Zimbabweans are a people scattered all over the globe. It’s not news that we have had the worst never changing government since her birth. Amongst the best ways we have had to emancipate ourselves from our sad political and economic situation is to work extra hard; feeding off the scraps falling from the tables of the greedy and made to search for meaning and existence to where the grass looks “greener”.
Amongst the many that have taken the long rides in pursuit of happiness very few musicians have done so in with music in mind, but rather to etch any other form of existence, having had it tough in the music scene back home.
To leave the country in the hope of wowing the greener prospects with a taste of Zimbabwean music is a detrimental to one’s career (if not health) as it is a country not really known for its musical prowess.
With many artists and genres to choose from, the world isn’t very open to the sound of the Zimbabwean artist.
But as they say, the mind is the strongest tool we can ever wield and overcoming any negative thought whilst simply applying yourself to what you love best, can get you very far.
Zivanai Masango is a Zimbabwean born guitarist, songwriter and singer pushing the boundaries and sticking it to where it hurts, to that bent over mentality of ‘kusina amai hakuendwe’ and enforcing the ‘where there is a will there is a way’ attitude!
After relocating to the United States of America, Zivanai did not yield on his ambitions and love for playing the guitar. Back home he had played for various artists but since moving to the U.S he explored different sounds. He plays what he calls Afropop/Afrojazz fusion music, a concoction of his roots, jazz influences from Africa and hints of the Blues and R’n’B.
“We do Afropop/Afrojazz fusion music… firmly rooted in the traditions, sounds and rhythms of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa but also reflecting the various international influences I’ve picked up in my long journey as a professional musician… as well as a fan of music in general. International influences include jazz, blues, r’n’b etc” Zivanai said.
When he performs, he does mostly original material from his last 3 albums and some yet to be released material and has found acceptance and a following through his versatility in play and the constructive use of social media. He never misses an opportunity to share what and who he’s working on and his awkward meetings with the world’s biggest names in jazz music, Lee Ritenour and his love for the Ibanez guitar brand.
Being in America, he has had to be creative. It indeed is a big nation. However, wetting the appetites of traditional mbira/folk music (which has done more to put Zimbabwe on the map as a truly original sound from the land locked country than any other genre) can indeed take you a long way.
With notable pioneers of the traditional mbira such as Ambuya Stella Chiweshe, Dumisani Maraire, daughter Chiwoniso Maraire and Ephat Mujuru, having the paved the way amongst during their time, Masango simply picks up some of this music which is in the public domain to play to his musical advantage. He has been able to put a twist of his own and has seen him become a somewhat force to reckon with.
Becoming a social interpreter or protestor (in whichever way you decide to look at it), Zivanai Masango has managed to reflect the musical journey he has had and the different societies he has been blessed to being a part of.
His song “Varimugomo” which he wrote ‘after an American friend lamented on how they send congressmen to Capital Hill but once they get there, forget to represent the interests of the ones who voted them there’. cannot resonate enough what we face in his Zimbabwe.
“I didn’t mean to protest per se… but I had genuine questions for those on the hill (leaders)… to ask where that zeal to better the people which they had in the beginning went to… to ask how they have totally lost their collective conscience… to ask why they are not ashamed to pillage the country and turn it into rags… to ask why they don’t have mercy. I had genuine observations of how the ones at the bottom of the chain are always crying while they (politicians) are sitting pretty with their families. If that makes it protest music, then so be it.” He said.
His is a sound that can perform well as they has always been a great demand for folk and traditional sounding music in the world, regardless of how the wave of new music coming up has in a way shoved us from that route into a somewhat downward spiral. Zimbabwe has simply lost its music identity (if we had one) and because we yearn to appeal to trends are digressing and losing the grab we once had on the world.
Which makes him even reluctant to release some of his music sighting the industry as volatile and unsure.
“I have a collection of songs in the works… but I’m not sure whether to release them as an album or just trickle them out as singles. The nature of the music industry these days makes that a difficult question,”
He however might be convinced to do an album, probably in 2018 depending on how well his fans demand for it.
