Where Van Damme and Zhakata meet!

Bruce Ndlovu
CHANCES are that if you were in any of the popular night spots in Zimbabwe you would not have heard Leonard Zhakata’s Madam Boss belted out of the speakers.

Chances are also that if you were in the hot and happening joints in South Africa or Bulawayo, where South African music is still a staple, you would not have heard Mroza’s Van Damme being belted out to its full maskandi glory.

For the past few months, hits like Jah Prayzah’s award winning Watora Mari and Winky D’s Panorwadza Moyo ruled the roost as fans requested them endlessly on stations that are reputed to have the biggest listenership in the country.

South of the Limpopo, Babes Wodumo shook the airwaves and dance floors for almost a full calendar year with Wololo while Tira and Sox, King Monada and Dr Malinga made late rallies for the coveted Song of the Year mantle.

The triumph of Zhakata in the $6 000 annual Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola 2016 Top 50 competition and Mroza in the SABC Summer Song of the Year competition which saw him walk away with a car worth R250 000 and R150 000 cash prize, came as a surprise to many who disputed their wins on social media.

However, few bothered to question how the two had pulled off such coup d’état in front of acts who get such hype and airplay particularly on urban radio stations.

While artistes like Babes and Jah Prayzah might enjoy wide airplay on urban stations, they do not possess fan bases that are keen on voting, especially on the platforms that asked for their votes this time. While their fans would have no problems voting for them in when an MTV award ceremony comes up, they might not be as keen to do the same on Radio Zimbabwe or South Africa’s Ukhozi FM.

“The real constituency for mass music success isn’t on twitter. They’re out there glued to the vernac radio stations.

Adjust accordingly,” said twitter user Joe Black while contemplating the success of the two songs.

This is certainly true as artistes’ fans that listen to those stations that an urban music attuned crowd might believe less fashionable, they still enjoy massive popularity among masses bubbling under the surface. This might explain why despite enjoying greater visibility, genres like hip-hop and Zim dancehall are plagued by poor album sales.

The demographic that loves these genres do not seem too keen to buy the music that they claim to support, which might also point out to the income levels in these groups, as young people are less likely to spend money on music as they are more likely to download it for free.

The lethargy of the popular, trendier artistes in promoting their songs for the Song of the Year title might explain why they trailed when the final tally of votes came in.

Thobela Dlamini, stable manager of Mabala Noise, said Mroza won because they had a concrete promotional plan. Zhakata had a similar drive in Zimbabwe where the likes of Jah Prayzah did not show the same zest in promoting their music like they did when campaigning for regional and continental honours.