Hip hop in Zimbabwe

Of Unknown Origin: Zimbabwe Legit

Who doesn't remember Zimbabwe Legit? Around 1991, the crew from Zimbabwe recorded an EP with help of Black Sheep. They staid in the USA ever since and are now back under the name 'Of Unknown Origin'. A full album will drop later this year; for now we have exclusive previews of two songs.

Sound & Video

Metaphysics on solo tip

Recently we interviewed longtime hip hop artist Metaphysics from the Kataklizim group, who gave a run-down on hip hop in Zimbabwe (see here). Not long after, early November he surprised us by popping up in Amsterdam again where he was recording a single for a newly established American-European hip hop label. More importantly, he has a record deal in Germany and a solo album coming out soon. The Kataklizim thing is still going strong and soon he will hook up with his partner in rhymes Tendai who studies in London.

Released a single 'Who is the Mau' in January 1998


Formerly known as 'Peace of Ebony' (for early lyrics, go to our lyrics page; to hear more recent Kataklizim stuff check out our Snd & Vid section).

The following article was written by by Ralph Borland and published on the SLY website... "Hiphop duo Kataklism will be doing a little mcing, though having seen Herb and Tendai at Stella Chiweshe's concert in the Harare Gardens the night before, they're likely to be a little frazzled. Fortunately for them, the crowd is small on this greying-over afternoon, and we leave after a brief set. They're also up for a set at Circus Night Club that night, but somehow I think it's going to be Club Duvet instead, or they're not going to make their appearance opening for the Zimbabwe vs. Zambia match at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

The crowd Tich wants is the crowd Circus had on Thursday night, big gym boys with Timberlands and American athletic gear, mixed in with the occasional expensive suit, and the fliest girls I've seen in Harare.

Mmm, where do they go in the daytime, 'cos I haven't seen these on the streets. It's a predominantly black and coloured crowd, and with the highest cover charge of any club in Harare, you either have connections - that's mostly the dredd-locked mcs and your occasional reporter - or you're well-heeled. It's a very smart, hip crowd under the pink neon sign in the Viper Pit bar, (though not a speedballing celebrity in sight) and the newly refurbished interior with its mirrors and white tiles, chrome furniture and potted plants is oh so Miami Vice. The bass is just on the unpleasantly loud side with the dancefloor empty, and the tunes are strictly imported hiphop and r'n'b. They're big on the new r'n'b style, uptempo, and the hiphop is straight up commercial, no underground. Some nice tunes, a good night out, but nothing particularly creative going on here.

It isn't the kind of hiphop Kataklism are into producing. Herb, Herbert Schwaamborn, was the centre of the group A Peace of Ebony, who produced one album in about 1992, and then disbanded. There were three of them: Tony now mcs with BlackFoot Tribe in Harare, getting some radioplay. George Phiri, whom I know to be a talented singer and mc and whom everyone tells me is definitely going places if he conquers a little lifestyle problem, raps alongside ragga mc Potatoe for Andy Brown and the Storm, who pack out venues several times a week with a Shona jit, afrorock, jazz fusion style. Andy Brown's a veteran of earlier crossover group Ilanga, who made an impact in the late eighties. "When A Peace of Ebony took their music down to Gauteng, they made a big impact on the music scene with their house influenced hiphop beats" local music journalist and producer Dennis Tapfuma tells me, crediting the crew with - excuse me - influencing the development of kwaito in South Africa. He reminds me that Arthur too is a Zimbabwean.

Kataklism's new album is as musically diverse, within a broadly hiphop genre, as that earlier project which incorporated housey beats, mbira playing, singing and mcing, programmed and live drumming. Herbert's new music has gained in maturity over the years since then, programming in his bedroom studio, playing his keyboards and making his samples. This new album is hot. There's a slow kwaito pulse behind much of it, under layers of jazz and hiphop influence, and Tendai and Herb are lyrically intelligent and verbally dexterous. Look out for their video. Their music is Zimbabwean without being part of the established genres of Zimbabwean music. This is a problem.

The buying public want traditional Zimbabwean pop. Kataklism's set at the National Sports Stadium got little reaction from the povo. It's great that local stars outsell any foreign artist - this I heard from the head of pop station Radio Three, Admire Tederera - but the tastes of the people are limited mainly to the jit, chimurenga and more recently sungura forms, genres that have ruled the industry. "Young musicians find it difficult to break into the industry because the majority of the population is rurally based, and identify with what is generally local. People would rather just listen to local hiphop than buy it - if they buy music from other genres, they'd rather buy international artists", continues Admire. It's a common complaint amongst musos in Zimbabwe. If the music they produce sounds closer to an international genre, then they get pigeonholed as an imitation of something done better overseas.

Hard C.O.R.E. (Christian Oriented Rapping Evangelists)

Nice name. Former member Double E aka DJ Zubz is now solo. He has been studying BComm at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa for the past 4 years. He has a 4-track demo that he's circulated mainly locally. He put together four demo albums. Double E recently received major exposure through his music video "Simple Pleasure", which was aired on Cue-TV (dedicated to coverage of the 1999 National Arts Festival). Apparently he's still doing production for his former crew.

Junior C.O.R.E.
Must be inspired by some other crew.

Other names on the scene: The Kliq-Klan, V.O.L.U.M.E. , Trix and Gamez.

Old school artists:
Zimbabwe Legit

Definitely the first to break into the American and European market. Some five years before the current Hip Hop boom in most African countries had begun, Zimbabwe Legit had been there and done that. True, in Cape Town there has also been a lively local scene but it remained local until POC broke out. The two Zimbabwean college students who settled in the USA and got a record deal and an album produced by Mr. Lawng (Black Sheep) haven't seen many releases coming from Zimbabwe since 1991. Their first and last release, an EP which included songs named like 'To bead or not to bead' and 'Doing damage in my native language' (with an instant slang guide to their Shona language) is not available anymore. One track of the album though appeared on a trip hop compilation, Headz Vol.2 (MoWax records) but it had been reshaped, leaving the rappers anonimously silent.

Now Dumi, one of the rappers has resurfaced in a new crew called The Last 8th, changing his name into Doom E. Right. Visit his latest project called Jam Central Station.

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