Youth lyrics, street language and the politics of age: Contextualising the youth question in the Third Chimurenga in Zimbabwe
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Debates about the effects of the 'cultural nationalism' that has accompanied the so-called 'Third Chimurenga' in Zimbabwe since 2000, often portray youth as pawns of officials - for example, as national youth service trainees or as government sponsored artists - rather than as among the worst affected by recent developmental crises, who are struggling against the odds to survive. Yet concern about youth restlessness did, in part, lead to policies, such as the requirement of '75 per cent local content' for public broadcasters, which created opportunities for youth action and led, in turn, to the development of a new musical style known as 'urban grooves'. However, in 2007, Zimbabwean public radio and television banned the airplay of certain 'urban grooves' songs because of their unsavoury lyrics. In this article I analyse the lyrics of these songs in order to argue that together, the songs' lyrics, and their ban fromairtime, point to emergent intergenerational tensions. Some of these tensions revolve around emerging forms, uses andmeanings of vernacular languages. Whereas the 75 per cent local content policy imposed by the government in 2001 envisaged an anti-imperialist popular culture through the use of vernacular languages and local media products, youths used vernacular languages to highlight intergenerational sex differences in heterosexual behaviour. They used street language not ordinarily accessible to adults, to deliver an incisive critique of adult sexual excesses. As observed elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, not only do the banned songs provide an insight into youth subjectivities amidst the social contradictions of Zimbabwe's socio-economic and political crises, they also illustrate how popular music can be a form of civic participation.
- youth artists