SOME facts are indisputable. Soul Jah Love is a musical genius, is unreliable, carries a bad boy tag around his neck and yet he remains one of the most loved artistes in this country. Zimbabwe has a long list of talented artistes that perennially disappointed their fans. They were simply ignored and their careers went downhill — but not this guy.
How is he different?
Music fans have been captured on video burning Soul Jah Love’s posters in protest over his failure to fulfil gigs. Equipment has been vandalised in his name — yet when he advertises a show — thousands still turn up. This Saturday, the “Pamamonya Ipapo” hit-maker retraces his footsteps to where it all began, Mbare, to launch his latest release, “Ndofirapo”.
Mbare, which is Harare’s oldest suburb, is where Soul Jah Love learned to walk, musically, and it is also where he found fame. Mbare is where he found love, not just the love of his adoring fans and followers but the woman who was to become his wife, Bounty Lisa. It is in this hotbed of talent that Soul Jah Love was to enjoy, for the first time, the fruits of his labour when he rented a US$40 room from money earned from his music.
It was at studios like Chill Spot Records in the heart of Matapi Flats that the chanter would emerge as one of the most promising and inspiring voices in the country. He gave hope to the youths even as he lived among them in abject poverty. Today, he inspires them even more, as they can see that there is a way out of their situation if one perseveres in pursuit of what they are good at. And, he, from time to time, goes back to his roots, to hang out with them and show appreciation for their love and support.
This Saturday, Soul Jah Love will not just go back to Mbare, this will be his first show in the high-density suburb in over a year. The last time he performed in Mbare was at the Chill Spot Anniversary gig last year and now he comes bearing gifts of all kinds. In addition, for 21 days, Soul Jah Love has not performed in Harare, saving himself for this historic return to his roots. It is significant because many a times Soul Jah Love has been advertised by promoters yet he would be performing, on the same day, in faraway places like Cape Town, South Africa or Leicester, England
It is notable because the artiste has put together a live band that will perform for the first time at the album launch in Mbare. He will be ably supported by an array of performers among them Freeman, Kinnah, Killer T, Jah Signal, Silent Killer, Templeman & Gary B, Dobba Don, Tocky Vibes, Blot, Ras Caleb, Hwindi President, Shinso Man, Dadza D, Guspy Warrior, Jah Child, Boom Beto, Lady Squanda, Ricky Fire and Judgement Yard.
No wonder strong corporate brands like the People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) have come in in a big way to support this massively popular and gifted ghetto youth. The bank will be opening instant accounts on the day and during the entirety of the gig at the venue.
“POSB has taken a position to help Soul Jah Love. This is his first bank account ever in his life and it is Esteem Banking where he gets served coffee while doing his transactions.
“They want to assist his development, mortgages, musical instruments, etcetera. You can now swipe at Soul Jah Love’s shows,” said the artiste’s manager, Benjamin Nyandoro.
Bachelors Republic, a fashion house, is also part of the launch and will on the night dress the entire band. A proper stage and lighting plus corporate branding, including that of Population Services International and other partners, will complete a set-up that proves that Soul Jah Love has indeed grown. What would be left is for the Conquering Family boss to blow away the expected thousands with a solid performance.
“The band we have assembled is very good, it has talented instrumentalists. Soul Jah Love has been rehearsing with his new team for over a month now. The live band is not just for the launch — this is the new Jah Love,” said Nyandoro.
With a massive turnover of managers at Soul Jah Love’s band, when Nyandoro joined the chanter at the beginning of May — showbiz watchers gave him three months tops — he is in his sixth month now.
“I decided to take on this challenge. I knew what I was getting into. So many have managed him yet so many have left. In a normal setting we could have parted ways already, but I saw his potential and believe he can contribute to the music industry in a bigger way and I feel I can help him do that.”
Nyandoro, the founder of Jive Zimbabwe, a one-stop shop for local arts development, public relations and events management, admits that it has taken “some getting used to” to work with Soul Jah Love.
Soul Jah Love’s failure to attend a Kadoma show recently saw most people question Nyandoro’s ability to handle his artiste. Kadoma and a few isolated incidents of Soul Jah Love’s no-shows have dented Nyandoro’s otherwise good start with the artiste.
“What I’m experiencing and potentially going to experience with Jah Love does not fall in the assumed template of artiste-manager relationship. Every artiste I work with, I have a deliberate position to develop him or her and in future build capacity of self-sufficiency and wean them off.
“That is not to say I’m about to jump ship, no. By the time we part ways, I hope to have built capacity within Jah Love’s camp for them to conquer the world. These album launches and corporate endorsements are just the beginning — there is more to come,” said Nyandoro, who through Jive Zimbabwe, has assisted several artistes like Gary Tight, Marcy Janyure, Suluman Chimbetu, Jean Masters, Munya Mataruse, Jah Prayzah and Tariro neGitare, to name just a few.
A civil engineer by profession, Nyandoro said he had overlooked a number of things when he began his journey with Soul Jah Love, among them the artiste’s health.
“Health issues sometimes affect us. It is public knowledge that Jah Love is diabetic but many a times we forget that when booking shows. However, we have since sorted that out, we now know how to manage his health, balance the work schedule and his time for recuperation,” said Nyandoro, adding, “His health is not something I want to get into because it’s personal but we have found common ground going forward.”
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