‘Whindi’ is a word that was coined in the streets of Harare to refer to the commuter omnibus operators. Many people travel using the buses, especially those from the ghetto and rural areas.
Every commuter omnibus has a driver and a conductor (also called a whindi) who drive and collect money from the 20-plus passengers on board.
But whindis also have another role.
They are now playing a silent – if you can call it that – role in music distribution.
Yes, music distribution.
Musically, Zimbabwe has no industry to speak of regarding distribution and marketing. Most budding artists in Zimbabwe get popular by conductors playing their music frequently in commuter omnibuses. There’s too much bureaucracy for an artist to get radio airplay.
Through these conductors and drivers, big names such as Soul Jah Love, Winky D, Blessing Shumba, Mathias Mhere, Killer T, to mention just a few, have emerged.
And so, most musicians are ditching the radio and getting whindis to push their tunes. It’s the musicians who are giving the conductor the role of music distribution. And, if you talk to passengers on the buses, it seems to be working.
‘It is a more effective tool for music distribution; imagine hearing a song time and again. Even if it’s not your type of music, you just end up liking the song because it’s being played each time you get into a commuter omnibus. That is how most budding musicians are getting popular,’ said Paddington Ngadze.
Through these conductors and drivers, big names such as Soul Jah Love, Winky D, Blessing Shumba, Mathias Mhere, Killer T, to mention just a few, have emerged. They are also contributing to the growth of Zimdancehall, the most listened-to music genre in Zimbabwe. Most playlists in these commuter omnibuses include songs like Misodzi Yangu by Killer T, Ndakamukwapaidza by Soul Jah Love, Mwari Wedenga by Kinnah as well as songs by Shinsoman and Freeman. And there are many more.
Marketing expert, Charles Murombo, believes the new trend is a good strategy for artists to attain fame.
‘It is called market evolution where by the consumer, the supply channel and the producer, look at the ways to push their goods and different ways to satisfy their need.
‘They have noticed that trying to get your music on the radio is much of a hustle and people don’t listen to the radio that much.’
‘In this case the evolution is with the artists themselves. They have noticed that trying to get your music on the radio is much of a hustle and people don’t listen to the radio that much,’ he said.
‘My take is that it’s a very good thing but it needs proper measures to be put in place to avoid things like piracy. We need to make sure that musicians generate revenue.
‘The real question is… Are they going to reap enough revenue or it is just a matter of fame? If it’s a question of fame then yes, it’s a very good thing.’
Music producer Dickson (Bizzy Dee) Mandota agrees that whindis have revolutionised music distribution in Zimbabwe.
‘Zimdancehall artists are undisputedly getting famous, no doubt. I personally feel it’s a positive way of marketing as the music quickly reaches the public.
‘On the other hand, the question is what does the artist gain from that? I am talking about royalties,’ he said.
But someone else also stands to gain. Whindis are often ridiculed and looked down upon, mainly because most of them put on dirty and tattered clothes and are associated with bad things like crime and public indecency.
This trend, however, seems to have given them a new status in society.
Whindi Lazarus Madhombindo’s favourite tunes last month
1. Tavakuda Kumbofarawo by Killer T
2. Misodzi Yangu by Killer T
3. Eriza by Jah Prayzah
Whindi Tendai Tsatsa‘s favourite tunes last month
1. Nyarara Chenzi by Killer T
2. Jerusalema by Jah Prayzah
3. Makanaka Jesu by UFIC Choir
Whindi Simon Tavakwa’s favourite tunes
1. Ephiziba by Mathias Mhere
2. Magetsi by Soul Jah Love
3. Mwari Wedenga by Kinnah