Retracing the Zimdancehall Roots with Godfather Templeman

Who is Godfather Templeman?

Born Simbarashe Johnson Maposa and that’s Godfather Templeman for you. Templeman means that the body, well my body is the Temple of God, the Temple of Jah and I shall not abuse, misuse or overuse it. Godfather means I made a promise to the youths that till my last breath, I will keep fighting for them, standing up for them and uplifting and enlightening the youths with every opportunity and also creating opportunities for them through music. As for Ghetto President, well that was an endorsement for the youths for a man standing for what he says and what he believes in. So it was just an endorsement from the youths. 

How was the Reggae/Dancehall scene in the 90s?

I was up for dancehall and reggae in the ‘90s. The ‘90s were the greatest of all times because that is when we were relevant. I was 12 years then, 1990 to be precise. Well into the ‘90s, the millennium, that was one of the greatest moments because then I was listening to enough dancehall and reggae music. My father used to play enough Culture, Burning Spear, enough Ijahman Levi.

So it was my turn now in the ‘90s to listen to the vibes without father as a youth going into the streets that’s when we user to get a lot of Stone Love, mix tapes from Kingston and it was an amazing of feeling. I remember listening to Munya Brown and Dennis Wilson on Radio 3 every Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm. You know the feeling was just amazing and we were learning a lot back then, you know. I used to listen to a lot of genres like Sungura, Country music, Western music, Soul, Rnb but there was just something about dancehall and reggae. Around ’94, I finished my O’ levels and I used to go to Mbuya Nehanda Archaney Centre that’s Coliseum for you which was recently Super label that was Archaney Centre for you in the ‘90s . 

I could go there and listen to some major dancehall music from Jah B, Major Ephraim and the Hall of Fame when it comes to MCs, yah big up to Major Ephraim. So it was Archaney Centre or Jobs Night Spot and Jobs was along Julius Nyerere behind Charge Office. So I am telling you, it was justamazing, crazy and we learnt a lot. We were part of it in the early days, it strengthened us and it inspired us so much. Back then, the promoters would host events at venues you rarely see today like in Chitungwiza, it was Community hall unit L. It would be full and everybody dressed in red, gold and green. 

So it was amazing back then. Papa Sun, Lieutenant Stitchy, Ninja Man, they used to rule straight up to Shabba Ranks, Buju Bunton, Bennie Man Capleton and I actually started listening to Capleton in the late‘90s and I am telling you it was just crazy. 

My brother introduced you to me in 1998, you had a show in Unity K and I was very young then. 7 years old to be precise, when did you start your musical journey? 

You wanna know about 1998? Well back then I started my music career professionally in 1994. I was still going to school back then but I would DJ whenever I had the time but I loved chanting you know being an MC. So I used to have a counter book, so when I listened to the best audios like Stone Love, I would write down what I felt were the punchlines. That’s how much I loved the music. I could never miss Dennis Wilson and Munya Brown on Radio 3. When my music journey started, I was living in Dema, down in Seke. I grew up in Chitungwiza but then I was in Dema then I moved to Chi-Town living on Unit H. 

I was doing a lot of parties in the hood, using the radio, the Tempest. I don’t know if you remember the Tempest. I would play vibes with the Tempest and get a little bit of money. 1997 was when I joined Syndicate Sound. Before that, I was with Quiet Zone Mega Bass and I was running things with Washy C and Mega Vibe. Syndicate Sound came after it. The legend that still lives on Hiba Ranks who is in the UK now, was the boss at Syndicate Sound.

So I became part of the sound as a man who used to carry speakers and records. Some times we could start doing the connections, the setting up and I got interested more and more. But remember, my love was being a MC and a DJ but more on MC. I then got to learn and learn and something happened. We had a gig at Mandedza High, where I did my Form 3 and 4. I had a link there and we went with my brethren to do the setups early in the afternoon since the gig started at 6pm. The rest of the team was running late and the hall was full then the principal told us to start. And I was like why not, so try turned on the CD player and the microphone. The team later arrived, 30 minutes before the show was over but I was mashing up the dance like never before and it was amazing. And at that moment that’s when I knew this was for me. 

