Old Jah Prayzah re­turns on Chi­tubu but is it enough?

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE year 2018 was al­most over but some­how it felt in­com­plete. It is a year that has brought on a lot of things for Zim­bab­weans. It is a year that has brought old prob­lems and fresh headaches, a year of heartache and hardship but sprin­kled with hints of hope for the fu­ture.

A lot can hap­pen in 11 months and a lot has hap­pened so far in Zim­babwe but those that keep their ear to the ground would have known that the year could not be laid to rest be­fore one more thing hap­pened.

Be­fore the last rites could be ad­min­is­tered to 2018, the fat lady had to sing. Per­haps more ac­cu­rately, Jah Prayzah had to sing. It seems only a short while ago that Jah Prayzah was trans­formed from an or­di­nary mu­si­cian to a sooth­say­ing word­smith worse lyrics could de­ci­pher the fu­ture.

Al­most ex­actly this time last year, his song was the toast of a coun­try that stood on the edge of his­tory af­ter a dra­matic few weeks. Whether it was prophecy or not, Ku­tonga Kwaro will for­ever stand as sound­track of that time and now as he re­turns once again to re­claim his crown, many will no doubt be won­der­ing what prophe­cies lie in his new 13 track ef­fort, Chi­tubu.

Will Jah Prayzah de­liver? Or will he drop the ball and let go of the crown that he has worked so hard to keep away from the hands of all challengers? Only by tuck­ing into the 13-track ef­fort can one find any­thing that re­sem­bles an an­swer to th­ese ques­tions.

Be­fore this al­bum’s re­lease, many old Jah Prayzah fans had ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with the di­rec­tion that he had taken and prior to the al­bum launch, he had promised a re­turn to his roots.

At first lis­ten, Jah Prayzah does sound like a man yearn­ing for his old ways on Chi­tubu. The old dog had learnt new tricks on his last al­bum but he now wants to re­trace his steps and re­dis­cover his roots. Like a child re­cently weaned from his mother’s breast, he craves the sweet taste and fa­mil­iar­ity of his mother’s breast.

Chikomo is an epic open­ing for the al­bum. His voice is the star of the open­ing piece and with the able as­sis­tance of his ca­pa­ble back­ing vo­cal­ists, Jah be­gins to lay the foun­da­tion for the re­turn of his old self.

The vi­o­lin strings that ac­com­pany Jah takes on this epic jour­ney of self dis­cov­ery, bring­ing a clas­si­cal to the song. In­deed it sounds like an Ital­ian opera per­formed in the hills of Uzumba.

The next track Dan­ger­ous sees the re­turn of a more fa­mil­iar Jah Prayzah. This a joint that was made per­haps with his live shows in mind. One can imag­ine a cam­ou­flage clad Jah Prayzah whip­ping thou­sands of Ma­soja into a frenzy with a song whose beat marches on and on at a fre­netic pace.

As ex­cit­ing as it may be for those that at­tend Jah h Prayzah live shows, one has to ad­mit that they ey have heard this kind of song from Jah be­fore. fore. It’s a path he has trod­den in the past be­fore fore with songs like Ndini Ndamu­bata.

The repet­i­tive na­ture of such songs is one that at plays out through­out the al­bum. It will be a prob­lem for most crit­i­cal lis­ten­ers of the al­bum al­though it will be an eas­ier sier swal­low for Jah Prayzah’s hard­core rd­core fol­low­ers.

This fast pace is again repli­cated pli­cated on Chi­gun­duru later on in the al­bum al­though on that at oc­ca­sion it is an al­to­gether bet­ter tter done song. But even on that song, ac­cu­sa­tions about out the repet­i­tive na­ture of Jah Prayzah’s mu­sic will still ll be made and lis­ten­ing to this al­bum, this crit­i­cism ticism is valid. lid. One can’t n’t help but feel el like that they ey have heard ard such songs ongs b efore. e for e . Once nce you have ve heard one, e, you have ve heard them em all.