Zivanai is determined to keep learning and improving, as he has figured out, it is the only way to bring up a brand. I sensed a longing for being equally revered in his home country like the one he gets in the US.
Zimbabwean music fans tend to have a cult following to everything. A definition of greatness is usually how the crowds says it is and rarely how it sounds. When they catch the flame, they do so alarmingly, blinkered and never to be moved. It is the same reason why it is so easy to climb the musical ladder in the country, lose footing and come hitting the ground with a big thud! All within a short space of time. Very few artists have survived these spikes in popularity and lived to tell the tale. Many have simply been forced to give up on their dream.
This is what Zivanai is afraid of and indeed a daunting proposition.
It could also be the fact that he didn’t play much as his own as an artist back in Zimbabwe. His solo career blossomed in the states and cannot be drawn into comparing where he has made most impact in his musical career.
Despite his lack of a solo career in Zimbabwe, he admits how easy it is to play for non-Zimbabwean audiences in America. Sighting Zimbabwean audiences as being skeptical.
“There is a certain cynicism and skepticism from home fans, they don’t readily accept you. Whereas non-Zimbabwean audiences are quicker to embrace you and accept you.”
I guess it could be because a new sound like anything unfamiliar requires the taste to be acquired.
Be that as it may, his work is progressive and has worked with great Zimbabwean musicians touring the US, such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Mechanic Manyeruke and self- exiled Chimurenga musician, Thomas Mapfumo. He admits having learnt a lot from such big names in Zimbabwean music and will have to work harder to command as much respect as these artists get as travelling musicians.
Zivanai is a drop in the ocean of the Zimbabweans that are scattered all over the world who are doing well but barely noticed back at home. It could also be that Zimbabwe is too busy with a lot (of nothing) to see what they’ve got or like he neatly said,
“A prophet is accepted away from home more than at home,”
At a time when all things in Zimbabwe are blurred and politics in sharp focus, Jah Prayzah drops his new album Kutongwa Kwaro this evening amidst a goulash of expactations.
The album name, loosely translated means “Leadership” but in a somewhat discourteous manner to the character (himself or someone else) the regional star refers to in this latest offering.
Could this be his way of signalling the current chaos the country finds itself in, politically, as a cabinet re-shuffle has just ruffled feathers in this old cock that has led the country for the past 37 years?
Could Jah Prayzah, like his stage name, be prophetically singing of the times we find ourselves in, from Elohim with a message for us all to pay attention to our current leadership and demise while possibly learning of a way out through his message?
Could Zimbabwe’s 37-year nightmare – the sacked or lamented leadership, the disastrous political fighting and tortuous economy – finally be over and revealed in song and dance as his title assumes? Or could we be clinging onto nothing but clever wording and marketing by the rising regional musical star?
His album that has already broken self-set records by the artiste as the most marketed, comes at a time when every aspect of Zimbabwean life is in the pits and probably, just probably, could resuscitate a lethargic economy that is on the brink of self exploding.
It could be his greatest offering so far, if regional music is concerned, as he ventures to establish himself as an equal to one of the region’s biggest names in showbiz, Davido (Nigeria) who will perform alongside him at the Harare International Conference Centre later today.
Davido, who has recently been questioned on the mysterious murders of his colleagues in which he has been called into questioning by police in Nigeria, will be relieved to avoid the negative publicity he faces in his country at the moment with the trip down to the once ‘bread basket of Africa’.
Jah Prayzah will also yen for some good publicity through the same show as his track “Mdhara Vachauya” in particular, has been “linked” and “likened” to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s arrival to the helm of the sinking Titanic (Zimbabwe) and restore all that has been lost but who has just lost his post as Minister of Justice through the recent re-shuffling in the hands of the nonagenarian leader.
The Uzumba-bred star will shoot to aim at a far larger market than locally as it seems he has tasted regional success with collaborations with Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania) and Mafikizolo (South Africa) which have been received fairly well but has been left vulnerable back at home with fans who feel JP has moved away from his original sound while the upcoming mimic, Andy Muridzo, has been left to capitalise and feel the void.