After this, the boss relocated to the UK and sold the Syndicate. I got my share of the sale and I decided to make PA Systems. I did that from 1999 to 2006. I also started hosting shows at the Aquatic complex, the Miss Schools and so on at a very tender age. I was also doing beach parties at WaterWorld and Summer Slams at Rainbow Towers. I joined Archipelago in 1999 and I was a DJ there. I then joined Tropicana in 2001 where I was the Entertainment Manager and also a partner. I would provide entertainment from Thursday to Saturdayand this was the time I met Winky D. 

How important was the Cup Clash in sharping what is now our Dancehall space? 

City Sports Centre is where all the transformationhappens. This where we measure how big we are, how relevant we are each year. That is where the culture starts with everything, what we see with artists performing at City Sports Centre. It began in the ‘80s straight into the ‘90s with the likes of Stereo 1, Silver Stone hosting what they used to call Cup Clash. Here we had DJs, sound systems coming to clash. We would have MC contests and from this, artists were born because almost every artist who was part of the MC contests who is still living is part of the Pioneers of Zimdancehall

It is the beating heart of Zimdancehall. It is guaranteed good sound and electric atmospheres.

So the Cup Clash is very crucial as we have people from all corners of Zimbabwe coming together for the event. Why? Because they know if you are rocking, you have to be part of the show. This is where you see your favourite artists, DJs, selectors, new artists, the new voices. It is the beating heart of Zimdancehall. It is guaranteed good sound and electric atmospheres. 

Who coined the term Zimdancehall? 

That’s a good question. Dancehall music has been there from Day 1. From the day Bob Marley touched down in Zimbabwe, we became a reggae nation. As time went by we had Culture T, Kuda Culture andrepresenting the ‘90s. We had Major E, Mega Jan, Happy Bunton. In the 2000s we had Winky D, King Labash, Badman.

So Sluggy Youth and Bobo Marcos were performing in Zimbabwe with the Crucial Mix Band in the early 2000s. Sluggy Youth moved to the UK but his live for Dancehall coming from Zimbabwe was too much. He started uploading music from Zimbabwe and people asked what it was and he said it was Dancehall and Reggae. But people started saying they didn’t know it, they knew Bunton, Bennie and other artists from Jamaica. So on his website, he gave it a term, Zimdancehall, so it would identify with the Dancehall and Reggae coming from Zimbabwe. The website was up and running around 2006 so Sluggy wherever you are, may the Almighty bless you.

Then the rise of our Zimdancehall on the turn of 2010 to national stage but let’s talk about 2006 leading up to 2010. You did national tours with artists spreading the Zimdancehall? 

From 2006 – 2010, I did my tour with Winky D. We did shows across Zimbabwe cities and towns. I would go and juggle music, giving people 3 hours of good music. That’s my benchmark. Most of the time I would do it alone. I would be the MC and the DJ and I loved doing it because I learned it way back when I was inspired by General Bernard. As youths, we would juggle music with DVD players. Juggling with DVD players, you had to let the DVD load, select a song 1 up to 7 and sometimes after loading for a while it would say error then you would take it out and wipe it whilst at the meantime you would be chanting. That’s where the magic came through. 

So during the tours with Winky D under the banner Rufniks Entertainment we respected the time because we kept learning and we met different people, the fans who made us. Remember we were not being played on radio, we did everything ourselves, the promotions, putting the CDs in the streets. For some unknown reason, they people were not playing dancehall on radio so we did everything ourselves. But the tours were great. 

You found yourself on the radio, why come out of the shadows? Zimdancehall Overdrive was a staple in your day?

