Zimabwe Omnibuses


Back in the day, for an artist wanted to become a household name they would need to acquire massive airplay on national radio stations. Traditionally being played on radio provided  a platform  to succeed. Radio also meant  that an artist would be entitled to royalties at the end of the month, a little renumeration for all the hard work put in. However, times have changed and the former system has died down, the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) has been erratic in disbursing the royalties and  the process  to get airplay has become challenging for upcoming upcoming artists.This has lead to the breakthrough into to the era of the “Kombi Airplay”.

The phenominal rise of ZimDancehall  opened up new avenues of marketing and exposure for artists. Although music had always been  played on public transport,  the popularity of Zim dancehall revamped  “Kombis”  from just playing music to entertain  passengers into a very formidable way of marketing for the artists.

In the radio era, more plays meant  more shows for the artist  but that  has changed to the extend that some artists get major  radio airplay  but remain largely unknown by the masses. This  effect is visible especially in local Hip Hop scene where artists receive a great deal of airplay on  the radio stations but lack when it comes to popularity with the masses.The same effect can be seen on local RnB and pop music scenes which receive great airplay on the radio stations but a number of the artists have not yet become household names;”

Getting more Commuter omnibus  airplay than  radio airplay has transformed a number  careers. Mathias Mhere rose from being a Blessing Shumba sing alike  into a phenomenal  gospel star mainly because of the omnibus airplay. In his early career days his music did not get much airplay  on radio except on dedicated gospel shows on the various radio stations. But despite the low airplay on radio stations he became a big artist merely by being played in Public Transport. When he emerged on the scene, every form of public transport played his music and the more that happened , the  more the audiences warmed up to his sound and he became a household name.

Public Transport also played a big role in Jah Prayzah’s career, elevating him into the superstar he is today. Before he became the artist   he is today Jah was once an unknown possibly irritating artist getting insane plays in the “Kombis” and public braai areas. As much as many complained then, the majority later became huge fans. The radio stations played Jah Prayzah’s music more after he had  already become a favorite to the public transport passengers. The same process that Jah Prayzah went through in his early career days  is similar to what Andy Muridzo is going through at the moment . Getting little to no airplay on radio stations but massively popular in the “Kombis” and public areas. Many have labelled  him as a copycat and annoying but during the past couple of months his album has been circulating and it is evident that the masses have  have become fans over time.
Sulumani Chimbetu has also benefited from Kombi airplay. His past 3 albums (Non Stop, Syllabus and Gunship) received an insane amount of airplay in the commuter omnibuses as compared to his other counterparts (Allan, Tryson Douglas) and this has led to major differences in their success and popularity stories . Over the years Sungura has fallen from being the top music genre in the country due to the decline in public transport airplay in comparison to dancehall music. Back in the day sungura was the Public transport genre  but gone are those days. The “kombi”playlist preferences  have reflected largely the shift in the Zimbabwean music industry’s direction. The artists getting more airplay in “Kombis” are the ones who also  have sold out shows (or capacities near to that). A  few  exceptions of the legends like Tuku and Macheso are the ones who can survive with minimal airplay but the rest are in dire need of it.

Lastly and more visibly is the rise of Zim Dancehall. Local dancehall is one genre that was pushed  to the top by the public. Many public transport operators  relate to Zim Dancehall more than any other genres and because of that they pushed for it and assisted in its rise to popularity. Passengers used to complain about it and opt for a change in music but now they  barely complain as they now have favorites in the genre.The majority of Zimbabweans  use public transport meaning that if an artist or genre gets massive airplay in omnibuses there will be  exposure to a larger scale of the population. Regardless of how  initially irritating the music may sound , due to repetition, the masses eventually warm up to it and it becomes a people’s choice. This also aids in artists receiving bookings for shows and public appearances.

Getting  airplay in public transport  clearly provides a  great platform to for artists to become successful. The more airplay they get ,the more  promoters that seek for their work. In conclusion, to all the upcoming artists, if the commercial radio stations make it hard to include your music onplaylists, the best option is to redistribute your music to the “Kombi drivers”! There is a better chance of reaching to your target audiences through public transport because “KOMBIS” are the NEW RADIO.

Tendai is Blogger and a YouTuber for  Zimbabwean music, more of his work can be found on this blog

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