His fans will have to accept the crooners change in tune to accomodate a much wider and more lucrative Africa, a conundrum he faces as he tries to satisfy both old and new fans alike.
His seven albums, though loosely characterised, are not an easy walk in the park especially with a Zimbabwean crowd that is not loyal in any way. If there is anything that Jah Prayzah has given the large followers he commands, is the guaranteed joy of music, a feat that was solely manned by Oliver Mtukudzi who at 65 years, never fails to deliver.
If we are to judge a book by its cover, Kutongwa Kwaro, might just be a best seller but then again, we must never. For artists have been known to find one spark within a list of dull moments, the proof is certainly in the pudding.
As the cash strapped Zimbabweans dig deep and hustle hard to attend the show, it is but a matter of time before we deduce which side of the fence we lie. Hopefully it will not suffer the same fate as the simultaneously coming Jacaranda mauve; sprawling from high above, but utterly worthless junk when it touches the ground.
My music listening is inspired by one simple thing: Greatness!
I don’t waste time on a bull’s faeces, I simply delete and move on, I simply don’t have to listen to ExQ (I’m supposed to link his name to his wikipedia but he doesn’t have one). I have come to understand how valuable the Megabytes in my phone or laptop are (until #datamustfall is in full effect) enough not to have them wasted on artists with a very low IQ in lyric building and telling a story. That said I still listen to Fally Ipupa, even though I have no idea of what he is singing about, his presentation instrumentally and visually appeals to me.
It’s Jay Z’s 13th album, who wouldn’t want to listen to it after like a four year sabbatical, hate him or love him, we can never run away from the fact that this is the same guy who has somehow shaped the look of Hip Hop as it is today. He has become a household name with more than music understanding but also business mind and a father to many artists to date.
As usual I go in with a strong expectation. I try not to listen to wannabe music critics and listen with a fresh ear. In the end we can only deduce real music without someone yelling ‘that is my song’ in the club. We can only call one a great artist buy the music and not the lifestyle he lives or the woman he married but by simply what he creates in the studio, enough to make sense and impart wisdom and happiness in the lives of many. Sean Carter seems to leave it all out on a record, especially with 4:44, after having faced media scrutiny over his love life. I guess we all needed his own version of the story, much reason as to why the album went platinum in a week.
Jay Z has faced many wars, its not easy to be declared ignoramus to common religion and still continue to live life the way we are given everyday. I might be a bad judge of character, but that’s a sin I am willing to die with coz it’s not for me to put anyone under any criteria.
I have struggled, daily to convince my colleagues that no matter how one seems to show it and portray it in his songs, we can only deduce if it comes from his mouth when he confesses and confessions are for God on the day of judgement. Let the man be and judge him because of what he does and sings about, it seems it is still the same old musician we have loved who continues to make great music for the masses. I am a fan of that.
I’ve stopped listening to beautiful girl songs, how many have been made? We cant only be dancing to songs that celebrate beauty of a woman or how rich you claim to be, this is simply just not good enough.
Imagine a newspaper that only writes about one thing only, with not even a change of angle! Thats how ExQ sounds right now, he simply has just lost any imagination in what to write about women now, he just keeps it very pathetic and you still have people listening and dancing to it.
I want to listen to a song that I can google to, if it’s worth googling and researching it’s adding value to my life.
Simply put I am not a hater, no hatred for someone’s else’s efforts. Same way we don’t support Zimbabwe Saints but Dynamos is the same way my ears close up when anything other than good comes on the radio. I did a show once on radio, the major reason why I never was revered among the many local musicians was the fact that I never tolerated lyrically poor musicians. I loathed making up ‘love this song’ in my shows and threw away anything other than beautiful. The majority of radio Dj’s in the country right now have no love for the music scene other than fill up their pockets with kick back money. Producers and Presenters share the freebies while we die with frustrations at the end of a broadcast.
Before I even convince you that Jay Z’s album is a five star offering, listen to it here for yourself and share your comments at the bottom, regardless of what I say next.
