Harare — APPRECIATION of first-class art, music included, is a question of perception and taste.
Winky D is regarded by followers of urban grooves and ragga music genres as one of Zimbabwe's most-talented ragga or dancehall artistes and they argue that he is powerful on lyrics and style of presentation.
Born Wallace Chirumiko in Harare, the 26-year-old artiste popularly known as Winky D or Big Man rose to fame on the Luckspin Riddim in 2004 with the track "MuRasta" from his debut album "War".
Winky D's music and artistic expressions have, however, always courted controversy since his lyrics are described as coarse, vulgar and offensive. Not only do the lyrics promote violent tendencies, but they also seem to encourage rudeness and general bad behaviour.
In some of the lyrics, the artiste displays a penchant to resolve personal conflicts with adversaries in the industry by violent means.One who commented on condition of anonymity said: "The violence in Winky D's music is too explicit and so obvious. Why do they also prefer Western genres?"
But Winky D explained as follows: "It's not that I am promoting violence, but through my lyrics, I am looking for a solution to the violence that is inherent in our society . Violence, as you know, is a system already entrenched in our ghettoes.
"I am saying through my lyrics that people should sit down, introspect and find a proper way to deal with violence, which is a self-defence."
The general conclusion arrived at is that this is a major weakness on Winky D's part because it reveals that the artiste seems incapable of handling competition. Internationally-recognised superstars like Oliver Mtukudzi and Dr Thomas Mapfumo have achieved fame and fortune without denigrating the other.
This writer analysed content of more than 20 tracks of Winky D's compositions and the conclusion was that all the lyrics are nothing, but clear proponents of violence especially among young people, who might lack the capacity to make objective judgment.
The first song that prompted this analysis and played in a public space a commuter omnibus and not dancehall had the following lyrics:
Handei Rasta (Rastafaris, come, let's go)
Tindopisa mapastor (And burn pastors)
Tindopisa mafata (And burn (Catholic) priests)
Tindopisa ngochani (And burn homosexuals)
It was followed by:
Anoda kundipisa ini ndinopisa (If anyone wants to burn me, I will burn them as well).
In fact, there is so much "fire" and "burning" in the artiste's music, where the burning of opponents seems to consume his creative passion, and one wonders why he loves to use fire or burning as weapons:
Ndinokupisa chidodo kunge mbaura
Ndiri muninja ndati bodo
Aya maoko hadzisi nhodo . . .
Although Winky D claims that he is the undisputed Big Man of dancehall music (Ndiri gamba, vamwe vese zvigamba), his lyrics betray an insecure personal trait.
We question where the artistic growth and development are if time is spent playing in the same ring just hitting back at adversaries?
Where also are the artistic values that should encapsulate the nation's cultural, socio-political, economic and spiritual values values that should distinguish us as Zimbabweans, and not copycats of other nationalities?
Why should the vulgarity that characterises most of American hip-hop music be part of Zimbabwe's musical genres?Urban grooves, of which dancehall is a by-product, is full of the Winky D type of music.
Has the noble 75 percent local content stipulation, therefore, produced reckless and irresponsible musicians who will "sing" anything for the sake of it"?
Has it also resulted in a musical culture among youths whereby young artistes are accorded unfettered freedom to be creative, but fail to rise to the occasion and abuse that responsibility by indulging in crudeness, sometimes with explicit sexual connotations?
On several occasions, Winky D has defended his lyrics. In 2007, he argued that people should first understand the music, what he is talking about for them to appreciate the values contained therein.
However, many entertainment analysts and listeners are in total agreement about the violent content in the artiste's music, violence, which they argue is not even couched in metaphors.
Winky D gets a fair amount of airplay. It also raises questions on how seriously people take their personal freedoms and the attendant responsibilities.
We should, thus, question the appropriateness of his music in such an environment. Could his music also be used to promote Government's national healing and reconciliation policy?
