8 June 2018

Zimbabwe: Is Language Really Barricading Zimdancehall From Going International?

For close to a decade now, our Zimbabwean airwaves have been bombarded by 'tune after tune' from the Zimdancehall genre( that is if its a genre anywhere), with almost a new song being released on a daily basis.

The predominantly, youthful type of music has, however, suffered a stillbirth as it seems to be dying before maturing and being played, at least regionally.

The only other time that Zimdancehall has seen the shores of the international world was when Winky D's Disappear was played on Trace TV and Channel O channels.

Oh, there have been a few occurrences where the likes of Jah Love and Killer T have been lucky enough to find their way on the international TV channels.

Where am I going with this?

Weeks ago, I read an article in the Sunday Mail of 13 May which read, 'Hifa exposes Winky D,' citing language barrier as the main hindrance of Zimdancehall flourishing to none-Shona speaking people beyond our borders.

However, after looking at a person like Tanzanian superstar, Diamond Platnumz who first shot to fame all across Africa without at least one English song, I wondered...

How did language barriers fail from stopping Platnumz's music reaching countless households and street corners of the universe?

Or, how is he connecting with his worldwide fans as most of his songs are predominantly in Swahili?

The truth of the matter is, before language becomes a barrier to stardom, it is poor productions and little to no creativity that prevents these local chanters from going global.

Just as the old saying, "cream always rises to the top." Cream unconditionally finds its way on top, it negotiates around boundaries and barricades until the destination is reached - the top!

Zimdancehall is just not good enough and not yet ripe for an international podium, rather, continental at least.

If it were, the genre's artists would be attracting regional and international attention for collaborations.

Instead, after hustling a quickie song collaboration with an international musician who would have been invited in the country for a show. The day that artist boards a plane back to their homeland is when the relationship ends. We never hear of them following up to invite Zimdancehall chanters to their country - why it so?

Do they not see the quality in our musicians?

The song 'Despacito' by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee which was sung in Spanish, became a sing along to English speakers and currently is sitting on over five billion views on YouTube. If language was that much of a barrier, how did the Ndebele and Shona tap their feet in a sing along to it?

If language is really a barrier, there are many creative ways of navigating around it. For example, a music video in Shona can be subtitled with English text on the screen.

Lately Diamond has been doing it in his Swahili songs, our artists can as well.


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