In 20 years, Somandla “Mafia” Ndebele has released 21 sungura albums.
In all of them he sings of strife in the family, strife with children, strife in business. Strife, strife, strife.
Soma recently released his 22nd album, “Dadanewako”, and in it he sings about – you guess it, strife.
His latest hardcore sungura project makes one wonder if the “Rovambira” hit-maker has ever known peace.
Soma’s music portrays the image of a guy who is at perpetual war with dark forces, both natural and super- natural.
Lines like “… ndiye muzukuru wangu Peter wandinaye, andinetsa kakawanda muchizviona”; “Pamba pangu pandinogara kutsingana/kuroya kwanyanya, vandinoshandira vanondivenga”; and “… vangave vana tete musha maparadza imi, afunga wese kutonga musha wangu anongotonga paanodira. Ndiwowu musha wangu muchiuparadza, kundiripisa-ripisa kasingaperi” tell the story of a man who is not at ease.
However, such heavy emotional fare has done little to dilute the appeal of his compositions, perhaps because most people are grappling with their own dark forces most of the time.
The six-track “Dadanewako” is oddly easy to consume despite the draining lyricism. The album is delivered using a range of medium-to-fast-paced beats, which can stealthily invite a reluctant jig.
In an interview last week, Soma said personal experiences inspired his work.
“I’m also human and face similar problems with everyone else. My music is inspired by these issues, thus singing about them is a way of making people understand and find solutions. Challenges I face in life are similar to those my neighbour or any other person face.
“Fans love my music because they feel I have poignant lyrics that help them convey difficult messages be it to their in-laws, friends or neighbours with precision.”
He was not done.
“People suffer in silence and don’t say out issues affecting them be it between husband and wife, in-laws, friends and so on thus I have taken it upon myself to address this anomaly. Suffering in silence has at times resulted in people committing suicide.”
The opening track, “Vechidzimai”, laments men who ill-treat their wives. In “Tanga Wabvunza” Soma sings about a family that collapses because of irrational decisions based on bad advice and gossip. “Sorry” urges people to able to apologise for their wrong-doing.
Outside the 22 albums, the musician has also recorded seven singles and three video albums in a career that stretches back to the late ‘80s.
These many years of effort have not brought rich rewards, and Mafia believes piracy is partly to blame for this.
“I now survive from hand to mouth. We stopped making money long back. I sometimes even fail to raise money for transport. So you can imagine if myself, a band leader, is struggling what then becomes of an ordinary band member?
“My new offering has already been pirated and is being sold like hot cakes in the street yet I’m getting nothing from it!
“Back in the days I would by now have sold at least 30 000 copies and expecting healthy royalties but it’s no longer possible. It baffles me why Government has worked tirelessly to find lasting solutions to crimes like stock theft, witchcraft, rape etcetera yet maintains a lethargic approach on piracy,” fumed Soma.
The sungura musician contends that the rise of Zim dancehall does not in any way affect his fan base. According to him, sungura and Zim dancehall have different followers.
Mafia rose to prominence after the release of “Zvamauya Zvanaka” at the turn of the new millennium. Other albums that played a crucial role in defining his career include “Taparumano”, “Chidamoyo” and “Makobvu Nematete”.
Soma is the proud father of seven children. He owns a public address system, instruments and a couple of motor vehicles.
Is he content with his achievements?
“You can never be satisfied. Each time you want more than you already have. But it is important to remember success is God’s decision. I would love though to move a step or two forward. I have been around for some time and probably deserve it,” philisophised Soma.
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