by GIFT NDOLWANE
JOHANNESBURG – NAMED after the reggae icon, Robert Nesta Marley, the Zimbabwean artist, Menelik Nesta Gibbons, has not reached the legendary status of the late Jamaican superstar but the duo has more in common that the middle name.
Among the things in common is Zimbabwe, which is going through political transformation, reminiscent of 1980 when the Southern African country attained its independence from Britain.
At the advent of independence, Marley wrote a track aptly titled, “Zimbabwe”.
On the eve of independence on April 18, Gibbons’ mother met Marley on the streets of Harare, which inspired her to name his son as such when he was born in 1987.
Fast forward 37 years later after Marley and like his namesake, the South African-based Gibbons, otherwise known as Don Dada, has felt compelled to honour the country of his birth with a song of freedom, celebrating the advent of a new era.
“It’s a song that will inspire Zimbabweans and uplift their spirits,” said Dada of the production titled, “Zimbabwe Kubatana.”
In his deep baritone voice, Dada talks about how he felt compelled to contribute to Zimbabwe’s journey of a new dawn and started off by using his social media platforms to encourage and support Zimbabweans at home on the #SolidarityMarch.
“Instead, I went to the studio to ensure that the change in Zimbabwe can be celebrated with a new song that will remind everyone of the day change was achieved,” Dadad added.
The track was completed and submitted to digital aggregator for ingestion on all digital platforms globally by November 20 last year but respecting the Zimbabwe political transition in the background, he had to wait for the right time to release his single.
That “right time” refers to the period leading to the resignation of longtime leader, Robert Mugabe, who announced his resignation on November 21 after an intervention by the military.
He explains Kubatana translates to “unity” in the Zimbabwean Shona.
“These are words of encouragement and exactly what is needed for now and generations for come,” the artist said.
He attributes success of this production to Somila Mejani, also known as Seed_Under in the hip-hop circle.
Gibbons’ father, Moses, and friend, Dean Mark Holloway, also supported him with the production.
Gibbons brings an unusual voice to local hip-hop.
While most rappers tend to be high pitched as they spit rhymes, Dada is laid back.
He has otherwise been described as Barry White of rappers, in reference to his vocal abilities.
Meanwhile, his single VIVA Mandela has been awarded Record Industry of South Africa (RISA) -certified Gold Award for sales a few months ago has become a double platinum, a major achievement for an artist born in Zimbabwe.
Dada was still basking in the success of the Zimbabwe tour when he received an offer through Content Connect Africa to do the 2017 Mandela song.
He accepted as he felt that the man who gave his life to freedom for others needed to be celebrated.
This fuelled the birth of VIVA Mandela, supported by Content Connect Africa (CCA), MTN South Africa and relevant permission from the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Unlike his usual speed to produce Dada, he took a few days as part of his creative process by reading Mandela’s book, “Long Walk to Freedom” and using extracts of that journey to create a song that could be used to tell that story.
Gibbons migrated to South Africa at the age of 5 and grew up in Turffontein south of Johannesburg.
He has never cut his hair and stands out with his long dreadlocks that run over a metre in length.
While he has found his musical home in rap and not reggae, inevitably, reggae seeps into his musical arsenal as he makes hip hop.
– CAJ News