Of Isolation and Substance and Drug Abuse In Zimdancehall… Addressing The Elephant in the Room

WE don’t know how far true it is but a certain individual who is an avid follower of the Zimdancehall movement in Zimbabwe once told us that whenever the late Zimbdancehall icon Saul “Saul Jah Love”  Musaka would chant “Television Tings!” “High Definition” in his songs, he would be indirectly referring to a drug called Mutoriro or Dombo which is the Zimbabwean version of Crystal meth which is made from a substance called Phosphorous that is extracted from disused Television sets and discarded fluorescent bulbs and mixed with other substances.

By Michael Gwarisa

Phosphorus is a mineral like iron or potassium. It is the same substance that is largely present in the fluorescent and energy saver bulbs as well as Television sets. It is that white powder that you see inside a fluorescent light bulb which emits visible light whenever it absorbs ultra violet energy waves. In both High Definition and old Television sets, Phosphorus exhibits the phenomenon of luminescence; it emits light when exposed to some type of radiant energy.

Crystal Meth is a street drug and is usually manufactured in hidden settings behind locked doors and is very dangerous to both the consumer and the one making it. This is just but one of the numerous drugs being used and abused by Zimbabwean youths from the Ghetto and those from leafy suburbs. Ngomwa or Bronclear, Msombodiya, Twabam are some of the illicit drugs and brews on the market at the moment.

Saul Jah Love, May His Dear Soul Rest in Peace is believed to have been hooked onto the infamous drug Mutoriro or Dombo which according to investigations by this publication a few years ago is manufactured at some backyard laboratory in Highfields which has since spread its wings into Mbare and Mufakose. While we are still in the spirit of mourning the late dancehall chanter Saul Jah Love who passed away recently due to complications from his long battle with Diabetes, let us also bear in mind that he was a victim of both diabetes and drug abuse.  It is public knowledge that the late chanter had an addiction for hard drugs such as Cocaine and Mutoriro. In one of the interviews, he had with a local publication, Jah Love confessed that he had tried almost every drug on the market and Cocaine had ruined his marriage with his wife Bounty Lisa.

Jah Love’s drug addiction might have contributed largely to his demise owing to his immune system which was already compromised due to his Diabetic condition. According to a study on “The Effects of Substance Abuse on Blood Glucose Parameters in Patients with Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” people who abuse substances are at an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes resulting partly from increased cell damage and due to the effects of opioids on glucose homeostasis. The study gathered that people with diabetes who abuse substances may carry greater health risks than the general population resulting from their effect on glucose metabolism.

Family Isolation


Saul Jah Love is just but a reflection and a drop in the ocean of the level at which drug and substance abuse is happening amongst young people. There are many reasons behind taking up drugs and isolation has been identified as one leading cause of substance and drug abuse. In most of his songs, Saul Jah love literally poured his heart out, crying for help and recognition. From his songs, we all learnt that Saul Jah Love grew up a bitter person who lacked love and empathy from whoever took up the responsibility to look after him after his parents had died. It is evident from his music that even though he always was in the company of his friends and Ghetto youths, he had not gotten over the fact that he had been isolated by those he looked up to and those he deemed closest to him.

Just like Saul Jah Love,a number of Zimdancehall artistes have confessed to living on the streets at some point. Some grew up without any close family and the only they have known are drug pushers and fellow street kids.

Mental health experts have identified Isolation as one of the leading causes of high substance abuse and consumption. The California Consortium of addiction programs and professionals gathered that substance abuse and addiction thrive mainly on isolation and rejection. In an interview with HealthTimes, a top Zimbabwean Psychologist, Dr Kudakwashe Muchena said isolation drives most men and boys into drugs and alcohol abuse and it comes through as a numbing mechanism which makes them escape from reality.

Lockdown for example comes with isolation, loneliness, depression, stress, anxiety amongst a host of other mental health issues.   A lot of men are faced with those challenges that come with lockdowns and there are very high chances that because of their poor health seeking behaviors, they will not want to seek help from anywhere else that’s is why they end up indulging in these numbing drugs where they end up using drugs and substances,said Dr Muchena.

