Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Zimbabwe crumbles, yet the music plays on
Well blow me down with a feather duster…. I got back to Zimbabwe and there it was…the extra nought. Perhaps at this point to talk of survival is almost too abstract , the facts on the ground are alarming.
It has gone stir crazy - just last Friday the price of petrol went up 4 times in a day at one service station - at the end of the day it was 50% more expensive than the start. Prices are changing as I write so to give too many examples would be worthless as they will be out of date before you can say “so how does the ‘simply add a nought’ school of economics work?”
I bought some CD’s for stock last week because the price was going up 50% the next day, the same amount it went up the week before and the week before that too. But I was lucky, they went up a further 80% this week.
Bracing for increases is a daily thing, there needs to be a move towards paying everybody daily - money needs to be disposable, spending what you have has become the order of the day.
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to guess who is being seriously affected - the poorly paid artist of course but still, the show goes on.
All the talk locally is about the upcoming album from the king of Sungura music - Alick “Razor” Macheso.
This particular style of Zimbabwean music is the “working man’s music”. You will hear it at every bottle store, and shopping centre and in the minibuses and on the radios all day, all over Zimbabwe.
The style was adopted shortly after independence in the ‘80’s and the groove appears to have been imported from Congo and Malawi, although the lyrics are all in Shona (and mostly proverbs) - it was the new style of music for a new era in the post independent country and was rapidly popularized by the likes of the late Simon “Chopper” Chimbetu and Leonard Dembo.
With it’s constant bass drum beat, chattering hi-hats and snazzy rolls, and rapid fire guitars; the music is characterized by a 4-5 minute introduction where the lyrics are introduced with the riff going along; thereafter there is a further 6-10 minutes of guitar/bass/drum lead section - during which time the dancing happens.
The groups normally comprise 2 or 3 lead/rhythm guitars, bass guitar, drums, lead singer, 2 backing singers and perhaps 3 dancers who have there own particular style of dress and hairstyle (sometimes bleached and with ‘nicks’ in their eyebrows). They lead the audience with the dance routines. The most popular dances are the “Borrowdale” (named after the local horse racing track where they imitate a horse running) and an offshoot “Razor” dance (something to do with barbed wire) - both of these have been made popular by Alick Macheso and both involve some natty footwork and body movement.
So to the new album… when Alick releases it is expected to sell hundreds of thousands of units - with a large portion of sales being made up of cassettes -still popular in households throughout the country. Every member of a family would want to own an Alick album so all ears are tuned to the new release which, for the first time , he has had recorded in South Africa and will be accompanied by a DVD.
This guy appeals to a legion of fans and his shows are a real blast. There are 2 launch gigs set for the coming 2 weekends - I will let you know how they go.
That’s the word from the Zimbabwe music scene - until next time gotta go I feel another “nought’ coming