Urban Grooves: The performance of politics in Zimbabwe's hip hop music
Urban Grooves is a genre which has been deliberately controlled by the state, and yet artists still manage to subvert the form and perform protest through strategies of lyrical ambiguity. It is the youth music in Zimbabwe which fuses local sounds with American hip hop and r&b, and Jamaican dancehall. The music received full recognition in 2002 following the national introduction of a 75 percent local content quota on music broadcasts. Various interests mobilize music as a tool in aid of political agendas; the state directly sponsors artists to sing propaganda songs and censors songs advancing a counter-narrative. The state's strategies shape urban grooves as artists seek to either conform to state requirements or subvert them.
Faced with an economic and political crisis, the state blamed the West and viewed its criticism on issues of democracy and human rights as part of a regime change agenda. This resulted in the state directly politicizing urban grooves as it feared the West's influence on the Zimbabwean population as an ideological contaminating pathogen to be controlled through the banning of music from outside Zimbabwe on broadcast media. However, as much as urban grooves became a tool in the hands of the state, it also became a tool of subversion of the state.
The study of urban grooves allows the theorization of the embodiment of artistic practice as a political force. I am particularly interested in performance's oppositional potential. While hip hop is considered a universal liberatory movement, in Zimbabwe the music lands itself to use by power on the side of oppression. Questions which arise from the subversion of the state's control of the music include the following: have urban groovers seen through the veil of the state's deception of artists by fronting support for the industry yet breeding a brigade of praise singers to drum up support for its political agenda? Are the artists deceiving the state by accepting state sponsorship while at the same time subverting the state narrative?
0615: Political science