Corporate Isolation

Unlike other genres such as Jazz and Sungura which are regarded as sober genres in Zimbabwe, Zimdancehall has since its early formation days been touted as a genre for Crack heads and drug addicts. This stereotype to a larger extent has had a negative impact on the livelihoods of most young trailblazing Zimdancehall artistes. Despite churning out tune after tune, majority of them, wallow in poverty and die as paupers.

Some of these artistes release tracks worth recognizing and affording endorsements. Despite the genre being the mots popular music at the moment, coporates and Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) continue to shun the young dancehall artistes. They would rather use washed up artistes who last released a hit song in 1996 as a brand ambassador. A good example is the track “Mukadzi Haarohwe” that was done by Zimdancehall artiste who goes by the name Bazooka. Under normal circumstances, that track was supposed to be an Anthem against Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Zimbabwe but alas, it expired without getting a single endorsement from women rights groups and organizations advocating for an end to GBV.

After investing energy and time to produce hits, young artistes also expect to make a living or to get some corporate recognition. Corporates and NGOs would rather play Zimdancehall music during road shows to drive their messages out there without even remitting a dime to the workhorses. It is such exploitation of talent at times which leads to young people in the genre resorting to drug and substance abuse. No matter how much they work, they are not recognized enough for their work. They feel useless.

It is this kind of rejection and exploitation by organizations and corporates which to some extent leads young and upcoming Zimdancehall artistes into solitude and drug abuse. Recognizing their work and paying for it may lead to positive health outcomes where young people will focus their energy on developing their lives and future in the process dumping negative coping mechanisms such as substance and drug abuse.

Zimdancehall As a Conduit for Drug and Substance Abuse

One thing Zimdancehall artistes should know is that Coporates and NGOs are in business and they would not want to associate their brands with drug addicts. Dancehall artistes need to get their act together and package themselves as brands.

Ever since its birth in Zimbabwe, Zimdancahall has become a vehicle through which young people from the Ghetto communicate to their counterparts facing the same daily highs and lows of the Ghetto. Their music has been described as protest music. As alluded to, Zimbabwean youths in general are currently facing numerous challenges ranging from economic, financial, social and political woes.

In as much as the music has become a voice of the voiceless, Zimdancehall has also become a conduit and strong marketing vehicle for drug and substance abuse. Owing to its Jamaican origins, Zimdancehall music also subscribes to the beliefs of the likes Peter Tosh and other Rastafarians and Jamaicans who advocated for the legalization of Ganja. However, drug merchants have since capitalized on this movement to introduce other hard drugs to an already gullible market of young people.

Coated in lyrical metaphors, substance and drug abuse is glorified in a number of Zimdancehall tracks. The artistes sing about “Kubatwa”  or being High on some substance as if its an achievement. Drug and substance abuse is also very rampart during events such as the Passa Passa and madirirano. Every Ghetto has a base where young people buy drugs.  To attract buyers, they play loud dancehall music from Jamaica as well as local tracks. As it stands, drug pushers are way ahead now and they have become and part parcel of society.

In Jamaica, dancehall music advanced in the 1970s and was a sparser version of Reggae than roots style. Dancehall music is a vital element of the Jamaican society and it’s a culture that impacts the social behaviors of young people.Just like Jamaican dancehall, Zimdancehall has become an integral part of society and has an influence on the behaviour of young people. Zimdancehall music negatively dominates young people’s behavior through the portrayal of sexual immorality, violence and drug abuse.

Unfortunately, we are having kids as young as 12 and 13 taking up drugs despite supporting scientific evidence that young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society.

This is one discussion we are not ready to have but the earlier we address this scourge, the more chance we stand of saving an entire generation from perishing to this pandemic called drug abuse. We certainly need to have a bold conversation around drug abuse in the Zimdancehall especially considering the influence the music has on the young generation.




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