the story behind Zimdancehall…

Zimdancehall is a sub-genre of reggae and dancehall music from Zimbabwe. It started in the late 1980’s with the rising up of local “chanters” like Culture T, Allan Ranks and Dudz to rap on riddims imitating their Jamaican icons at the same time creating their own style. In the 90s as dancehall took over with artists like Tiger, Shabba Supercat, and Ninja began to emerge with the likes of Major E,Rassie Ai, Booker T and Smylie dominating the sound systems. Startime Supa Power were the first sound system to push most of these artists to record their songs. The popularity of these recordings led to more studio recordings. The biggest achievement was by Culture T with the band Transit Crew releasing top selling albums and toured Europe. By the end of the 90s, a number of local youths were recording singles and albums independently and reggae bands like Cruxial Mix (Trevor Hall) & Black Roots holding regular weekly shows to showcase various artists like Potato, Daddy Ray, Ijah son, Jnr Banton, Slaggy Yout, Bobo Markos, Desert Eagle, Sanchez and more. The genre was always cast as a copy cat of Jamaican culture and way of life so it was never taken seriously and recording studios shunned it saying it does sell. The emergence of independent studios and the arrival of urban grooves in 2001 opened up the doors for many artists with the release of many various artists albums which paved the way for artists like Trinta and Sniper Storm. Sniper Storm went on to release the album ‘Ndakabata Mic’ in 2004 a hardcore dancehall album. What really separated this album from its predecessors was the fact that all its lyrics were in Shona and not English which proved really popular with the people creating a new direction for the genre.

2005 saw the rise of Winky D -arguably the most decorated artist in the genre- who released hit track after track . In 2006 another artist Slaggy Youth who was now based in the UK renamed it to Zimdancehall after creating the first website dedicated to promoting the genre. This was the start of the movement and it was a period when Zimbabwe was going through a rough time with political and economic sanctions and most artists could not afford or gain access to the Internet. In light of this, another artist based in Zimbabwe Mad Fisher had to personally collect tracks from artists and post them to the UK or upload in Internet cafes with funding from the website. The website popularized the Zimdancehall genre as at that time none of the artists were getting any airplay whatsoever and promoters did not even bother to book and market the artists. It was individual promoters like Godfatha Templeman, Simmad and Silverstone Sound who arranged shows in the ghetto. At the present moment, it has taken over the country and the region to a certain level with present chanters like Sniper Storm, Winky D,  Quonfused, rollerg, Seh Calaz, Soul Jah Love, Killer T and others. This includes new mix tapes from sounds like black scorpion soundz based in Mutare, Judgement Yard,South African based DJ Travella and Festbwon Productions  Harare based. Other cities like Gweru Mkoba are also grooming youths through Eric Muzvidziwa and others. Producers include Sunshine family,Real Sound Records, Magweja, Ice and Roses,Chillspot,Cashlibs,Bodyslam, Soundmind; Zimtach Records;  and the long established Vigilance among others.

It is the stronghold of Zimbabwean music as of now with its listeners consisting of both the young and old. It has taken almost 60 percent of Zimbabwean radio airplay.


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