Infectious Beats: Urban Grooves Music’s Collusion with the Zimbabwean State
Long thought of as a mouthpiece of the oppressed, urban music, particularly hip-hop, is often painted as such. However, events in Zimbabwe since 2002 reveal that such music is not necessarily entrenched on the side of the oppressed and can be wielded as a tool of oppression and suppression. In this chapter, I consider the mobilization of urban grooves (Zimbabwean hip-hop) by the state in Zimbabwe for political purposes. Faced with domestic and international condemnation of its often violent land acquisition program and its mishandling of the ensuing political, economic and humanitarian crises, the state mobilized urban grooves arguably to control cultural infl uences from the West. Whereas the youth were fi xated on American hip-hop and R&B and Jamaican dancehall, the government legislated against the playing of non-Zimbabwean music on radio and television under its policy of 75 percent local content. It channeled resources to sponsoring youth artists doing local versions of hip-hop, R&B and dancehall, resulting in “urban grooves.” In this chapter I offer a theoretical framework to think about the connection between music and politics and, hopefully, convince scholars of African and African diasporic music and popular culture to probe further and rethink the notion of hip-hop as essentially liberating and subversive.