What happened was that we had no airplay, no promoters, we had to do everything ourselves. We had to believe in our music and the people loved it. It was not because of Radio, but it was because it was endorsed by the people. Around 2011, I parted ways with Winky D and I told myself I had to work with other artists and try to get more artists on board. I went to Star FM and I met Tich Mataz and he told me I was the man he was actually looking for. He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I wanted to play Zimdancehall so he took me to the Boss, Mr Derera and he agreed. They asked if I had enough music to play week in, week out and I said yes. So they gave me a 45 minute slot and we did the show for 2 to 3 months and it was hosted by DJ Mox and it was one of the craziest show on airplay. It became so popular that it went from a 1 hour show to 2 3-hour shows a week, Saturday ZimdancehallOverdrive and Thursday Dancehall Remedy. At some point it was done thrice a week with Bashman on Friday. The people loved the vibe. I knew I had to let people know about Zimdancehall. Until today, it’s a genre that enlightens the people about the community or what is happening on the streets. ZimdancehallOverdrive became the core of Zimdancehall and people would get what was happening on the streets through it. 

You introduced the Mbare Kings to the limelight. How important was it for new ghetto voices to get airplay? 

You know Dancehall was born in Chi-Town, HKD DZ and it was time for it to move to Mbare. When we did a Ghetto vs Ghetto at City Sports Centre with Turbulence, Seh Calaz, Killer T, Kinnah, Soul Jah Love rose to the occasion and did justice. It was amazing and electric. Their performance was off the hook. As for the Ghetto President, it was a full endorsement. The Mbare Kings kept rising until today and we hope they will keep inspiring the next generation. 

The UK was the next level in terms of touring for artists. What can we learn from those experiences ? 

UK was the next step in rising the artists. We never went there to perform only. Many promoters tried to make it happen but I felt the market was not ready for the artists. Whenever we wanted to go to the UK, I would stress on the promoters that they get us interviews on BBC Radio or BBC One Extra or get us interviews with the leading newspapers because we had to take this international. Unfortunately we never really got a promoter who was ready to do that but we kept sending artists who were ready to perform. Now we have different promoters who are ready to make it happen for us. We have however managed to do tours in South Africa and there were amazing performances there. 

Any regrets you have, personal and with Zimdancehallas genre? 

Regrets, not really. What would have been great would be the Government stepping in and helping with the genre in different ways through promotions and uplifting the youths. The youths need nice videos that they can use to compete with in the regional market. The Government did not help but I pray and hope they will do it for us. So for regrets, no because the man is still alive and breathing. 

What policy change should artists be advocating for? 

Simplicity. The youths are definitely always crying for simplicity. Just simplify things for the youths. Right now for the youths or promoters even before Covid-19, to hire a venue is a hard road. They go to all the venues in Harare, Chitungwiza and around the country, the youths are told that they are not doing any gigs. So all the youths want is equal rights and justice as well as equal opportunities. Place them in the national budget and let them get something from the national budget. 

Your energy and stage work is off the charts. How do prepare for a live performance? 

The energy and stage performance comes from many years and many experiences but above all the cornerstone is the blessing from the Most High. I love my stage alive and I love the people an the people love me. And they keep showing me love in different ways and times. In the most painful times of my life the youths have given me a shoulder to lean on. They have supported me from day one. So each time I get an opportunity to be on stage I look at it as a time to give back to my people and bond with them. 

Preparing for a show all it takes is sometimes we look at a poster where we are performing and we check who will be performing. If it’s Trevor Dongo, we know we have to have a selection for his fans. If Aleck Macheso is there, we ask ourselves what hisfans would like to listen to an we put it on our selection. All this is done to make a relevant playlist. As for our own fans, we talk about what they would listen to, so we talk about the years, the hits, the times and we give them the timeframes. 

Templeman at the Immotal Movement studios

Any advice to the upcoming artists and DJs...

My advice to the upcoming artists and DJs like everybody says, never lose hope and stay focused. Let no one tell you what you can and cannot do. Don’t let people benchmark you. Reach for the sky and don’t let money stop you. Work night and day. Always learn, don’t say you are better than the rest, keep learning. The world keeps changing and you have to stay relevant. Make it exciting, keep people guessing. Keep it entertaining and always make a sing along.

And in whatever you do, Jah Jah is the Almighty. Seek yourself, understand yourself and seek Jah Jah and He will be there for you.

Listen to the podcast version of the interview

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