By Richmore Tera.
Harare, Zimbabwe. (News Of The South) – WHAT constitutes a hit song?
When it becomes a hit song, is there anything that can stop it from landing the top gong? After all, a hit song is a hit song, you can ask anyone, from a minor on the streets singing Jah Prayzah’s “Mudhara Vachauya” or a senior citizen lounging in a cool shade in his maize field as he listens to Alick Macheso’s “Gungwa”.
But what happens when everyone’s ‘hit’ song suddenly becomes one of the biggest losers when the artistes are honoured for their work?
Will this be what they call the fickleness of music being at play?
Like whether, music can change suddenly and frequently, and with each passing day, something new comes out only to rise and claim the mantle in a short space of time.
This then acts a stubborn but real fact of life that no one belongs to the top forever. Sure?
Let’s go a little bit into the world of politicians and how they normally react under such a similar circumstance.
There is this word which politicians normally like to use when the poll results don’t come out in their favour. It is called rigging, and I have been trying very hard to resist the temptation of using it for our glorious music industry, but lo and behold, here I am borrowing it from the masters of political rhetoric themselves.
Can any musician stand up and declare (or rather sing out!) that they were rigged in the awards and all they are asking for is a‘re-run’?
Well, forgive the political analogue, but if some things go without serious analyses at producers and presenters’ levels at Radio Zimbabwe, the country’s leading indigenous languages radio station, then cracks might soon start to show somewhere.
There is a raging debate in the Zimbabwe music scene at the moment following results of the Coca Cola Radio Zimbabwe Top 50 in which musician Leonard Zhakata scooped the top three positions with his songs “Madam Boss” featuring Suluman Chimbetu and Progress Chipfumo, “Zvine Mwaka” and “Moyo Wekutenda”.
The songs relegated Alick Macheso’s three songs, “Gungwa”, “Wandirangaridza” and “Mude Mude” to fourth, fifth and sixth positions, a development which has raised many questions as to whether Zhakata’s winning songs were more popular among listeners and received better airplay as compared to Macheso’s.
As is always the case, people always find reasons to justify their arguments, and as in Zhakata scenario, some critics are arguing that people who voted for his songs were mostly from his church, the United Family International Church (UFIC) thus giving him a wide margin over what were deemed as listeners’ favourites, “Mudhara Vachauya” by Jah Prayzah and Macheso’s “Gungwa”.
On the other hand, one school of thought countered by noting that Zhakata has always been one of the best and most gifted lyricists and composers ever to emerge from Zimbabwe and thus he deserved the top prizes since his album was well-done and the songs received widespread airplay.
Once upon a time, there was time when the likes of Zhakata, Leonard Dembo, Simon Chimbetu, both late) Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi, you name them, would battle and sometimes alternate for the first spot in similar programmes on radio or television.
Competition was stiff, so was the quality of music such that it was difficult to come up with the winning song.
This then brings us to the question of, “How legitimate is the process of relying on listeners (or those who purport to be ones) when it comes to selecting the best songs of the year?”
It is difficult to tell about an audience that you don’t meet or see physically everyday and whose relationship with you is only through radio. So getting to know about the backgrounds of the people who voted for the artistes is like trying to scoop an ocean using a bucket, as Macheso puts it in one of his songs, “Gungwa”.
Food for thought here. Will the producers at Radio Zimbabwe consider some of these arguments by members of the public think seriously about them?
Will not such issues in future end up tainting the reputation of the awards as more and more artistes and music lovers will lose confidence in them on the grounds that the results will be a foregone conclusion?
Or are we going to see some independent music adjudicators, professional music critics, among others, adjudging as a panel for the awards?
Coming back to the issue of a hit song, and linked to this debate is a question which this scribe once raised in an article which appeared in the Herald (Zimbabwe) in June 2009 under the title, “What Constitutes a Hit Song?”
We reproduce the full text here below:
“In barely two years, Zimbabwe has had three hit songs that have been on the lips of virtually everyone.Alexio Kawara did it with Shaina, a song that has put paid to rest the notion that nothing good ever comes out of urban groves.
Just at a time when it was least expected that anyone would come up with another gem, talented raga (now Zim-Dancehall) artiste, Winky D — real name Wallace Chirimuko — did it with his anthemic hit song, Vanofamba Vachitaura, that has changed the face of local music.
As if that was not enough, and before they had had enough of the song, people were swayed from ragga to yet another genre when sungura musician Josphate Somanje added his name to the hall of fame of artistes who have produced hits, with Handibvume popularly known among revellers as Haulume.
By doing this, the three artistes defied the common thought that only titans like Oliver Mtukudzi, Alick Macheso, Tongai Moyo and Pastor Charles Charamba, to name a few, had the formulas to producing hit songs.
However, the question is what defines or determines a hit song?
Prominent sungura musician Hosiah Chipanga said a hit song was one that caught the fancy of the audience with a “magical” touch, and also sold well.
“It depends with the audience, how they receive the song. The more they like it, the broader the market. Their demand for the product determines that it is a hit.
“They (the public) are judges. As an artiste, I can’t determine whether my song would be a hit, but when I dish it out, people comment and have the final say over it,” he said.
Mike Chaswara, owner and executive music producer of Corner Studios, said the demand, popularity and artistry of the song determined whether it would become a hit.
“If it is top-selling, and it is on top of the music charts, then it is a hit, but before this, the song should have good artistry in terms of the compositions and arrangement,” he said.
One music lover said a hit should be a classic, which should stand the test of time and live forever even after the time it was released would have elapsed.
It is no wonder that hit songs like Chitekete from the late famed guitarist, Leonard Dembo and Rudo Imoto, an all time classic from another legendary musician, the late Marshal Munhumumwe continue to appeal to people decades after their release.”
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