Seven Artists to Hear from Zimbabwe

Featured on the British Council Website, written by F Ncube and A Bratt

What do we need to know about Zimbabwe’s music scene?

The modern music scene in Zimbabwe goes back a long way, with singers like Mbuya Stella Chiweshe and Thomas Mapfumo, who contributed to the invention of the powerful Chimurenga genre of music.

The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) has held annual six-day events since 1999, featuring musicians, dancers, performers, writers and poets from across Africa and the world. Performers use traditional instruments like drums, mbira, marimba and congas. Chimurenga, which mixes traditional African instruments with electric guitars and bass, is also popular.

In the 90s and 00s, the music scene started to diversify, influenced by rap and reggae. One notable sound is Zimdancehall, which rides on ‘riddims’, imitating Jamaican style. Another popular sound is Afropop (African popular music), building on European and American pop music.

Dr Oliver Mtukudzi

Known by his many fans as ‘Tuku’, Dr Oliver Mtukudzi is the co-founder of the pan-African band ‘Mahube’. Tuku’s 60 albums are characterised by gentle, insistent rhythms and the meshing together of electric guitar, bass and traditional instruments like the mbira (a plucked metal percussion instrument) – known as ‘Tuku music’.

He sings in Shona, English and Ndebele languages. In the year of his 60th birthday, he released the album ‘Sarawoga’ (meaning ‘left alone’), dedicated to his son who died in a car crash.

Key track: Wasakara

Hope Masike

Hope Masike blends traditional Zimbabwean music with jazz and Afropop. She is a skilled mbira player, who has collaborated with Malian superstar Salif Keita in Harare as well as UK-based band the Noisettes.

Hope has toured extensively in Norway and collaborated with Scandinavian-African fusion band Monoswezi, whose members come from Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe. Her song ‘The Land’, from her self-titled debut album was the theme song for the 2014 African Leaders Summit in Harare.

Key track: Tingwarire

Douglas Vambe

Douglas Vambe started playing the drums as a child in the Magunje village of Uzumba in Eastern Zimbabwe. He travelled to Harare as a young man in search of work, forming the band Murehwa Uzumba Number One Jerusarema, who were spotted rehearsing by the (then) Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation recorded them for the theme tune that has announced national news bulletins on the (now) Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) since 1962.

Douglas popularised the Mbende beat, which, with its accompanying dance moves, is regarded as a symbol of fertility, sexuality and family.

Key track: ZBC theme tune

DJ RayDizz

Known as RayDizz, Rayhaan Jassat started DJing while he was studying in the UK. He carried crates of records for his more established friends, eventually performing at house parties and small clubs – and later at the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London.

RayDizz won the national Battle of the DJs in 2011 in Zimbabwe, spinning a blend of Soca, Afropop, Techno, EDM and ZimDancehall. He also hosts live shows on his Instagram and Facebook pages, uncovering young Zimbabwean talent.

Key track: RayDizz Miller SoundClash

Ammara Brown

Ammara Brown is a multi-award-winning singer, instrumentalist, dancer and songwriter. She’s known for her Afropop dance anthem ‘Mafaro’ and chart-topping love song ‘Kure Kure’ with Jah Prayzah in 2014.

Ammara studied the mbira with a Zimbabwean musician, the late Chiwoniso Maraire. She joined Andy Brown’s band The Storm at 14 and was writing for radio by the age of 20.

Key track: Kure Kure

Jah Prayzah

Mukudzeyi Mukombe, aka Jah Prayzah, is known by his fans as ‘Musoja’, which is Shona for ‘the soldier’, because of his love of military regalia, apparently inspired by a childhood dream of becoming a soldier.

Musojah became the first Zimbabwean to win an MTV African Music Award in 2016. His ZimDancehall collaborations with Nigerian megastar Davido and bongo flava (i.e., Tanzanian hip hop) artist Diamond Platnumz give a sense of the music that is exciting young Zimbabweans at the moment.

Key track: Jah Prayzah ft. Diamond Platnumz – Watora Mari

Soul Jah Love

Soul Jah Love represents the most popular of the Zimbabwean music scene rising from the 90s. He is a creative singer with a crossover appeal, incorporating Zimdancehall from Sungura, hip-hop, rhumba, RnB and gospel. He is known for signature chants ‘Chibabababa’, ‘Hauite Hauite’ and ‘Conquering Family’ that have now become part of everyday language.

Key track: Pamamonya Ipapo

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