I often struggle with content to listen to, as I said, I delete a lot. The reason why we all loved Bob Marley and Michael Jackson regardless of how they lived their lives was because their music said something to us that we could relate to at the time even up to now. Oliver Mtukudzi continues to be the pinnacle example of great musicianship in Zimbabwe because of one thing alone, content and yet its sad to have Rocki, Exq and Maskiri in a conversation with friends of musicians from your country.
One wonders why the country seems to have harvested mediocre lyricists when there were born from the likes of Bundu Boys, James Chimombe, Oliver and Chiwoniso Maraire. What happened to writing something that lasts the ages and nothing that lasts the night out and can only be remembered when you get high again.
I have mastered the art of deducing if your song will go anywhere other than your paid rotation on radio by the first minute it plays. If you don’t chose the first statement on your song with great care, be careful to lose me within that entrance. A lot of people will agree with me but then again, I don’t depend on them, music is supposed to be something other than a sum of instruments and a voice behind the mic.
It is much more than that and if you don’t understand what I am trying to say but can listen to Plaxedes Wenyika without picking up some off notes, then this article is not for you.
By the way I am here for Jay Z, forgive me, I get so carried away by the death of music in my country.
In a few words, Jay Z’s album 4:44 exudes maturity and wit no other rapper in the genre has managed to portray. He brings the simple Rhythm and Poetry that Common, Nas, Biggie and Tupac always put in every single they made. You are bound to pick more than one points of discussion in his album than you are in any of my fore-mentioned mediocrity.
Though till now I don’t know what 4:44 means, we will keep gathering all speculations and come up with a concrete meaning when we get a chance to speak with HOV in person. In the mean time enjoy.
To find out what Jay Z is singing about in every song on this album, check out this website.
Its not everyday when the earthy and heavy african vocals meet with the well formed premier sounds of a chamber choir from the United States of America to produce a show, such as never been seen before in the country. If you are a music lover, the Unclouded: Music for hope Zim/USA is moving evidence of an existence of great choral movement within the country that deserves due recognition and must have every Zimbabwean proud and excited. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you.
Zimbabweans are extremely lucky and they just haven’t realised it yet. On Friday the 3oth of May, this Chitungwiza based choir, straight from the dusty streets will collaborate in a show with the Gonzaga Chamber Singersin a music show that will not only be a chance to bring together two unique group of voices but celebrate a choral music movement in the country that has far too long been suppressed and played second fiddle to many other music forms that have been given precedence.
I am blessed to have witnessed, in my lifetime, a choir that has achieved as much as the Chitungwiza Harmony Singers and yet is still just an ordinary choral group with very little musical status such as that which is given any other artist like Oliver Mtukudzi. If anyone deserved such high recognition, this would have been my number 1 choice of choir.
Friday the 30th of May will once again mark a great day in the choirs history as they sing alongside this premier ‘choral ensemble consisting of 26-28 voices drawn from the Gonzaga University Choir whose choral literature focuses on chamber works that are unaccompanied or with chamber accompaniment. Some of their major performances include concerts and national and international tours such as spring 2010 where the Chamber Singers performed in Shanghai and Beijing on its China tour.’ (GU website)
Their African tour has seen them travel to Zambia and the finale tone marked for Zimbabwe with CHS at the National Art Gallery for what should be a great unmissable show. During their tour of these two neighbouring countries, Gonzaga has participated in musical exchanges and performances with high school and university choirs, sang at Masses and other public venues. Timothy Westerhaus (director and voice coach) developed the choir’s first intercultural exchange and engagement tour in 2015 in Bogotá and Cali, Colombia, one of the first U.S. collegiate choir tours in the region.’ (According to Gonzaga website).
CHS is a choir that has not only stood the test of time since its creation in 1993 by the late, award winning Israel Dzangare but has produced three albums, collaborated with various artists within the country and has achieved repetitive success within regional competitions traditionally held in South Africa and hosted by Old Mutual. In 2016, for the first time ever, they were solely responsible for bringing the Limpopo version of the competitions to Harare which is a result of hard work and growth from within the choir resulting in the formation of other choral groups.
