngsters.

However, the millennials might enjoy it, but that might not translate into commercial success because of music sharing applications that are now abundant. They will also not remain young forever. It still is the old guard that buys music!

This does not imply that currently the music scene is totally devoid of musicians who can smash it on the global scale. Jah Prayzah has the talent and the voice.

However, he probably needs to realise that what catapulted him to fame were not the collaborations with foreign artistes in a foreign beat. Nor was it the experiments with new genres of music.

He is at home playing beats in his native tunes, singing his heart out in his pure undiluted African music. This is what brought him to the limelight and this is what will push him up further.

I have no qualms with him trying out other musical influences but I have to admit that whenever he does so, he loses his identity. The moment he resets his music, identifies what kind of music he plays, probably brands it then he has greater prospects of having his name written in the stars of Zimbabwean greats for all eternity.

Another exciting prospect who could make it big on the world stage is Feli Nandi. She plays some beautiful music that touches the soul. For as long as she can keep a cool head she is definitely destined for great success.

Zimbabwe has great musicians in these two examples and possibly a lot more raw unpolished diamonds that have not yet come to the fore.

All they need is to have mentorship and a guiding hand from the old hands. The old hands in the music business like Fred Zindi, Mono Mukundu , Albert Nyathi and others know the pitfalls of the music business.

They can possibly steer away the careers of these emerging musicians from the precipices of the music industry and help catapult them to glory!

  • Nyakufuya  ex-banker who is now into business.

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