Is reggae music on the decline?

Posted: September 13, 2011 in HOME

King of Dancehall

Over the years sales of Jamaican reggae music have been lagging in areas considered to be reggae-friendly like the USA, Britain, Japan, Europe South Africa and Kenya and this genre has found new devotees in reggae-mad Zimbabwe as evidenced by the recent concerts of Sizzla, Sean Paul, Beenie Man, Elephant Man and Capleton.

From the look of things, local reggae in Zimbabwe also seems to be the music’s brightest outpost. In the Netherlands reggae music has priced itself out of the market.
Big Man, Wallace Chirumiko aka Winky D, is Zimbabwe’s new icon of dancehall, a new reggae style which he has mastered and delivers through his inimitable Shona lyrical skill and professional showmanship. Prior to this, reggae music was confined to the nightclubs and dominated by groups such as Transit Crew and Hotta Fire.

Winky D has surpassed these two as he has managed to take this music to the masses instead of delivering it to just a few in nightclubs. However, there is a new kid on the block now with their own style of reggae music.
It’s fast. It’s furious and it’s fast catching on. If you have not heard about it yet, you soon will. I am talking about “Up in Fire Dub”, which is a new sensation in town based at The Mannenberg every

Sunday afternoon featuring a group which calls itself HOUZE OF STONE.
Although I am not yet familiar with all the crooners in this new band, I know that they are all seasoned reggae musicians. The band was formed by Costa, the former drummer of Mic Inity’s Hotta Fire who now plays bass in this new outfit, which is out to rival both Transit Crew and Mic Inity. The other members are Jevas on drums and Blessing, who plays the lead guitar. This band, however, is strictly a dub band. There are no vocals.

This is exciting news for roots rock reggae lovers in Harare who were for a long time exposed to just these two groups Transit and Hotta Fire only. With the coming of a third group, a variety of choice in this genre is more secured now.
I am reliably informed that Costa left Mic Inity because the band Hotta Fire was subjected to playing only old-fashioned copyright music by the likes of deceased Jamaican musicians such as Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Bob Marley.

Indeed, I had the opportunity of watching Mic Inity live at the Spillway Restaurant last week where he began his show with Freddie McGregor’s “Push Come To Shove” and continued on with one cover version after another until I got fed up and left. I began to wonder what has happened to the album Mic Inity has been bragging about since his return from Jamaica where he claims to have produced an album with assistance from Caveman of the Doncaster-based Caveman Studios.
If so, why is he not introducing this new and original material to his audiences? The difference between him and the original Transit Crew is that the latter have original material which they can play all night as evidenced by their four albums, namely “Sounds Playing”, “The Message”, “Money” and “Unity”. These albums were well received nationally and internationally and helped to establish Transit

Crew as a formidable reggae outfit.
Before Mic Inity came onto the stage, we had been subjected to some more cover versions of material from old reggae albums by the toasters who came to warm up the crowd. One called I-Water acquitted himself very well. He had improved tremendously from the last time I saw him at Red Fox, but did not seem to have original material either.
Michael Madamombe, known as Mic Inity to his fans, is an energetic young reggae singer who gives exciting performances each time he is on stage, but many of his fans I have spoken to have made the same observation as me.

They have asked me to help the young man before his career nosedives. One punter who grew up with Mic in Marondera and wishes to remain anonymous said to me in confidence: “We grew up together with this young man and we are very proud that he is one of us doing something in reggae music circles. However, he has become big-headed since becoming a reggae artiste.
“Instead of humility, he has begun to display social arrogance and even refuses to greet the people he grew up with. Sometimes he comes to Marondera driving in his white Mercedes-Benz just to show off as he does not talk to anyone.

“That attitude must be nipped in the bud before it goes too far. It is a sign of small-mindedness, which is typical of all small town people who think they have made it big. Look at Oliver (Mtukudzi). He grew up in Highfield in the city of Harare and is broad-minded. He has remained humble to all his fans, even though he doesn’t need to. He is a good example of maturity.”
I know humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve. Nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself. Efforts to talk to Mic this week were fruitless as his mobile phone was unreachable. I managed to talk to Costa, though, who is hyper about his new band and is looking forward to giving his former band a hard time. I do hope that they will live up to this expectation.

Costa’s brother, Dennis, remains the lead guitarist in Hotta Fire band and I guess he is currently weighing his chances with both groups, depending on which one tips the scale first. I asked Dennis why Costa had left Hotta Fire. All I got was “We will talk later”, but I never heard from Dennis again.

Mic started off in Transit Crew as a singer together with Dennis and Costa. As usual, in many groups, disputes over money never stop to haunt musicians. It was when such a dispute got hotter that the three decided to form their own band, Hotta Fire, and they gave their former band a hard time.

The Mannenberg is chock-a-bloc every Wednesday night and Mic did not regret the decision to move away from his parent band, Transit Crew.
But what is happening now is that another splinter group, Houze of Stone, is in the offing and we are all anxious to see where this will lead to. After all, competition is supposed to be healthy.

It seems these three groups will remain nightclub reggae bands for a long time to come unlike dancehall artistes such as Winky D who have surpassed them all by going to the masses and appeal more to younger audiences.

We are keeping our eyes wide open to see if reggae music has a future in this country.

Source: The Herald

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