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Zimbabwe: artists to follow in 2021

The modern Zimbabwean sound is a fusion of local and international genres curated by various native music producers. For example, Tamuka “Dj Tamuka” Mponda-Makuluni of Mushroom Media, who recently executive produced Nutty O’s critically acclaimed debut album Mustard Seed, pulls from r&b. Another producer of note is Simbarashe “Cymplex” Moyo of Cymplex Music, who produced 2020 Zim-dancehall song of the year contenter, Fadza Mutengi by Poptain and Allanah. Prince “Oskid” Tapfuma of Oskid Productions made a household name in 2016, for his production work on Winky D’s Gafa Life album, a distilled version of Zimbabwe pop. Macdonald “Macdee” Chidavaenzi of Eternal Productions is another versatile local music producer who has worked with several Zimbabwean artists including Trevor Dongo on his latest album 5136 Born In Highfield for a smoothed out afro fusion.

Local genres that influence modern Zimbabwean music are Mbira, a traditional Zimbabwean instrument which was popular within the rural areas and sungura – a more established retro 80’s Zimbabwean genre influenced by Kanindo from Eastern Central African origins – that grew from farms and ghettos. Internationally, the genres that influence Zimbabwean sounds are primarily Dancehall, Hip Hop and House music. This is mostly thanks to Zimbabwe’s diaspora community, an estimated 5 Million Zimbabweans – a third of the country’s total population – is scattered all over the world. Local musicians who pursued this international sound were initially bundled together in the early 2000s to form a new genre called “Urban Grooves” but the current generation of artists and producers have moved away from the term. Instead, local dancehall is called Zim-dancehall, local hip-hop is called Zim-hip hop and so on and so on.

Zimbabwean modern sound is vibrant and much too diverse for us to sum it up in a couple of songs but below are a few artists and their standout tracks that can help lift the Zimbabwean music veil.

Roki – Patati Patata (feat. Koffie Olomide, Rayvanny)

August 4, 2021

After a decade-long hiatus, Roki’s rich timbre remains unmatched on Patati Patata, a song featuring Koffie Olomide from Democratic Republic of Congo and Rayvanny from Tanzania. The collaboration generated a ton of hype on social media as both artists flew into Zimbabwe to record the song and music video. Oskid and Lizer Classic (Zimbabwe) at Passion Java Records produced “Patati Patata” whilst Director Kenny (Tanzania) handled the visuals.

Tanto wavie – Mabhachi (feat. Denimwoods)

August 10, 2021

Tanto Wavie and Denimwoods are both up and coming Zim Hip-Hop artists that represent the future of the genre. Tanto Wavie reverse engineered his own sound that borrows heavily from the sungura and Trap music genres by juxtaposing sungura guitar riffs on trap kicks and bass at around 90 bpm. “Mabhachi” is a track off Tanto Wavie’s latest album titled sungura Museve. On the track, Tanto compares himself to Rambo in the jungle, who will devour critics and detractors alike with finesse while elevating his pop-wise sound to grandiose heights. Denimwoods reflects on his musical journey so far. He also shares what keeps him grounded. Mabhachi lays the groundwork for an introspective and filler-free “Sungura Museve” offering. I recommend listening to Tanto Wavie’s entire self-produced album, to appreciate the craftsmanship at wholesale price.

Nutty O – Trouble In the city

September 24, 2021

Nutty O first emerged on the Zimbabwe dancehall music scene in 2015 with catchy melodic vocals of an international dancehall star, in an industry where most artists had diverted to a more home-grown sound, dubbed zim-dancehall that sounded completely different from Jamaican dancehall. Nutty O took his time to perfect his craft, and his debut album Mustard Seed arrived 6 years later, in September 2021, to critical acclaim. Trouble in the city is a song that puts Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe on notice that he is taking over the local dancehall reigns whilst simultaneously going for the international market. The song samples vocals from a late 90s Zim-dancehall song titled “Country Boy” by Innocent Utsiwegota and Potato.

