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Akala’s challenge

British rap and hip hop artist, Kingslee James Daley, also known as Akala wants Zimbabwean artists to come up with their own unique music if they are to break on the international music scene.

Akala, who is the founder of the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, is in the country as part of the British Council's efforts to engage with UK artists to come to Zimbabwe to share their experiences with local artists.

During a discussion programme held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Akala said the music industry had become highly competitive such that artists needed to move away from the old concept of imitating musicians from countries such as America. He said Zimbabwean musicians need to come up with their own unique styles which he said is one sure way of finding success.

He gave an example of Hip Hop artists in the United Kingdom he said have been on a paradigm shift for the past 10-15 years, moving away from copying American style and coming up with their original forms of music. The trend has earned them recognition on the international music scene.

"For a very long time,” he said, “we used to copy America a lot but over the last 10 to 15 years that has changed dramatically. Now we have a situation where a lot of British MCs are getting a lot of respect even in America not because they imitate the American style but because they are unique in their own way."

He also said that it was a serious misconception to think of hip hop as being American and implored Zimbabwean artists to engage in the struggle of finding their own voice and not imitating other people’s

This he said could be achieved if local artists try to address social issues that relate to people in their communities. "I think that is one of the reasons I have been able to make a name in the UK. The music that has made waves in the UK is not the music that has been imitating what the Americans have been doing and this is what Africans should be doing. You can have a career being yourself," he said.

He referenced French speaking Africans in Paris whom he said have been speaking with their own voice and have been successful.

Akala will also be performing at the Shoko International Spoken Word and Hip Hop Festival where artists from eight different countries have been invited to perform.

His music touches on race, class, sexism, history, power and culture. In 2006 Akala won an MOBO Award for the Best Hip Hop artist and has alsosupported popular artists such as Jay-Z and Christina Aguilera.

– By Edgar Gweshe.

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