Time to harvest the low-hanging fruit in Zimbabwe

Music | By Henry Makiwa, Journalist | 23 June 2013
PHOTO: © Henry Makiwa

THIS time last year, our agency, The Peoples Hub had been engaged to cater media and publicity work for a modelling event in central London. I was covering the gig when I ran into a young man whom I immensely admire, and had been conferred the guest of honour status for the show. He wasn’t staying long, he told me, as he had to fly to Harare the following day for a “very important festival”.

His name is Akala, and the “very important festival” the famed and award-winning British rapper-cum-poet was referring to, was the inaugural 2011 Shoko International Spoken Word and Hip Hop Festival in Harare.

I bear a conflicting bitter-sweet cocktail, of exciting yet forlorn emotions as I write from my London base again this year, knowing the fete has once again come and gone, and I was M.I .A.
A month on, reviews of the show have been all things glowing, positive and sparkling. Shoko has become a barometer of the Zimbabwean underground art movement; and a yardstick of social trends.

It is of course not the be-all and all unit measurement of the atmosphere, but it grunts a genuine shout now which makes it a major highlight on most Hararians’ calendars. Needless to say, watching all these developments a pond away makes my heart ache indeed.

Virtual tune in
Thankfully, because of the World Wide Web, I believe I have made a decent job at keeping myself up to speed with the frenetic elaborations in the music, art and fashion orbs of Zimbabwe.
In the past year I have seen colleagues, friends and family grow and thrive in their respective creative disciplines and genres.
Some of the most exciting proponents of this new-age Zimbabwean social movement include the hip hop music producer Kuadakwashe “Begotten Sun” Musasiwa and his protégé, rapper Synik; the clothing lines Povo Afrika and Guerilla State *f Mind (GSM), the Afro-Jazz musicians Victor Kunonga and Edith WeUtonga; and the comedian Carl Joshua Ncube.

Low hanging fruit
There’s much hope and expectation invested in these entities by their contemporaries already. Between themselves, POVO and GSM have clothed some of the shining stars being churned off the Zimbabwean conveyer belt, including Ncube, pop stars, Bkay and Kazz; and the superstar rapper, Tendai “Baba” Maraire of the US group, Shabazz Palaces.
Rising lyricist Synik on the other hand, recently launched his debut album, Syn City, fronted by Africa’s first ever 3D hip hop video. He has since toured South Africa and headlined Shoko. Another rapper, mUnetsi – who is also clothed by Povo, finally dropped his first international release, the monster hit EP, Chaminuka: Zimbabwe Superhero.
Great things are expected of Carl Joshua Ncube. Last week, he put up a farewell show in Harare ahead of a three months tour of the US.
WeUtonga and Kunonga meanwhile are reinventing the cool and jazz of Harare. Both have in the past year toured the region extensively, with WeUtonga in particular receiving rave reviews when she stopped over in Kampala, Uganda.

There is excitement in the air, and enough proof to back the premise of growth in the Zimbabwean industry. It’s been a massively self-funded organic germination, but the harvest season is beckoning indeed!