Riddim /rɪdɪm/  –  A Jamaican Patois pronunciation of the English word “rhythm”. The word is used in reggae, dancehall, calypso, soca, Zimdancehall and reggaeton talk to refer to the instrumental or “beat” accompanying a song.

The words riddim, Zimdancehall and cryptocurrency don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, just over a month ago you’d probably have been hard-pressed to figure out any connection between these three. Now, all of that has changed. It turns out the growing popularity of Bitcoin in Zimbabwe is behind the country’s latest Zimdancehall riddim.

The Bitcoin Riddim which was released earlier this month by Chillspot Records – the leading Zimbabwean reggae music production house – has started gaining traction on local music platforms with hit songs from some of the country’s leading recording artists.  So far 25 hot singles have been dropped featuring over 20 performers “riding the riddim”.

While the name Bitcoin Riddim might conjure up images of Zimbabwean artists dropping lines about cryptocurrency in Zimbabwe, Bitcoin in Zimbabwe or even Africa’s Blockchain revolution, the riddim actually follows the template of other Zimdancehall riddims.

The name of the riddim doesn’t always point to what the songs will be about. In this case, artists have hopped onto the track to release songs which are about other things that are close to their hearts and not actually about the world’s favourite cryptocurrency.

What’s Zimdancehall got to with Bitcoin in Zimbabwe anyway?

Zimdancehall is a Zimbabwean music genre that has its core sound steeped in Jamaican reggae and dancehall music. Zimbabwe already has a unique and deep connection with reggae influenced heavily by a dedicated hit single and a crazy independence day concert from the genre’s patron saint Bob Marley. This passion has not only intensified over the past 38 years but has evolved into a new, localised sound.

With such roots dating back to the 1980s, Zimdancehall’s youth-oriented sound has exploded over the past decade to become a signature sound, particularly for urban youth that expresses itself through songs that carry hard-hitting lyrics on everything from love, sex, family values in urban Zimbabwe, poverty, unemployment and crime.

The Bitcoin riddim carries a bit of all this. While the riddim’s leading single so far has been a “rumoured” diss track from one of the country’s local artists taking shots at his former record label, the other tracks follow some more familiar themes.

Its name, however, could be just a reflection of what’s a growing trend in urban conversation. Bitcoin in Zimbabwe is emerging as one alternative for the country’s currency challenges that have made it difficult for the ordinary man on the street or in this case, the youths, to place their trust in “the establishment” or traditional institutions like banks.

Perhaps it’s a call to financial autonomy through cryptocurrencies. Or maybe, it’s a play on the essence of independence.

After all, it was dropped in the month of April – Zimbabwe’s month of independence and the same month that Bob Marley came to the country to perform one of his last concerts singing about Zimbabweans having the right to determine their own destinies.