Another important element is that artistes by their very nature are influential people and their lifestyles have a major impact in the public sphere. Some people, mostly youths, have tragically died or caused untold harm and suffering after listening to music or after watching movies.
For example, during the 1994 Rwandan genocide that claimed close to a million lives, some radio disc jockeys were implicated for inciting the violence through the music they played.
Winky D as a public personality should, therefore, realise that the road to fame calls for immense sacrifices and responsible behaviour.
Recent actions taken against him and Sniper at the Zimfest festival in the UK should serve as lessons not to take people for granted. Winky D describes his music as good. However, on a number of occasions the media has questioned him on his lyrics, especially the contentious issue that they promote hate speech and violence.
In February this year, he said he wanted to focus on real-life issues affecting ghetto people. "My focus at the moment is to continue speaking about and on behalf (of the people). "My art confronts whatever affronts the fundamentals of life.
"The rhymes and ghetto lingo expressed in the lyrics are the elements responsible for the endearment of dancehall as a category pertinent to the dear life and enjoyment of the populace," he said.
Winky D also argues: "I have remained devoted to the plight and aspirations of poor people. My tone and the message in my lyrics will not succumb to petty rivals or backbiting by other artistes. I will continue striking the international string within my music and will remain a professional artiste."
He also wore the violence tag from the time he entered the music scene. "It's like my music voices out what people are thinking and are living in society," he said.
Last year, his manager Jonathan Banda maintained that Winky D's music "is about African identity that cannot be mistaken or taken away from us". Is Banda saying the violence motif is characteristic of African people?
We do not know how many people out there believe in violence as a form of conflict resolution. How many people would approve of using fire or, worse still, resort to burning as a way of settling scores? Fire has too many negative connotations: pain; discomfort, destruction, hurt, anger and ruin.
Winky D also claims that he is a Rastafari, and others call him a "Gangsta Ras". If indeed he is, is his music a perversion of the Rastafari philosophy with its promotion of violence? Does he understand the principles enshrined in the Rastafari philosophy?
Are Rastas generally violent? His portrayal of Rastas does not reflect the monumental work done by legendary musicians like Bob Marley or Lucky Dube whose songs of love, even under difficult conditions, are the hallmark of humanity.
According to sources, Bob Marley argued that violence was always the last resort as the opposite to violence: "I wanna tell ya, if them want to win the revolution, them have to win it with Rasta." The moderator of the discussion forum said: "Although the current crisis within Rastafari over the use of the 'Gangsta Ras' image has been problematic, the controversy surrounding the issue has been exacerbated by the passing of the "generational baton . . . the struggle over the symbols of Rastafari is of enormous interest particularly as it relates to the use of violence or violent images in Jamaica. For while the emergence of 'Gangsta Ras' is disturbing, it would be disingenuous to ignore because Rastafari was born out of violence".
The allure of the violence motif in the Rastafari philosophy has been blamed partly on the "commercial success of hip-hop culture's glamourisation of violence and mainstream American media's inability to deliver hardcore sex, so it delivers hardcore violence".
Jah Titus wrote: "As Lutan Fyah says, 'Wi ah Rasta; Wi nuh Gangsta. Wi ah fighting for equal rights'." INI is peaceful ones not gangsta but that no mean Rasta's is pushovers either.
It is also pertinent to ask the residents of Kambuzuma where Winky D hails from the people on whose behalf he says he speaks, how many developmental initiatives he has made, or it is art for art's sake? In fact, he portrays a negative picture of high-density suburbs in a song "Siyana Nesu Vekurokesheni".
How also can he refuse the violence motif when he sings:
Ndinonzi Winky, ndinokudhaya,
Bata muromo zvibhakera zvingangonaya,
Ndakatanga undururani ndiri jaya?
In the song, he claims that violence has been a part of his lifestyle from a tender age and he claims that artistes like Jah B and Major E and American wrestlers like John Cena influenced him.
Last week, a jury of his own peers in the UK delivered a "guilty" verdict on his musical content. It was not possible to get Winky D's response since he was still in the UK at the time of writing.