Hello from Harare, Zimbabwe! In just a few days I will be heading over to Zambia where I will begin my Fulbright-mtvU project. I will be exploring how young people assert individual and collective identities through participation in music culture on the Copperbelt in Zambia.
I have been in Harare, Zimbabwe since early September thanks to funding I received as a recipient of the NYU Gallatin Dean’s Award for Graduating Seniors. This is my third time visiting Zimbabwe and working with Magamba Cultural Activist Network, an organization that creates and promotes alternative media. Most notably, I have assisted with the organization of their annual music and arts festival “Shoko.” While in previous years I was unable to attend the festival because the dates conflicted with my classes at NYU, I was finally able to attend this year as a graduate. It was amazing to be able to attend the vibrant and diverse festival as well as reunite with many close friends and colleagues!
Peace in the Hood Concert in Chitungwiza
Hip Hop Pantsula performing at Shoko Festival
In addition to my research on Shoko Festival, however, I have been preoccupied with questions and ideas relating to my research project in Zambia. Just as I plan to do on the Copperbelt in Zambia, I have spent time exploring many music spaces occupied by youth in Zimbabwe.
Lion Lager Beer Fest in October
I attended a dancehall concert featuring many local Zimbabwean artists as well as Jamaican artist Kalado. While Kalado’s performance was highly anticipated, the crowd waited anxiously for Tocky Vibes, a 20 year old from the high density suburb of Mbare who is currently the most popular up-and-coming dancehall artist in Zimbabwe.
Tocky Vibes performing at Old Hararians Sports Club in September
Check out one of his biggest hits:
Just as I had observed in Zambia when I visited during the summer of 2013, fans in Zimbabwe are often far more interested in listening to and celebrating local artists, or “Zim Dancehall,” than other international artists. While many artists draw influence from Jamaican music, their popularity comes from their ability to create music that Zimbabweans or Zambians can relate to lyrically and is presented to them in their own local language.
While my project will be in Zambia rather than Zimbabwe, my time here has allowed me to begin exploring many similar questions. For example, how, if at all, do Zimbabweans–or Zambians–use music culture to challenge the dominant narratives built by the histories and processes of colonization and globalization?
This question and so many more have occupied much of my thinking since arriving in Zimbabwe. While I’m certain that there will be many differences with my research in Zambia, my time here has allowed me to begin crafting and refining many thoughts and questions that I know will be relevant as I begin my Fulbright-mtvU project.
Given that I have traveled previously to the Copperbelt, I already have some connections to individuals who work in the music industry to help guide me in the right direction for my project. I am looking forward to working again with my host organization, a commercial radio station called Flava FM based in Kitwe, a city about 30 minutes from Ndola. I am a bit concerned that I cannot yet speak or understand Bemba, the local language. Although the majority of individuals can speak English as it is the national language, I plan to also learn the local language, Bemba, which will allow me to gain access to and a greater understanding of many situations. I hope to take lessons either from a peer tutor or from a language teacher, depending on what resources I am able to find when I arrive.
Otherwise, I’m very excited to get started on my project! Upon arriving in Zambia I will spend a few days in the capital city of Lusaka before heading out to the Copperbelt. While I’m not sure where I will be staying in Ndola as of yet, I am hoping to find an affordable flat close to town within a few days of arriving.