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Jah Prayzah's litmus test

02 Nov 2017 at 05:14hrs | Views
JAH Prayzah's long-awaited album, Kutonga Kwaro, was finally released two weeks ago amid high expectations, particularly around the title track that is littered with political innuendo at face value.

Neutral observers - and perhaps some fans - were wary that their idol was now wading into the murky waters of Zanu PF politics around factional wars after talk that the song was pointing to a near-future time when Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa would take over from President Robert Mugabe.

In fact, some notorious individuals even did dummy sleeves with a bastardised title, Kutonga Kwaro Garwe, which were circulated on social media way before the album's official release. Mnangagwa is also known as Ngwena.

The song was being regarded as some kind of follow up to the title track of the preceding album, Mdara Vachauya (at least for those who interpreted the song to mean the real leader is on his way to power). As a way of countering the narrative placing Mnangagwa at the centre, the song was now being played at Mugabe's rallies in a reconfigured trajectory, to affirm the party's one centre of power doctrine.

Mdara Vachauya, however, turned out to be a love song in which a man in a faraway land, appeals to his woman to remain faithful in the face of temptations that distance is bound to bring.

Long before the latest album's release, Jah Prayzah had already pre-empted the political interpretations of the title track.
"I think it [the album] talks about where I am right now. Most songs are love and party songs. There is a track titled Kutonga Kwaro that talks about who I am and where I came from," he said in August this year.

There may not be a one-dimensional hearing of the title track, which opens the album, but cannot be what people had anticipated. The song speaks of the arrival on the scene of a familiar, but long-awaited hero expected to, among other things, make orphans happy, although he is also portrayed as a fearsome character before whom other men cringe in obeisance.

Is it political or social? This is always going to be the point of conjecture. In fact, the power of music inherently lies in its polysemic nature and the song is going to attract as much debate as was the case with Mdara Vachauya.

One notable thing on the album - which is likely to disappoint those fans who had been charmed by Jah Prayzah's earlier music - is the departure from his traditional beat as he seeks to reach out to a wider, heterogeneous international audience. One is reminded of tracks such as Machembere and Tiise Maoko, which spoke of a musician deeply entrenched in the traditions of his people.

But having said this, it remains to be seen if the new experiments on the album will be able to stand the test of time, although some die-hard fans are already touting this album as one of Jah Prayzah's best.

The drive to encompass a wider audience has seen the musician continuing to embrace other artistes such as Nigeria's Diamond Platnumz on Poporopipo, Davido on My Lilly and Yemi Alade on Nziyo Yerudo.

Perhaps this will work in Jah Prayzah's favour because fans of these artistes will get a taste of the Jah Prayzah flavour when they listen to the tracks and perhaps embrace him as one of their music idols. These collaborations have given the Murewa-bred artiste a cutting edge over many locals as it makes his music multidimensional.

Poporopipo is a sing-along love ballad in which the persona seeks to know a new girl who has struck his fancy, just like My Lilly, which carries the irresistible Davido magic that is likely to hold fans spellbound, especially with its thumping beat and the magical visuals. It's a gift to those keen on showing their fancy footwork on the dance floor.

Nziyo Yerudo, featuring Nigeria's Yemi Alade, carries music that scintillates with Afro-centric imagery and has a video to match, with top notch visuals.

Jah Prayzah has always come across as a poet, and this is like the watermark of his music, with deep, profound expressions that plumb the depths of human emotions using melodious wordplay. And this comes out strongly in the track, Chengetedza, in which the persona yearns for pure, uncorrupted love that has got nothing to do with money, status or appearance. In many of the songs Jah Prayzah runs true to form, injecting rhyming lines.

Other tracks to look forward to include Chipo, Halla, Emerina, Pikoko and Hello Mama. There are also a number of tracks that can pass as self-praise songs and these include Masoja, Unondiziva, Chakanyanya and Ndini Ndamubata, a song in which the lanky musician reminds his fans that he is still their man. It is as if he is saying despite what the naysayers will say, I am still your man, Soja Rinoenda Kure, as he is affectionately known among his fans.

Masoja is an ode to Third Generation. But this is personal. It's public record that Jah Prayzah dreamt of being a soldier during his childhood. In Unondiziva, he salutes his band members, walking a well-woven path earlier travelled by the late Tongai Moyo in Murozvi Mukuru.

The song that wraps up the album Muchinjiko, deserves special mention. It is essentially a gospel track, but with a deeply traditional feel - perhaps the Christian version of Goto Rinehwema. It's a bitter-sweet track that chronicles Jesus' agony as he carried his cross to Golgotha. There is something surreal about the track, with its melodious percussions blending seamlessly into the guitar riffs.

With a total of 14 tracks, in an industry where fellow artistes would feel content without even half as much, the album demonstrates Jah Prayzah's daredevil confidence.

If you are one for love and party songs, then this is your album, although it will likely disappoint those who had felt that with Kutonga Kwaro, Jah Prayzah would go political. They have to wait another day - that is if it will ever come, which is most unlikely.

Source - newsday
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