The Herald (Harare)

29 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Hip-Hop Influence On Zim Musicians

Photo: PSY
PSY Gangnam Style

column

THE world has gone crazy about a hip-hop song by Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy, a South Korean national, entitled "Gangnam Style". Although the millions of the music fans who have bought

the CD do not understand the language Psy is singing in, except for the part which says in English

"Hey Sexy Lady", they have disregarded that aspect because it is a rhythmic and danceable tune. Over a billion music fans throughout the world have downloaded this soundtrack from YouTube. This is hip-hop at its best.

Although this genre of music is said to have originated in America, Psy's phenomenal success has been brought about by his short stay while studying in America and following the American hip-hop trends. After all, they say originality is nothing but judicious imitation.

If a South Korean can become an instant millionaire through the influence of hip-hop music, what are the possibilities of a Zimbabwean musician achieving the same goal?

One artiste, who comes to mind straight away when we talk hip-hop is Stunner. His style of music could easily be defined as hip- hop which is a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MC-ing/rapping, DJ-ing/scratching, sampling and beat-boxing.

These elements are borrowed from American and Jamaican street culture, although Zimbabweand hip-hop is mainly composed of Shona lyrics.

Hip-hop music is a music genre which embraces rap music. It is a music genre consisting of a stylised rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rhythmic and rhyming lyrics that is chanted.

In Jamaica the chanting is referred to as "toasting". The term hip-hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music.

Although rapping is not a required component of hip-hop music; the genre may also incorporate other elements of the hip-hop, including DJ-ing and scratching, beat boxing, and just instrumental tracks.

The first American artistes to be associated with viewers are in for a treat.

Hip-hop music were bands such as Africa Bambaata, Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and Rappers' Delight.

It is believed that Keith Cowboy, lead singer with Grandmaster Flash, created the term hip-hop while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army by scat singing the words: "hip-hop-hip-hop" to mimic the rhythmic cadence of soldiers marching and it became part of his stage performance.

The hip-hop culture eventually spread to artistes like M.C. Hammer, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg and later 50 Cent and Kanye West.

Many so-called urban groovers and dancehall artistes in Zimbabwe fall in the category of hip-hop. The music coming out of stars like Winky D, Nasty Trix, Sniper Storm, Roki, Tehn Diamond, Junior Brown and Maskiri can easily be described as hip-hop.

The question is: Can these artistes take hip-hop to such dizzy heights as the one reached by Psy? Does Zimbabwean hip-hop have space internationally?

It is argued that the roots of rapping are found in African American music and ultimately African music particularly that of the griots of West African culture.

The African-American traditions of signifying the dozens, and jazz poetry all influence hip-hop music, as well as the call and response patterns of African and African-American religious ceremonies.

Soul singer James Brown is undoubtedly "the godfather" of hip-hop music.

New York City experienced a heavy Jamaican hip-hop influence during the 1990s.

This influence was brought on by cultural shifts particularly because of the heightened immigration of Jamaicans to New York City and the American-born Jamaican youths who were coming of age during the 1990s.

Prior to the 1980s, hip-hop music was largely confined within the context of the United States.

However, during the 1980s, it began its spread and became a part of the music scene in dozens of countries. Zimbabwe was no exception.

Zimbabwean musicians have always loved to imitate music coming from America starting with rock from Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and Led Zepelin in the 1970s, Soul music from Otis Redding, Arthur Conley and Percy Sledge to rap music by modern day hip-hop artistes such as Jay-Z.

Zimbabwean dancehall artistes and urban groovers in their effort to imitate Jamaican and American artistes have come up with their own version of what can be loosely termed as hip-hop.

In America, the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West became international artistes who spread hip-hop to other countries. Radio in Zimbabwe plays this hip-hop music non-stop.

Local musicians also play this type of music thinking that this is what the people want.

The musicians sometimes simply take the tune as it is, then "translate" the lyrics into Shona rhymes and call it original music as was done in Wyclef Jean's "Perfect Gentleman" song which changed to:

Amai VaLeopodo,

Vakatora Poto,

Ndokuenda kwa Mutoko, etc

However, despite the decline in this music genre of late, there is great potential in Zimbabwean musicians taking hip-hop music to international levels.

Psy has already shown us that language is not a barrier. As long as there are elements of stylised rhythmic beats in the music, we can conquer the world.

Feedback: f_zindi@hotmail.com

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