…of the New Millenium
Zimbabwe introduced a new policy for the music industry in 2000, which required local radio stations to broadcast 75% local (Zimbabwe) content. Restrictive as this policy was, it led to an explosion of great local talent. The policy also resulted in the emergence of a local genre known as “urban grooves.” This genre dominated the scene, but other genres continued to hold their own, and the result was a solid variety in Zimbabwean music. Many great hits came out of this period. Here is my list of the best 15 since 2000.
15. Samanyemba – Tongai Moyo
We all have those songs that just stick to our minds, half of which we don’t like. Well one of those songs is Samanyemba, here at number 15. This one stuck to my mind for all the right reasons when it came out. It was a hit all over the country, and dancing to it just came naturally. The very first time I tried the famous “borrowdale” dance was with this song. And the bass guitar is just excellent. RIP Tongai Moyo.
14. Seiko – Rocqui ft. Leonard Mapfumo
Rocqui’s collaboration with Leonard Mapfumo produced this hit. There’s always something special about “mama” songs, but this one is extra special. The vocals are amazing, and Leonard Mapfumo’s cool flow creates an amazing combo of smooth vocals and rap. This song is definitely one of the gems of the 2000’s.
13. Crossroads – Prince Mafukidze
Prince Mafukidze always had a unique gospel style, and this track highlights that. With an awe-inspiring vocal performance, and brilliant accompanying music, this is one of the best gospel tracks to come out of Zimbabwe.
12. Ndakuvara –Oliver Mtukudzi
Probably the most renowned Zimbabwean musician, “Tuku” still has it in him, and he didn’t disappoint with this gem. Typical of Tuku, this song has a deep message to accompany it. A truly beautiful Tuku-style rhythm, together with Tuku’s unique voice, simply complete the package.
11. Shaina – Alexio
Just when it felt like urban grooves was done for, this masterpiece surfaced. The singing itself is amazing, and Alexio’s voice is beautiful. But the lyrics are more beautiful. “Zuva parinobuda richishaina, newe shainawo.” The song has a happy feel to it, and leaves the listener feeling hopeful and happy.
10. Usipo – Betty Makaya
One of Zimbabwe’s greatest songbirds, perhaps giving out her best vocal performance here in this song. Thanks to the clear background music, one can hear all that her voice has to offer. And the way she sings it just drives the message home, as if she is really going through what she is singing about – missing someone.
9. Wandirasa – Chiwoniso Maraire
Chiwoniso’s songs always had a way of touching the listener’s soul. Perhaps this number does so the most. At its release, it proved that the mbira could really go mainstream, and it did so in style. A truly Zimbabwean rhythm complimented by a soulful performance from one of the nation’s greatest musicians ever. RIP Chiwoniso.
8. Chidzoka – Rocqui
Of all the urban grooves artists, Rocqui was arguably the most versatile, experimenting a lot along the way. And sometimes his experiments brought magic. And this song has some Rocqui magic. A beat with both a soukous and a house feel to it, high-pitched vocals and some crazy talking in the background, made for an original piece that swept Zimbabwe off its feet.
7. Usadaro – Sanii
One of the best voices to ever come out of Zimbabwe, Sani always had something special. So special he only needed minimal background music in this song. He is probably the only singer who could pull off a song without a real beat by the sheer beauty and strength of his voice. This is undoubtedly one of the best vocal performances ever in Zimbabwe!
6. I Salute You – King Pinn
This is one of the best rap/hip hop songs I have ever heard in my life. Packed with powerful Pan-Africanist lyrics, the message is only matched by the immaculate delivery. The lyrics flow so well you would think the rhymes are only incidental and not planned. This is arguably the greatest rap song to come out of Zimbabwe. RIP Tonderai “King Pinn” Makoni.
5. Chido – Decibel
This is the song that had us all chanting “Chido.” And something is peculiar about this song – some of the vocals sound like they could have been taken from a dancehall track, but they combine beautifully with the conventionally sung chorus, “M’diwa wangu Chido.” This song is indeed very catchy but, more than that, its originality is in a class of its own.
4. Kurwizi – Betty Makaya feat. Jamal
One of the most popular songs of the 2000’s, this urban grooves track had young people wishing they were in love. The lyrics, loaded with exquisite rhymes, portrays many a lover’s dream: rivers, birds and angels. And this song has proven that Shona can also be a so called romantic language. Oh, and we have all sung along to it.
3. Ndokuudza Sei? – M’Afriq
This song epitomizes the urban grooves era. When it came out, it had a rhythm we hadn’t heard before. And what a catchy rhythm it is! It transitions seamlessly from slow and smooth to quick and playful. As you can probably tell, it’s hard for me to describe, because it is that great.
2. Our Zimbabwe – Henry Olonga
When I first heard this song, I was flooded with so much emotion. I realized how much I loved my country, even in the midst of its troubles. This song is the unofficial national anthem of Zimbabwe. Each of its lines goes straight to the heart, where it invokes untold feelings of patriotism and of love for all Zimbabweans. The video itself is the icing on the cake: black and white, young and old – all people gathered together “in harmony,” singing a great song of hope.
1. Aiyaho – Rocqui
Rocqui appears three times on this list, and for good reason. He released what I consider to be the best Zimbabwe song of the new millennium. The originality of this song, the amazing vocals and the unmistakable urban grooves era rhythm all add up to this perfect piece. There is something awe-inspiring about this song. It touches a part of the soul that you may not have felt before. Absolutely beautiful.
That’s it! I know many of you will strongly disagree, so let me know what song(s) should or should not be in the list!