‘Don’t compare urban grooves to Zimdancehall’

Innocent Utsiwegota

Godwin Muzari Arts Editor
One of the pioneers of urban grooves music, Innocent Utsiwegota, believes the genre made an indelible mark and cleared way for other genres that have been linked to international music tastes.

In the urban grooves era, music followers accused artistes of copying the Western style of art, but the genre had many success stories that justified influences of foreign genres on local music.

While the coming of Bob Marley to Zimbabwe in 1980 for the country’s Independence celebrations led to a mass tilt towards reggae — even among sungura singers — it was urban grooves music that received the worst “copycat” tag criticism from commentators.

At the advent of the genre, music critics accused youngsters of uprooting Western music styles and planting them in their gardens disguised as personal compositions.

But the 75 percent local content, promulgated for local broadcasting stations in that era, presented an open opportunity for the youngsters pursuing urban grooves to make a mark.


And indeed they made a mark. The likes of David Chifunyise, Plaxedes Wenyika, Sanii Makhalima, Alexio Kawara, Maskiri, Mafriq and 2BG were among big names of the era. Their music remains nostalgic to followers who were attracted to their style of art.

Producers like Delani Makhalima and Take 5 made music that still echoes in many memories.

Some have gone to the extent of comparing urban grooves to Zimdancehall, basing their arguments on the fact that the genres both borrow heavily from foreign influences.

The general consensus is that urban grooves hits will stay longer than Zimdancehall compositions, but the debate can instigate emotional responses in some circles. Such is the trend of music allegiance and differentiated tastes. The debate will not be easily conclusive.

The Herald Arts sought an opinion from one of the pioneers of urban grooves music, Utsiwegota, who did well with his hits “Country Boy” and “Amai” that features Major E and Booker T and went on to establish a record company that spurred many youngsters to limelight.

Country Boy Records produced the likes of Decibel, MC Villa and Dino Mudondo, who were part of the urban grooves movement.

Utsiwegota’s first response to the “urban grooves vs Zimdancehall” music comparison was a balancing act.

“The two genres are good in their separate ways. Urban grooves was good and Zimdancehall is also good. These are just different genres being followed by different people of similar age groups in different eras,” said Utsiwegota.

“I believe the musicians are also different in their approach and there is no need to compare the two genres. The urban grooves era is different from the Zimdancehall era and both should be contextualised. Urban grooves mainly had influences from R ‘n’ B, soul and rap styles while Zimdancehall draws a lot of inspiration from Jamaican styles. I strongly believe the genres are cannot be compared because they appeal to different audiences.”

Utsiwegota, however, expressed reservations over dirty lyrics that characterise some of the Zimdancehall compositions.


“The great demarcating factor I have noted between the two genres is on some dirty lyrics and disses. In the urban grooves era, musician supported each other. Complements and compliments were common in our era, but there is a sign of fighting and socially-unacceptable lyrics in Zimdancehall. It’s a crooked path that they just need to straighten, otherwise there are great singers coming from this genre who have already done well.”

Some of established singers in the Zimdancehall arena include Winky D, Seh Calaz and Killer T.