Here is a snippet of the rehearsal just to wet your appetite and if this doesn’t move to be at the National Art Gallery in Harare at 6pm, then no other music will.
The last time I saw a Tocky Vibes show I almost vomited. I can still taste the bitter after taste. A mashed attempt of a performance that I regretted paying for and with all the push around his artistry, I was left to wonder if he was indeed the ‘king’ he crowned himself to be or just the hit and run, half baked mediocre artist everyone fears falling in love with and inevitably loath.
Even his Facebook post dated 24 May says it all, “… get ready for new projects”, a statement that can easily be an attempt to wet an appetite of the many sympathisers who might just have lost interest.
His last album in 2016, Tirabhuru, poorly received compared to his first offerings should be an eye opener. No one paid attention to it as if it never exists. Zimbabwe’s diverse audience has no loyalty to a brand or artist and two years is a huge amount of time to leave them waiting. With the music scene awash with new players penetrating into the hearts of many music lovers hoping to keep them hooked, it is really a battle for top honours and a race to the crown. At the moment, Tocky is nowhere near contention,
Vibes could have easily remained afloat with his soulful and loveable ballads that favoured no gender or age. He had grown folk falling for his artistry while the youths saw him as a somewhat musical messiah. Many of his peers, who through the ills begotten by the country, needing no politician or international aid but words of encouragement from one fellow ghetto boy to the other have sought refuge in his lyrics. It is an all too familiar rags to riches story from the boy who was born in a ghetto called Rugare, a stone throw away from Kambuzuma where Winky D was born, defying the odds and singing his way into the hearts of many. But, could he slipping and giving way to many others?
It seems, judging by the works produced by his main rival, Winky D, that he has all but lost the battle.
At 24, surely he has a bright future ahead of him but runs the risk of dwindling into obscurity and needing a search party to rescue. One can only wait for so long without a production and I simply cannot stand his experimentation of sound even with afro jazz and other genres.
The show I mentioned in the beginning of this piece saw him receive a beer can or two in his face after he attempted to dazzle and croon his way out of a much hyped new year’s gig with some mbira, drum and almost trance like performance whilst seated on a huge chair with no socks on! He soon realised the paying mob hath fury.
A part of me wants to give him time, he could soon be back on our playlists again, with a dash of self-revelation. True musicians are not hurried into producing a track, infact the greatest music has been made by investing enough time on it. However, may artists have sunk deeper into oblivion by try to surpass their previous works and losing a footing in the race. He simply has to work on avoiding the latter.
There is a somewhat mediocre bone lodged in his musical anatomy. He has the ability to create great work such as similar to many great artists that have graced the country before him if he searches deep enough within himself. Some of his tracks have simply been too much a lean towards the feel and make of his hit song, Mhai.
I can simply deduce a great artist by the frequency to make hit songs (well thats how we all can) and for him to fall into this category, he has to go beyond just spending time in the studio and creating quality masterpieces. Today’s artists lack professional coaching, a musical ear during their creation processes and constructive critiques. Many have gone on to produce music under the influences of various other stuff including their eagerness to receive radio play and popularity, which is the deadliest form of motivation to any musician.
For long the country has been described as the reggae nation but I guess the many artists that have assumed this genre as a source of living and inspiration have failed to make a single trip to Jamaica as a source of inspiration or study, to get an understanding of where it all began. This I think is a must do in any true and genuine reggae artist.
The Zim-ragga music space is the largest in terms of revenue and following and as such many artists have emerged and are making a living out of it. Yearly, millions of dollars are spent on producing, marketing and performance of the genre, much loved by Zimbabweans all over the world. Their constant appetite for the music feeds these artists into creating more music and such is the circle of life.
Barely four years after his emergence, asking the question of whether he is still relevant might be a bit debatable but I am convinced he has pockets of musical genius in him that he needs dig deep to find within himself to once again come to charm the many of his lovers.