Dancehall, urban grooves should use live bands


HARARE – Dancehall and urban grooves musicians should up their game and engage live bands if they are to survive on the local market.

While most of the dancehall and urban grooves musicians record their music using digital computers, hence cannot perform using live bands, their songs are not as powerful as those of musicians performing with full bands.

In today’s digital age of computers, most of the recordings by local dancehall and urban grooves musicians in Zimbabwe are done on a simple desktop and they miss a lot of rhythms that usually come with live instruments.

The music produced through computers fizzles out so fast that most ‘‘hits’’ disappear from the airwaves within weeks of release.

And interestingly, a musician can record six to eight tracks within a week as most of the drumming and sound effects are digital and found in the computer.

Unlike the recording of sungura music which requires hours on end of a full band rehearsing, the dancehall and urban grooves musicians require the genius of just a few people — a producer and the artist.

The staying power of the music produced using a live band cannot be overemphasised because years after being recorded, music by local musicians like the late Biggie Tembo, System Tazvida, Leonard Dembo and Marshall Munhumumwe can still be enjoyed today as it was when released.

Take for instance the staying power of the reggae legend Bob Marley’s music, it has stayed fresh and sounds powerful today —years after the star passed away.

But it was his sheer use of live instruments complemented by a full band of instrument players that made his music powerful.

There are a number of ‘‘hit’’ singles released by local dancehall and urban grooves artistes which just make noise for a few weeks, but have no staying power as everything else is not original and fades like a flower. A flower can bloom and produce the best colours, but wilts down so fast you would think it was never beautiful.

The early music of Thomas Mapfumo can be enjoyed even today because of the staying power it possesses as the Chimurenga guru uses a live band to record.

And it usually took months of rehearsals for his band to perfect their sound, and months in the recording studio to record it.

Then, apart from a full band you had a sound engineer, mixing engineer and finally the producer all working on the recording.

Upcoming musicians should not rush recordings and they need good studios for recording. Today if you visit the said new recording studios, you will be shocked by the equipment there as it is nowhere near  what a proper band needs.

The studios do not have any sound proofs and the sound is flying all over the room and ends up outside corridors.

There are no professional recording desks that can carry 12 to 24 instruments at a time and rarely do you find guitars or drums in the said studios.

There are no mixers and most times, it is just a computer loaded with different poached sounds borrowed from various softwares.

While these upcoming musicians may think it is cheaper to just load their music using computers, it is killing originality and cheapening their compositions.

For years now, I have been promoting a number of dancehall and urban grooves musicians who usually perform using backtracks, and as an entry point to showbiz, it can be a good start, although I urge them to gradually move away from the computer to something real, something live.

I look forward to a time when I would see a full live band backing these young musicians because this will improve their sound prowess.

Music fans in Zimbabwe enjoy watching a full band play, hence the popularity of those using instrumentalists.

In using say six other players, from the bass, rhythm to drums these youngsters will actually add value to their sound —as all these would bring something on the recording, unlike a situation where only one person is working with a computer, shifting, and reorganising already recorded tunes.

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