So I came across this so called open letter to Jah Prayzah on social media some weeks ago. The well scribed piece had two definite effects on me. First, it re-affirmed to me that Jah’s work is cherished and thus people get concerned. Secondly it triggered the thinker in me to defend Jah and give the other side of the coin, the one I obviously think is correct (I am suffering from the Prof Jonono Syndrome, I think I am always right).
By Simba Mazoyo
About the fear of seeing Jah donning hip hop attire and changing style:
The writer of the letter claims to have been an avid follower of JP’s music since times, but I ‘Thomasly’ question that. If he were, he would understand that the Uzumba born singer has been constantly re-inventing his art and style ever since he boarded the bus to Harare. He has never done the same style for more than six years. If you watch the videos for the songs; Sungano, Tsviriyo, Mudhara-achauya and Simudza Ngoma in the given order you will notice the trend. Speaking for myself, I have been listening to Jah Prayzah since his days in Budiriro 5. I parted ways with my $3 to watch JP live at Chegutu hotel in 2010, the guy used to sing South African Kwaito for goodness sake. Ever listened to the song ‘Sorry mhamha’?
From those Kwaito, ‘house-ish’ tracks he sang back then, he evolved to the Zimbabwean urban contemporary genre churning out tracks such as Gochi-Gochi. The songs could also easily pass for Zimdancehall if you ask me. I remember vividly those from Harare’s Northern side of Samora Machel terming his music ‘noisy’, I was still following him and enjoying hangu. Doing collaborations with the guru’s such as Chiwoniso, Fungisai and Derick Mpofu then added the cuts to the diamond. He emerged a fine, well defined singer of Zimbabwean traditional music, par excellence. Albums such as ‘Kumbumura mhute’ and ‘Jerusarema’ are enough evidence.
Now the journey has to continue and is continuing. I see Jah Prayzah is aiming for the international market. Actually he is already exploring it. With no doubt JP has in the past 4 or 5 years conquered the local music market. What could be next? Just as he evolved to where he is, let’s allow him to maintain the trajectory! We mustn’t be stingy guys. Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and Nigeria also need a fair share of the husky golden voice. It’s not like the guy is struggling anyway. He has already bagged a MAMA… a MAMA guys. Ngatisiyeyi zvitenderere, zviyende mberi. Dynamism is one of the keys to survival in entertainment business. Michael Jackson was never the same through-out his career yet he remained a star. From Billy Jean to Hold My hand ft Akon, it’s the voice and talent which remained intact, the style was surely altered along the way.
Mafikizolo as big as they are have of late visibly borrowed from the West African rhythm, particularly the Nigerian sound. We can’t say they are neglecting their path, they are simply being dynamic to remain competitive and relevant. JAH Prayzah can’t be an exemption on this notion.
If you want to know the danger of strictness and rigidity, check Madzibaba Zakaria. The guy is the senior lecturer of Sungura. Very true to the beat and culture. Never evolved a bit, but now firmly stuck in the corridors of failed careers, business-wise that is. Without the help of his church mates, Leonard Zhakata would have been swimming in the same pool. One sound and style over decades is never a good idea for anyone in the music industry, especially in this part of the world were the population is youthful.
Talk of Band member departures:
It’s simple and its common, fame gets into band members’ heads faster than common sense. The moment they start comparing their ex-Japanese cars to their boss’s Range Rover Sport, they lose it. Instead of enjoying the good share in their plate, they spend time analysing the basin from which the food was dished. Jonas Kasamba and Noel Nyazanda can give a free lecture on this topic. Did you know that the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem attempted to do the same the following day, alone? With Jesus, its ways were lined with palm leaves and carpets, but on the next day it received a thorough beating and serious chase out of the city. Why? Jesus was the marvel not the donkey, pabatei ipapo.
In parting I will say let’s gracefully allow Jah Prayzah to continue on his journey. If he moved from Uzumba to the bright lights of the city he might as well continue to the glitzy lifestyle of MTV and Channel O. Goodness and mercy must follow him. How many ‘Black Spirits’ has Tuku had? But he still stands tall as a beckon of excellence leading whichever outfit is available. In Zimbabwe JP lured the Vice President to an album launch; PSY got Obama dancing in USA. You never know, maybe next on the international platform, the Pope will nod his head and tap his feat to ‘Simudza Ngoma’(wishful thinking is not a crime).
In flat caps and army berets, on ZBC TV and on Channel O, with a twelve-member or four-member 3rd Generation band,….. I will always wish JP the best. His talent is indeed the core.
*Some of Simba’s other writings are available on www.simbamazoyo.wordpress.com