Mtandazo Dube Unplugged
I have nothing against Mukudzei Mukombe aka Jah Prayzah, in fact, we share notes every now and again.
But it is important that in this journalist-to-artiste relationship, we tell each other the truth, which is the reason for this short commentary on his latest album, Kumbumura Mhute.
Jah Prayzah hoped that the album would take him to legendary status after the release of Ngwarira Kuparara, which announced his arrival on the Zimbabwean music scene, Sungano Yerudo, which he used to grab the attention of the masses and Tsviriyo, the album that got him respect from music fans as well as fellow musicians.
It was Tsviriyo that catapulted him to stardom, won him awards and saw him filling up venues around the country. He did collaborations with lots of artistes from Zim dancehall to gospel and by the time he released Kumbumura Mhute, his latest offering, he had adequately whetted the appetite of music followers.
And so it was no surprise that every music aficionado took time to listen to the 10-track CD. As expected the music is everywhere; in private cars, public transport, supermarkets, bottle stores and night clubs, among many others spaces. His record company is enjoying good sales, although they are not forthcoming with the figures. On the streets, pirates are complaining that their suppliers are not doing a good job; the CDs are constantly running out.
The market was hungry for a new product from the top musicians and Jah Prayzah’s well-timed release was just what the doctor ordered.
But what it all means is that the singer has been put under the microscope. Every detail is being scrutinised. Unfortunately, I have played the album over and over again looking for a hit song, but I cannot find one.
I have asked radio and club DJs to help me since they are the ones who get direct feedback from their audiences and the answer is the same — Jah Prayzah did a shoddy job. He took his fans for granted. A colleague of mine, who is an arts enthusiast, upon listening to this new effort, said: “Oh no! This is not what we listened to at live shows”.
So, is this what Jah Prayzah played at live shows? I think not. The studio murdered this album, our boy tried to too hard for the final product, something which he never used to do and all we have is a good sound expected from a top artiste but with nothing outstanding.
So ordinary is this new Jah Prayzah offering, it is unbelievable that it is the same album that caused so much noise before its release. Besides that it showered on the day, a sign that something big was taking place, Jah Prayzah’s album launch was accompanied by so many unthinkables.
A gun carrier, one reserved only for our very outstanding brothers and sisters, especially those that fought in the liberation struggle, was part of the convoy that criss-crossed the streets of Harare on the day of the launch.
But looking back, it is clear the product was not worth the salute it got. This one, I am sorry to say, falls in the league of embattled sungura singer Alick Macheso’s last release, Kwatabva Mitunhu, a high-sounding nothing.
How daring the boy was, booking that gigantic auditorium that many international artistes have failed to fill up. Of course, he was testing waters, which is commendable, but the Harare International Conference Centre is no place for pretenders, which unfortunately Jah Prayzah turned out to be.
Having built such a cult following, one cannot afford to slacken, to disappoint, especially on a big stage — but the Uzumba-born Tsviriyo hit-maker failed to deliver to the multitudes that over the last few years have looked at him as a demigod of sorts.
I have a feeling that the artiste mistakenly believed that he was now at a stage in his career where he can release any junk onto the market and people would just get into a frenzy because it is Jah Prayzah singing.
Take, for instance, the lyrics on his song, Makanika, where his desperation for rhyming words saw him mixing unrelated verses to create a completely meaningless song.
But I do not blame him though, his fans led him to do that; they even dance to that advert on circumcision that he did for Population Services International Zimbabwe (PSI) — imagine!
His desperation to please everyone with the latest 10-track album saw him mixing four genres of music with most of the songs sounding like some of his previous compositions.
Jah Prayzah should take a cue from the likes of Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo, who have managed to come up with distinct beats in their more than three decades careers but with diverse variations in their harmony. For Jah, this is proving difficult. The young lad uses a template for his beat, with the lyrics only being the difference. The timbre of the keyboards, bass and lead guitars is the same (on both fast and slow pace tracks) in his last three productions.
The consequence of this sub-standard release by Jah Prayzah is that nothing has improved on the live show side — attendance is still the same. Being the only notable artiste with new material on the market, Jah Prayzah should be miles ahead of his competition.
But unfortunately, Bev’s (Beverly Sibanda’s) “welcome back” show on Workers’ Day eve attracted a better crowd than that of Jah Prayzah. Of course, he would get comfort in that attendance at Suluman “Sulu” Chimbetu’s show on the same night was worse than his. However, all Sulu, or ailing sungura giant Alick Macheso, need to do now is come up with hit songs and Jah Prayzah will be in serious trouble. Otherwise, if both Macheso and Sulu fail to surpass the low bar set by their compatriot, the nation would have to continue to rally behind the high-riding Zim dancehall artistes.
One wonders if the vibrant Jah Prayzah has already reached his zenith in his otherwise embryonic career.
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