The Jit Exchange is a ZCCD project based on the uncanny relationship between Zimbabwe Jit and Detroit Jit. It is uncanny not only by name but having begun during the same era (1970s-1980s). The music between the two is very different, the Zimbabwean version being Rhumba based while Detroit being a genre of electronic music but there is an interesting similarity between the dances. Both have fast foot work and are mostly active below waist and less upper body movement.
History of Detroit Jit
The dance came out of a genre of Detroit club music called ‘Ghetto Tech’ which is a combination of Chicago Ghetto house, Electro, Detroit Techno, Miami Bass, and UK garage music. It based on a “four on four” rhythm and is faster than most dance music genres – roughly 145 to 165 BPM (Beats per minute). This genre is a DJ inspired style. DJs such as The Electrifying Mojo were instrumental in promoting and exposing this type of music. The dance birthed from this music came to be known as Jit. The dance arrived in the 1970s and was made popular in the 1980s with a TV show called The Scene. Pioneers of this movement were the McGhee brothers; Tracey, Johnny and James, who formed the core members of ‘The Jitterbugs.’ They invented Jit and carved out a career in dance and music with help from Motown legend Kim Weston. ZCCD collaborator ,Jit Master and designer Haleem “Stringz” Rasul made a movie shedding more light on this history .The movie is entitled Detroit OG’s, Pioneers of the Jit: The Jitterbugs. Haleem’s older cousin Hakeem also used to perform on the early Jit Scene.
Trailer of Detroit OG’s – Pioneers of the Jit: The Jitterbugs, a documentary film by Haleem “Stringz” Rasul, 2015
The Scene (Detroit TV show in the 1980s featuring Jit dance)
History of Zimbabwe Jit
Zimbabwe Jit (also known as Jiti, Jit-Jive and the Harare beat) is a guitar-based type of music deeply rooted in the traditional 4/4-meter drum styles found in Pfonda, Chibhanduru and other traditional drum beats from the Northeastern Zimbabwe specifically Murehwa. It also evolved from diverse influences from the Congolese Rumba , Tanzanian guitar styles and Zambian kanindo. Although existing in earlier years, it only became known as “Jit” in the 1970s and was perceived not in its ritualistic past but in a recreational present and popular culture music. Similar to Detroit’s Ghetto Tech, it is located in the idea of basement culture entertainment with several shades of underground and revolutionary ideals cutting through it.
Chibhanduru, video by Madzibaba Gwadiz
During Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence from colonial rule, second Chimurenga guerrilla fighters (vanaMukoma) hosted night vigils were Jit was central as underground entertainment. As a political tool, it was used to instill and cement revolutionary ideals, the music of Comrade Chinx which inspired the “call and response” project #roger by MC Biko Chisuvi and Bryce Detroit. This fluid genre of music gave birth to several dance styles in the 1970’s and got popular through bands such as Chazezesa Challengers, Four Brothers, and the Bhundu Boys (who became central in a movie by Michael Raeburn 1992 movie called “Jit”) .Similar to Detroit’s Ghetto tech music, Zimbabwe Jit music is a repository of some of the country’s fastest beats. It gave birth to other versions such as “Sungura” popularized by Nicholas Zacharia, Chazezesa Challengers, Orchestra Mberikwazvo and Alick Macheso. One of the most popular dances that was evolved from the Jit music was Borrowdale championed by Alick Macheso. The name comes from Borrowdale Horse racing course’s in Harare which is also connected to the famous horse betting urban culture in Zimbabwe ,the dance resembles a galloping horse.
The 1992 movie by Michael Raeburn title “Jit” featuring Bhundu Boys.
primary school students dancing Borrowdale to Zimbabwe Jit music
The ZCCD project looks at the intersection of the two sonic and dance movements in the spaces :Harare and Detroit . The research into this phenomena started with an earlier ZCCD project “Skype and Mix” pioneered by collaborators George Rahme (Detroit) and Philani Majama aka DJ PITSO (Harare). The project was conceptualized by Chido Johnson in Detroit and Kumbulani Zamuchiya in Harare were they both painted their rooms the same green to transform them into portholes into the other spaces. George and Pitso were curated into the project to mix live through the skype conference platform. An extended version of this project staged in 2015 with four DJs .This took place between The Black Box in the Nnamdi Center (Detroit) and Inner-City Café (Downtown Harare) with DJs; DJ Pitso(Harare), DJ Sammy Tee(Harare), DJ Nivek(Harare), DJ Jammie Cee(Harare), DJ George Rahme(Detroit), DJ Stacey Hotwaxx(Detroit), DJ Drummer Beat and DJ Los(Detroit). With live feed from either side in real time, the audience witnessed a dance off between two dance masters and their crews : Franco Dhaka aka Slomo and Extra kwazvose battling it off with Haleem Rasul aka Stringz and Hardcore Detroit.
