Pioneered by Thomas Mapfumo, chimurenga was the popular music of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. The music, which finds its roots in Shona tradition, relies heavily on the mbira for inspiration. Rhythms and melodies from the traditional mbira are transcribed for guitar and are usually mixed with a political or moral message. The mbira is present in many songs as well. Somewhat danceable, chimurenga sometimes has a trance-inducing quality to it.
Artists include Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited and Jonah Sithole. Robson Banda & the New Black Eagles has a less dark feel than the chimurenga of Mapfumo.
Sometimes known as the Harare beat, jit is the highly danceable music Zimbabwe is best known for. Jit gained international exposure during the 1980s through theBhundu Boys and The Four Brothers, and is characterized by fast guitar riffs and rapid-fire drumming. A true melting pot, the popular sound is influenced by Tanzanian guitar, said to be brought back by returning soldiers, the bass of Congolese rhumba, and the mbira-guitar of chimurenga. Others, such as the Chazezesa Challengers, mix a blend of jit and sungura.
Artists include the Bhundu Boys, The Four Brothers, and the Chazezesa Challengers.
Rhumbira, as it is affectionately known by Afropop enthousiasts, finds its roots in the Congo. As Congolese bands based their efforts in Harare in the 70s and 80s, their heavy bass and infectious and intricate guitar licks eventually found their way into Zimbabwean music. As with most foreign music, the genre was “Zimbabweanized” as Shona lyrics and mbira-rythms (hence the moniker rhumbira) were added to complete the highly danceable sound. Rhumba hits its heyday in the 1980s, and although its popularity is in decline it remains a powerful force in Zimbabwean music both at home and abroad.
Artists include Jonah Moyo & Devera Ngwena, the Marxist Brothers, Simon Chimbetu, and Leonard Zhakata.
An offshoot of Zimbabwean rhumba and jit, sungura is an exptremely popular genre in Zimbabwe. Still heavily guitar-based, songs generally feature a reaggae feel, as well as more prominent vocal lines as the rapid-fire guitar of other styles takes a backseat. The genre hit its peak in the mid-1990s and is still going strong today despite the prominent rise of R&B in Africa.
Artists include John Chibadura, Leonard Dembo, Alick Macheso, and the Sungura Boys.
Another Congolese import from the touring bands of the 1970s. Compared to jit and rhumba, soukous is much less common in Zimbabwe despite its appealing international status. Zimbabwean soukous artists tend to be of Congolese origin.
Artists include the Real Sounds of Africa.
Reggae maintains a Zimbabwean following, but despite its popularity abroad few native artists have found much success.
Artists include the Pied Pipers.