Awa Khiwe – Ngeke Bengimele

December 30, 2020

Awa Khiwe is a Zimbabwean hip-hop artist from Nkayi, a rural district within the North Matebeland region of Zimbabwe. Awa Khiwe rose to stardom by just being herself and spitting fierce raps in her own dialect. Awa Khiwe is perhaps the most modest, outspoken, vibrant, soulful, brilliant, passionate, talented, straight talking Zimbabwean female artist of all time. She has faced so many hurdles, from sexual blackmail to domestic violence, but was determined not to let the challenges hold her back. She now tackles these issues in her music as a hip-hop artist based in Germany. Awa puts on for Ndebele hip-hop on Ngeke Bengimele, the first song Awa Khiwe and Ghanaian Stallion released together as a rapper-producer duo. Ngeke Bengimele translation means, “They can’t handle me”. On the track, Awa praises her rap skills and marks her territory as the Queen of Ndebele Rap. She also addressed misogyny in the hip-hop industry and announced her comeback. Ghanaian Stallion was featured as the song’s producer.

Holy Ten – Time (feat. Dadza D)

April 17, 2021

Every 5 years or so, a Zim hip hop artist is on the verge of crossing over into the mainstream but fails becoming a one hit wonder. Holy Ten broke out in 2020 during the Covid 19 lockdown with relatable content about everyday struggles and mental health issues. He then went on an unprecedented run becoming a certified hitmaker releasing fire songs every month for about 6 months or so. His buzz was enormous, climaxing with an album titled Risky Life, where this song “Time” is featured. It has many drill elements popularized by the late American rapper, Pop Smoke. Holy Ten definitely put himself at the forefront of his scene whilst roping in Dhadza D, an underground dancehall chanter from Chitungwiza town, our local music version of Rock of Gibraltar, Stonehenge, Taj Mahal or Eiffel Tower. Josh Petruccio was the producer on “Time”.

+263 – Gemma feat. Nutty O and Asaph

November 20, 2021

Gemma Griffiths’ command of contemporary Afro-fusion has deepened her influence within the Southern African region. She has come a long way since her 2019 MuGardern collaboration with Winky D as an independent artist, to signing a new management deal with South Africa based Africa Creative Agency, joining artists such as Nasty C, Diamond Platnumz, Tellaman, and Vanessa Mdee. “I have been working for a number of years as an independent artist. The journey has been a huge learning curve and I am grateful to have had the support network around me, including my creative Director Marc Neilson and Charlie Kay, my producer and close music confidante.” She said on an Instagram post. Her song “263” featuring Nutty O and Asaph packs a heavy Zimbabwean unity and diversity punch. Zimbabwe has 16 official languages but the main three are English, Ndebele and Shona. Gemma represents the Women and English factor, Nutty O represents the Shona and Dancehall whilst Asaph represents the Ndebele and Hip Hop. “263” is the country calling code assigned to Zimbabwe by the International Telecommunication Union and Gemma is giving her love interest her phone number +263. To sum it up, she is saying Zimbabwe is her home. Nutty O and Asaph are helping her to drive the point home. Charlie Kay produced the song along with the beautiful guitar strumming of Matthew Mattlixcs Ngorima.

Jah Prayzah Svovi

June 21, 2021

Svovi is a romantic Shona word that means ”favorite person”. Oliver Mtkudzi first popularized the word on a song, titled Mbabvu Yangu, and here, Jah Prayzah expands on the same love theme but with a different message and sound altogether. The song was released as a single during Jah Prayzah’s Gwara album roll out, but he specifically announced the track was not part of the album. Young DLC, a Zimbabwean producer based in South Africa, produced the track.

Vusa Mkhaya – MASIYEPHAMBILI (feat. Byo Artists)

January 27, 2021

Bulawayo is a city bursting with emerging talent and most artists support and show up for each other. This is what ‘Masiyaphambili’ is about, a song by Austrian based, Bulawayo native Vusa Mkhaya, who somehow managed to squeeze 17 Bulawayo based artists on the song namely; Cingi, Lady Tshawe, Novuyo Seagirl, Mimmie Tarukwana, Vuyo Brown, Qeqeshiwe, Asaph, Mawiza, Taz, Njabulo Moyo, Lamas Ellz, T3rry Tempo, Killemol, Desire Moyoxide, Erastus Nleya, Mthabisi Moyo and Joel Nyoni.

Find some of these tracks in our One Dance playlist on Spotify and Deezer.