Sungura or Museve music is arguably the most popular music genre in Zimbabwe. The genre was popularised in the 1980s by groups like Khiama Boyz and System Tazvida's Chazezesa Challengers. The birth of Urban Grooves music in the New Millennium failed to scale the dizzy heights that Sungura reached.
Sungura reportedly originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo. One Zimbabwe musician, Mura Nyakura who travelled to Zaire in 1948 fell in love with the kanindo-rhumba beat there which he then introduced to Zimbabwe. The genre later became known as sungura music, with the likes of Ephraim Joe and his band the Sungura Boys popularising it. Within a few years time, the genre was to become most popular music genre with over three quarters of the musicians playing it. Legendary producer, Bothwell Nyamhondera is credited for producing sungura music becoming one of the originators and earliest proponents of the genre. The first popular sungura outfit was the Ephraim Joe led Sungura Boys. The group was composed of talented guitarists and lyricists such as John Chibadura, Simon Chimbetu, Naison Chimbetu and System Tazvida. Over the years, the genre had been given various names like Zora coined by Leonard Zhakata and Dendera music by Simon Chimbetu.
Most musicians who play this genre usually tackle different life experiences that includes love, hardships and unity. Some of the earlier proponents of this genre like Leonard Zhakata and John Chibadura were marked with hopelessness, entrapment and despair. As a result it was categorised lachrymal (tear-washed or weeping) music. In extreme contrast, others sang of hope and optimisim in hard times and the hope that everything would be fine in due course. One such musician is Tongai Moyo whose music was rooted in purposeful agency, unity in struggle, and in repudiating defeatist attitudes.
In 2013, Sungura music which had for years dominated the country's showbiz seemed to have lost its steam. This was caused by a myriad of reasons chief among them the overflowing of Zimbabwe Dancehall and the lukewarm reception of sungura albums. With the self proclaimed Sungura king, Alick Macheso's album flopping, no other sungura musician released any popular project. The Shut Down gig, which used to be biased towards sungura saw or the first time, dancehall chanters dominating it.
Few Women in Sungura
Few or no women at all in Zimbabwe are full time sungura musicians. This is caused by tradition and culture amongst the Zimbabwean people. Culturally, women when not allowed to play certain instruments such as the drum especially during menstruation. This was done to make religious ceremonies pure as the drum played role to evoke ancestral spirits. As, this tradition put women at the bottom of society, this is allegedly why femals venture into sungura music full time. When they do they are merely relegated to dancing or to providing backing vocals. Another reason is that since Sungura musicians are known to perform in public places like beerhalls, women who visit such places are culturally associated with loose morals. As a result, despite the popularity of the genre a few women dare to venture into it.
- Jive Zim, The History of Zimbabwean Music, 'Jive Zimbabwe', Published: 2012, Retrieved: 30 Apr 2014
- Constance van Niekerk, Nyamhondera’s return could boost sungura music, 'Herald', Published: 15 Jan 2014, Retrieved: 30 Apr 2014
- Charles Tembo, An Embodied Culture of Optimism and Struggle: The Sungura Music of Tongai Moyo, Page:144. "Department of African Languages and Culture Midlands State University, Zimbabwe", 2013.
- Kenneth Matimaire, Has sungura lost its steam?, 'The Zimbabwean', Published: 30 Apr 2014
- Francis Machingura and Jesca Mushoperi Machingura, Women and Sungura music in Zimbabwe: Sungura Music as a Culturally-Gendered Genre,Page:28.2011