Old Jah Prayzah returns on Chitubu but is it enough?
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.