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Dancehall star Winky D and Zimbabwe’s internet politics


Multi-award-winning dancehall singer Wallace “Winky D” Chirimuko is with no doubt, one of the few, if not the only Zimbabwean musician to attract nationwide attention both positive and negative every time he releases new music.

Just last Friday, Winky D, who had last released a new offering last year was in the limelight as he launched his single, Happy Again, which premiered on YouTube with an accompanying beautifully scripted video.

There was immediate debate online and offline on whether the wait for the song was worth it.

You see, the interesting bit was not that people were debating about the song, but rather, as has become the norm of Zimbabwe’s internet, it became a highly politicised issue.

Yes, politicised in the sense that in Zimbabwe’s politically polarised social media circles, Winky D is for no apparent reason and without any shred of evidence, is perceived to be liked by those who support opposition politics.

The same goes for his perceived rival, Jah Prayzah, who is perceived to be supported by pro-Zanu PF people.

To understand these dynamics, it is important to note that the generality of Zimbabweans who feel oppressed, impoverished and disadvantaged by the Zanu PF regime are naturally, and to some extent justifiably very revolting when they have to defend, be it a musician or politician who they perceive to be one of them.

They believe in collective solidarity and camaraderie which comes natural with people who have suffered for a long time.

In this case, Winky D is largely associated, or perceived to be with this very active group of people on the internet and he has their unbridled support.

On the other hand, there are those of privilege, that is, those who believe they have climbed the social ladder and prefer to show a level of having arrived, and they believe they are the rational ones who are meant to ‘correct’ or rationalise those that are ‘angry’ or ‘violent’ on social media.

They, too, are very passionate and they use mockery and scorn to ridicule the other side.

With that context in mind, the arrival of Winky D’s song was just another chance for Zimbabweans to start yet another brawl.

Those that feel Winky D stands by them immediately began praising the song, while the other side said it was an average effort.

Once again, it was clear from both sides that there was a general agreement that Winky D is a great musician, and the point of disagreement was whether Happy Again was a great song or not.

Critics, who have always said Winky D does not produce quality visuals for his songs, admitted that this time he had improved, but that was not before they went on to say that he had copied the video script of Jah Prayzah’s Jerusalem, released years ago.

In Happy Again, Winky D is a servant who falls in love with the king’s daughter and in Jerusalema is another poor man who marries the king’s daughter.

Others are for the view that the song, which is not hardcore dancehall, was ill-timed and there was no need to put on Christmas dancing shoes this time around while others suggested that it was not possible for anyone to listen to the song without watching the video.

Winky D’s fans who defended the song and while using hashtag #HappyAgain, said the fact that the song had broken the Zimbabwean YouTube record after it amassed over 480,000 organic views and over 5,000 comments in its first 24 hours of its release meant that it was a hit.

So, there are a number of non-musical take-aways from Winky D’s latest release.

The first one is that social media is a very harsh and intolerant environment and the political polarisation in Zimbabwe is reflected strongly in our entertainment sector and that is definitely not a good thing as it takes away the reason why people make music.

People make music so that those that like to listen to it enjoy it, and the reason why there is variety is that anyone can choose what they enjoy to listen to.

The second one is that with social media having given everyone the same ability to comment, judge, review and literally say anything to a large audience, there is a real war over the right to opinion and it appears some believe they have better opinion than others and, in that jungle, chaos exists, and for the artiste, it may come as a good thing because audiences engage with their product for the purposes of being able to say something about it.

This is reflected in the fact that critics are part of the 480,000 that watched Winky D’s video in the first 24 hours and they can also claim credit for contributing to the new record.

The other lesson is that on social media it is easy to be placed in a political or social category based on your opinion, and it stays like that, for individuals and artistes, and sometimes it is not worth the energy to attempt to exonerate yourself because the internet is always ready for you anytime.

The last lesson is that the internet is one liquid, unpredictable platform where those that supported you yesterday can turn against you and opinion shifts very easily and quickly as the generality of Zimbabweans, I believe – are strong headed!

That said, let the music that you like play in your ears!

Tapiwa Zivira

Tapiwa Zivira is a multi-award winning multimedia journalist and development practitioner contactable on [email protected] and mobile +263773245709

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