Boon or bane? The role of feuds in shaping Bongo Flava

Diamond and Harmonize. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • With good music comes feisty feuds. Why do artistes feel the need to beef?
  • Do these beefs help or hinder Bongo Flava music?
  • Notable beefs like those between Diamond Platnumz and Alikiba, Diamond and Harmonize, Zuchu and Nandy, S2kizzy and Abbah, as well as Marioo and Barnaba have sparked widespread debate about their influence on Bongo Flava.

Bongo Flava, a genre that blends traditional Tanzanian music with hip hop, R&B, and Afrobeat, has become a powerful force in the East African music scene.

However, along with its rise, the genre has seen its fair share of rivalries, or "beefs," among its leading artists.

These conflicts, whether real or manufactured for publicity, have significantly impacted the industry.

Notable beefs like those between Diamond Platnumz and Alikiba, Diamond and Harmonize, Zuchu and Nandy, S2kizzy and Abbah, as well as Marioo and Barnaba have sparked widespread debate about their influence on Bongo Flava.

However, the question remains: do these beefs help or hinder Bongo Flava music?

Music producer, Usindani Ally aka Bob Manecky claims that beefs are just good for the growth of music industry as they increase engagement and publicity for the artistes.

“Beefs generate significant media coverage and public interest. Fans become deeply invested in the conflicts, choosing sides and engaging in discussions on social media,” he says.

“This heightened engagement can lead to increased streams, concert attendance, and merchandise sales. For example, every time Diamond Platnumz or Alikiba releases a new song, fans eagerly listen to detect any hidden messages aimed at the rival, boosting up streaming numbers,” he reveals.

Another music producer, owner of the music production house, Blackdot Entertainment Mr Justine Muhagachi, famously known as Gachi B shares that beefs also help in stimulating the creativity of artistes, producers, and even record labels.

“Rivalries and beefs can push artists to produce higher quality music and more innovative content. Diss tracks, a common product of beefs, showcase an artist's lyrical prowess and ability to convey emotions compellingly,” he reveals.

On his part, an artiste, social media influencer, and radio presenter, Mr Clayton Chipando famously known as Baba Levo says that beefs are good for market expansion beefs can attract international attention, expanding the market for Bongo Flava beyond Tanzania and East Africa.

“The dramatic narratives and high-profile conflicts draw in listeners from different regions who may be curious about the music fuelling these rivalries. This expanded audience can lead to new opportunities for international tours, collaborations, and recognition,” he explains.

On the other hand, a bongo flava artiste, Mr Benard Paul well-known as Ben Paul says beefs among music artistes are fostering a toxic environment in the music industry.

“Public feuds can create a toxic environment where negativity overshadows the music. Personal attacks and derogatory comments can detract from the genre's overall image, making it appear more about conflict than artistic expression,” he says.

He adds: “This toxicity can discourage new talent from entering the scene, fearing exposure to such a hostile atmosphere.”

A music producer, Mr Salmin Maengo who is famously known as S2Kizzy notes that beefs are fuelling division within the fan base.

“Beefs can polarise the fan base, creating divisions within the community. Fans who align with one artist may harbour hostility towards the opposing artist and their supporters. This division can stifle collaboration, which is essential for the growth and innovation of any music genre,” he explains.

On top of that, a bongo flava artiste, Mr Omari Mwanga also known as Marioo comments: “In an industry where unity can lead to greater achievements and a stronger collective presence on the international stage, such divisions can be detrimental and that’s why we are not doing well internationally.”

Mr Sharifu Juma who is known by his stage name, Jay Melody reveals that the focus on personal feuds can overshadow the musical achievements of the artists involved.

“Media and fan attention might shift from appreciating the music to following the drama, reducing the genre to a series of conflicts. This shift undermines the artistic value of Bongo Flava, making it more about sensationalism than genuine talent and creativity,” he notes.

Historical context of beefs in Bongo Flava

Rivalries in music are not new. They have existed in various forms across different genres and regions. In Bongo Flava, beefs often mimic the competitive spirit seen in global hip hop, where rivalries have historically driven the genre forward.

For instance, the feud between Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. in the 1990s brought significant attention to hip hop. Similarly, Bongo Flava's beefs have put the genre in the spotlight, contributing to its dynamism.

Diamond Platnumz vs Alikiba: The crown jewel rivalry

The most prominent rivalry in Bongo Flava is arguably between Diamond Platnumz and Alikiba. This feud has spanned over a decade and has seen numerous social media battles, and public confrontations. Fans have passionately taken sides, often leading to heated debates online and offline.

On the positive side, this rivalry has kept both artists in the public eye, ensuring constant media coverage and fan engagement. Every release from either artist is scrutinised for subliminal messages aimed at the other, which keeps audiences engaged and invested in their music. This continuous buzz can translate into higher sales, streams, and concert attendance.

However, the downside includes a polarised fan base, with supporters of each artist sometimes engaging in hostility. This division prevents collaboration, which is essential for the genre's growth.

Moreover, their focus on personal feuds overshadows the artists' musical talents and achievements, reducing the genre to a series of conflicts rather than a celebration of musical innovation.

Diamond Platnumz vs Harmonize: Mentor-turned rival

Another significant beef in Bongo Flava is between Diamond Platnumz and his former protégé Harmonize. Harmonize's departure from Diamond's record label, WCB Wasafi, marked the beginning of their public feud. This rivalry has included diss tracks, social media jabs, and competitive release strategies.

From a positive perspective, this beef has highlighted the importance of independence and self-determination in the music industry.

Harmonize's successful solo career post-WCB demonstrates that artists can thrive outside the shadow of their mentors. This narrative of self-empowerment can inspire other artists to pursue their paths.

Conversely, the conflict also highlights the potential toxicity of mentor-mentee relationships in the industry. The public fallout between Diamond and Harmonize could discourage upcoming artists from seeking mentorship, fearing similar outcomes.

Additionally, the focus on their feud can overshadow their contributions to the music scene, diverting attention from their artistic endeavours to their personal disputes.

Marioo vs Barnabas: The unexpected clash

The rivalry between Marioo and Barnabas represents a unexpected beef in Bongo Flava music industry.

This feud, while less intense than those involving other A-list artistes, still captures public interest. Marioo and Barnabas have exchanged barbs on social media, each striving to assert dominance in the industry.

However, the negative aspect is that emerging artists may feel compelled to engage in beefs to gain attention, believing that controversy is a shortcut to fame.

This mindset can detract from their focus on developing genuine talent and contributing positively to the genre. The industry might also prioritise sensationalism over artistry, which could undermine the quality and integrity of Bongo Flava.