Fol­low me e is a re­turn turn of a Jah Prayzah that peo­ple have be­come fa­mil­iar with in the last cou­ple of years. This is the Jah Prayzah that loves col­lab­o­ra­tions. Join­ing forces with in­ter­na­tional acts is all well and good but in re­al­ity his work with in­ter­na­tional acts has re­sulted in as many hits as misses. This one feels like a forced and dis­jointed ef­fort with Jah Prayzah and Pa­torank­ing play­ing tug of war with the beat which nei­ther of them seems to master.

At the end of their tus­sle with the beat, none be­tween Jah Prayzah, Pa­torank­ing and the lis­tener emerges the win­ner. It’s a flat ef­fort that does not live up to both their talents. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Luck­ily this bit­ter taste is washed away by the next song, Tauchira. The col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pa­torank­ing is an ex­hi­bi­tion of the split per­son­al­ity that has come to char­ac­terise Jah Prayzah’s mu­sic as he looks to pen­e­trate new mar­kets.

While Fol­low me is Jah Prayzah aim­ing for the in­ter­na­tional hit that will take him to the red car­pets and flash­ing cam­eras of con­ti­nen­tal award shows, Tauchira takes us back to the dust of Uzumba. It takes us back to that sweet place where the mbira and hosho can summon spir­its or com­mand those whose feet itch to scratch it off by danc­ing.

Jah sounds per­fectly at home here.

It’s an up­beat song that is tamed by the sooth­ing notes com­ing from the mbira. This is the Jah that his old fans have been cry­ing for. That red hot streak con­tin­ues on Sarai. This is the Jah Prayzah that fans have been clam­our­ing for. In a sor­row­ful voice, the Uzumba-born mu­si­cian con­tem­plates life and death and only the hard­est of hearts will not be touched by Jah con­tem­plat­ing about what shall be­come of those he loves when he’s gone. It is hard to say good­bye and ac­com­pa­nied by a wail­ing acous­tic gui­tar, Jah show­cases just how dif­fi­cult it is.

Hakata was also made in a sim­i­lar vein and one thing that stands out about Jah Prayzah when he de­cides to summon the pow­ers of the mbira and the hosho is that his lyri­cism gets el­e­vated.

His lyrics suf­fered af­ter Jah de­cided to take his in­ter­na­tional de­tour. In­ter­na­tional for­ays had re­duced him to just an­other pop act that sings end­lessly about beau­ti­ful women and the fast but empty lifestyle that de­fines ur­ban life.

Jah Prayzah the in­ter­na­tional fame seek­ing pop act sur­faces on some songs on the al­bum, but songs like Hakata show­case that he has once again dipped his tongue into wis­dom­filled springs of Uzumba and is ready to sing about the things that re­ally mat­ter.

De­spite a re­turn to the ba­sics, Jah has not dis­carded parts of his per­son­al­ity that have dom­i­nated his mu­sic since he de­cided to search for a wider au­di­ence.

Songs like Kune Rima, show­case a man who still har­bours those am­bi­tions. Spe­cial Some­body is that rare oc­ca­sion that Jah Prayzah pre­serves a bit of his true self for an in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion. Al­though the blend with Sauti Sol does not work per­fectly, it shows a glimpse of what Jah should per­haps per­fect in the fu­ture.

Deep mus­ings about life are good but some­times all that peo­ple need to do is dance. While this al­bum has lay­ers that his pre­vi­ous ef­forts did not have, the al­bum is still packed with songs that are po­ten­tial hits. In that vein, songs like KuMahumbwe and Kide will tear up dance floors this fes­tive sea­son.

With this al­bum per­haps he has done enough to keep his crown. How­ever, his mu­sic still has glar­ing short­com­ings that he ur­gently needs to work on if he aims to at­tain the greatness g r e at n e s s he clearly craves.

Jah Prayzah

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