Has sungura lost its steam?

As the curtain closes down on the 2013 musical calendar, the local music landscape has experienced a dramatic turn of events, with musicians battling for supremacy in the highly competitive industry.

The face of Sungura, Alick Macheso’s has experienced one of the most unproductive year in his music career that has taken a toll on his respective genre.
The face of Sungura, Alick Macheso’s has experienced one of the most unproductive year in his music career that has taken a toll on his respective genre.

The year witnessed an array of promising artists hogging the limelight with acts that seemed to signal a promising career ahead of them. This trend has resulted in a host of genres resurfacing to claim dominion of the local music industry – among them dendera, contemporary and dancehall music.

Most interesting is the fact that this has come at a cost to sungura music, which, over the years, has been regarded as the most dominant musical style in the country.

Though the landscape previously found room for chimurenga, gospel, mbira, jiti, kanindo, rhumba, urban grooves and more, sungura withstood changing tastes.

In fact, the genre dominated most facets of the showbiz industry in the country – from national awards to live shows, from airplay to media coverage – and meant fat pay cheques for its stars.

However, 2013 has not been a fruitful year for sungura. The style took a backseat, while other genres took to the podium.

Alick ‘Baba Shar’ Macheso, the self-proclaimed king of sungura experienced an unproductive season following the release of his latest offering Kwatakabva Mitunhu (Kure Kwekure).

The album received a lukewarm reception and was heavily criticised by music commentators, analysis who argued that it signalled the end of the Macheso era. Macheso’s downfall will technically result in the downfall of the genre, as there is no obvious successor.

Though Extra Kwazvose, a newly formed group made up of former Macheso band members, have what it takes to lift sungura to another level, their current offering has failed to cut them a slice of the cake in the mainstream music circles.

The sungura atmosphere was first dampened by the departure of the late legendary music icon Tongai ‘Dhewa’ Moyo in 2011.

Though Dhewa’s son, Peter, took over as the Utakataka Express frontman, his debut and disappointing album showed that the Samanyemba hitmaker’s shoes were too big to fill.

While sungura took a nose-dive, dendera rose to prominence through its new ambassador, Sulumani Chimbetu, of the hit album Syllabus.

Contemporary and creative artist Jah Prayzah also stood his ground to claim his position through his latest offering, Tsviriyo, complemented by a DVD album.

Not to be outdone is dancehall music, which also rose to the occasion. The genre, which was once dominated by Winky D, has witnessed a cocktail of promising artists belting out hit tracks such as Waya Waya by Shinsoman, Ita Seunononga = by Guspy Warrior, DairaiDairai by Dadza D and Freeman’s Miss Mash Central.

Though Sulu and Jah Prayzah might have achieved a lot, it should be noted that they represent different genres. And, other than Sulu, who has been very successful in his musical career, the same there’s little to suggest dominance by Tryson, Allan or Douglas Chimbetu.

Jah Prayzah is one of the few known contemporary artists in the mainstream music scene against a long list of dancehall acts hogging the limelight.

For the first time, dancehall acts have also performed at the Chipaz Promotions 2013 Shutdown Gig, which used to be biased towards sungura.

While it is evident that Sungura played second fiddle in 2013, the big question is whether it will bounce back. Does it still has enough steam to reclaim its position or it will go down in history as the once mighty genre?

Prolific urban music producer Joe Machingura of Heshi Mfeshi is of the view that Sungura has lost its steam.

However, Machingura hastened to point out that the sungura sound would remain for generations to come.

“There is no doubt that sungura has taken a backseat this year and, in my view, dancehall is the most prominent genre at the moment. The genre has the greatest number of acts who have released hits this year. Their dominion is largely because people grow with their genre of choice.

“In this case, the youngsters who used to listen to dancehall decades back are now grown and can afford to buy the music, to attend the shows and some of them are now in strategic positions such as radio DJs and they tend to give prominence to their sound,” he said.

“If you look at the age group that used to listen to Tuku (Oliver Mtukudzi), its no longer as big as it was back then. However, I’m not saying sungura is dead because sound always revolves. It won’t be surprising to see that hip hop will be dominant in years to come because there is a movement of youngsters who listen to this genre.

“In a nutshell, sungura will continue to be there, but at the moment it has been overtaken by dancehall,” said Machingura.

The University of Zimbabwe music lecturer and columnist Fred Zindi is of the view that sungura is still dominant.

Though Zindi acknowledged that sungura had lost its touch in the urban areas, he argued that it still enjoys prominence it its rural strongholds.

“In my opinion, sungura is still the dominant musical force in Zimbabwe, especially in the rural areas. Do not forget that the majority of Zimbabweans live in the rural areas where dancehall groups hardly visit. There is however, more prominence of dancehall music in cities such as Harare and Chitungwiza,” he said.

“I do not think that dancehall will overtake sungura, as many mature people do not identify with it. How many over-40s have you heard singing Waya Waya or Ita Seunononga? This is dancehall. It is fast and exciting to younger people. That is material for youngsters,” he added.

Zindi further argued that “dancehall is a new genre of popular music – a more sparse version of reggae. It is characterised by faster rhythms, which are mainly due to digital instrumentation from computers. Sometimes the music is spiced up with offensive lyrics and young people love that”.

Post published in: Entertainment

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