In 2018, ZCCD partnered with The Center for World Performance Studies , University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to focus on developing hybrid forms between Zimbabwe Jit and Detroit electronic music. The 2018 ZCCD Research Resident was awarded to Clive Mukundu better known as Mono Mukundu, a maverick guitar player and producer from Harare, Mono Mukundu has performed with well-known Zimbabwe bands such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo, and Andy Brown. He will collaborate with Everett Reid, a drummer and producer (University of Michigan) and other Detroit Musicians with the guidance of Detroit Jit master, Haleem “Stringz” Rasul. This will result in a performance on September 13, 2018 in Ann Arbor.
Left Image: Jit Echange poster designed by Alec Kwiecinski 2018
Right Image: Mono Mukundu, 2018
The second phase of the Jit Exchange will be realized in 2019, focusing on the dance intersections of the two music genres from the two places ,at the center of this will be collaborator, Franco Dakha aka Slomo, working with Haleem “Stringz” Rasul and his Hardcore Detroit crew.
Right Image: Haleem with Slomo in Zimbabwe, 2015
History of the Jit Exchange project
Based on the uncanny similarity of the two Jits that exits more than eight thousand miles away, the project began with a “call and response” ZCCD project which artists from either end are encouraged to respond to an artistic gesture from the “other” space. ZCCD agent, Chido Johnson, met Haleem Rasul met having both received a Kresge Fellow and began conversing about the similarity of the name and dances in 2013 as he was working with a project with the Hinterlands, a theatre performance group in Detroit. In their project, Haleem was breaking down the jit dances into their separate component and that is when it was very evident how similar the dances were to dances like bhorodhero, derived from Zimbabwe Jit music. Chido then contacted ZCCD co-founder, KumbulaniZamuchiya to discuss a “call and respoinse” with a Zimbabwean dancer who focuses in Jit music. Kumbulani brought it Franco Dakha aka Slomo who had been a dancer for Alex Macheso mentioned above, the founder of bhorodhero dance.
Left Image: Kumbulani (left), Slomo, and Chido (right) meeting Slomo to discuss the Jit Exchange at Ambassador Hotel, Harare, 2014.
Right Image: Michael Mangenje on lights, Rola Nashef helping to set camera, Haleem “Stringz” Rasul responding to Slomo’s music for the “call and response.”
Both artists, Haleem “Stringz” Rasul and Franco Dakha aka Slomo where filmed separately worlds apart dancing to each other’s selected music. Haleem danced to Slomo’s own Jit music, but dancing Detroit style Jit, while Slomo danced to Detroit electronic music selected by Haleem, and likewise, dancing Zimbabwe style.
The trailer of their first collaboration as a call and response was filmed by Kumbulani Zamuchiya, Chido Johnson (with help from Michael and Rola) and edited by Dyani Douze (2014).
In 2015, Haleem Rasul was awarded a ZCCD Residence Research to explore Zimbabwe Jit dances, and work with collaborator, Slomo. ZCCD partnered with Jibilika Dance Trust, then led by Plot Mhako, so Haleem would interact with dance organizations in Zimbabwe. During the six weeks residency, Haleem taught dance workshops in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, and Chitungwiza on Detroit Jit dances.
Left Image: Haleem “Stringz” Rasul in Harare running a Detroit Jit workshop with Jibilika Dance Trust. Right Image: Haleem and Slomo in Chitungwiza township, Zimbabwe. (2015)
Haleem showcasing Detroit Jit to Chitungwiza township community.(2015)
Second PHASE of Jit Exchange in Detroit -projections for 2019
ZCCD having received a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Grant in 2017 for the Jit Exchange, we partnered first with Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) at the University of Michigan thanks to the strong support from the Program Associate, Elizabeth James. She connected us with Ingrid Racine, Academic Program Specialist from the University of Michigan Center for World Performance Studies, and its Director, Dr. Michael Gould.They were able to match the Knights grant and invest beyond the match to help the project to become successful.
Left Image: Shakiera Ibrahim (neighbor), and from DAAS is Arielle Chen, Elizabeth Ann James, and Stephen Ward (DAAS faculty) at ZCCD
Right Image: Haleem (left – ZCCD collaborator), Masimba Hwati (ZCCD), and the Center for World Performance Studies is Ingrid Racine, and Michael Gould at ZCCD.
The second phase of the Jit Exchange will focus on bringing bringing to full circle the project by bringing the dancers from Zimbabwe. The focus is to bring Franco Dakha aka Slomo with possibly one other dancer. Using the sound from the “first phase” of the Jit Exchange as the musical foundation, the collaborations will intersect with Detroit Jit dancers to explore the intersection of the two “jit” dances. This will be coordinated with Haleem Rasul and his Hardcore Detroit crew. During this ZCCD Research Residence, Slomo will similarly run workshops in several places within Detroit on Zimbabwe Jit derived dances.
Accompanying Slomo will be Kumbulani Zamuchiya, who is a documentary film maker and he will combine film from Haleem’s Zimbabwe Research in 2015 with video taken from Phase One with Mono, and their visit in 2019 to finish the Jit Exchange documentary. There will be other guests such as Plot Mhako who will be invited to present a synopsis of 20th to 21stcentury Zimbabwe cultural practices.
Left Image: Plot Mhako (left) and Kumbulani Zamuchiya (right) at the Zim Dance Halle Summit 2018, Harare.
Right Image: Franco Dakha aka Slomo, 2018