The Sunday Mail
LAST year he gave us “Mdhara Vachauya”, which loosely translates to “the big boss shall come”.
It is not known if the “big boss” did indeed come, is still on his way, or is like the biblical Second Coming and will be upon us like a thief in the night.
Now, he is giving us “Kutonga Kwaro”, something about how a character, presumably big, will rule or is ruling, whichever way one wants to take it.
We will only have an idea when we hear the song for the first time this Friday at the Harare International Conference Centre.
Such song titles have inevitably seen Jah Prayzah being sucked into the politics of the day, Zanu-PF politics to be precise.
Some will say fans are making mountains out of molehills, majoring in minors, when they give political interpretations to Jah Prayzah’s music.
But just look at the way “Mdhara Vachauya” appears to carry so much significance at Zanu-PF public political meetings these days, with party youths making it clear the song can only be played for President Mugabe.
That the song makes reference to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s lion totem is one of the major causes of controversy.
Now Jah Prayzah is coming with “Kutonga Kwaro”, an album whose sleeve —unveiled weeks ago — has been perverted by mischief makers to now read “Kutonga Kwaro Garwe”, a not-so-oblique reference to VP Mnangagwa’s nickname.
These perversions and interpretations have seen 30-year-old Jah Prayzah getting threats from people who accuse him dabbling in the ruling party’s internal politics.
The Sunday Mail Society sat down with Jah Prayzah last week to talk about these issues as he prepares for his Friday album launch.
Looking relaxed at his offices in the capital, Jah Prayzah smiled and thanked whoever was behind altering his album sleeve and those sending threats on social media because “they helped market my album”.
“I thank that guy, or whoever they are, for marketing my album. I received many calls; of course, friends and relatives panicked, but I didn’t. I knew that people were paying attention to the album, to what we are doing and because my conscience is clear, I continue to do what I do best, which is sing,” said Jah Prayzah.
Well, the politics of the day are providing entertainment to some, and maybe Jah Prayzah is simply taking advantage of that to use a little word play for marketing mileage.
“No, bro. This is purely coincidental. Just like ‘Mdhara Vachauya’, people will once again realise that this has nothing to do with politics. Let’s wait just a few more days. The launch is here.
“I pick a name that gives weight to the album. My main motive is to change the game in music, to raise my country’s flag high. To me, Zimbabwe is one, we are all one people under our flag. As long as people are listening to my music, I do not really care how they interpret it,” said Jah Prayzah, who was raised in the Zanu-PF stronghold of Uzumba.
He said this was not the first time his music or promotional material had been corrupted to meet other people’s own ends.
“If you recall, my posters and billboards were defaced by some people and they put their own messages like ‘stay away’ etcetera. Because I know myself, I’m not even moved when people threaten me. It no longer scares me, I just continue doing what I do best, which is compose music and perform for the people.”
In the face of all the drama, Jah Prayzah says he will “remain neutral and quiet”, and no matter how deep one digs, “my music has no politics”.
Preps for the launch of the new album are mostly being handled by promoters 2 Kings Entertainment and manager Keen Mushapaidze, and Jah Prayzah feels all is well on that front.
“I concentrate on the art, which is what I would rather talk about,” says the singer, apparently tired of all the political talk and eager to change the subject.
“People will always see what they want to see. They see me rubbing shoulders with millionaires and they think that I’m also a millionaire, no. I just connect with these artistes musically and then we hang out. The pocket is never really an issue.
“People thought that I had a car before I could even afford to buy myself a second-hand vehicle. I am just blessed I think, because in dealing with all these big people, I have never paid a cent to do a collaboration.”
Jah Prayzah is forging a reputation as a master of collaborations across Africa.
“It is a cultural exchange and that is how we treat it. Right now Mafikizolo is featuring me on their album and Diamond Platnumz is doing the same. Music needs chemistry. When that chemistry is there, the works just come out.”
“Kutonga Kwaro” features Tanzanian superstar Diamond Platnumz and Nigerian Afro-pop singer Yemi Alade; and Jah Prayzah has numerous singles lined up, including with US star Jason Derulo, Nigerian reggae-dancehall singer Pato Ranking, Uganda’s Eddy Kenzo and Tanzania’s Harmonize.
On Friday, Jah Prayzah also intends to drop two videos.
“The song we did with Yemi has a video as well as ‘Chengetedza’, a track I think will be an instant hit upon release.”
He describes the 14-track “Kutonga Kwaro” as a 50-50 project in terms of balancing his traditional beat and fusing foreign influences.
Some of the tracks on the album are “Poporopipo” (featuring Diamond Platnumz), “Pikoko”, “Hello Mama”, Ndin’ndamubata” and the already popular “Chengetedza”.
The album was worked by Jah Prayzah’s in-house producer DJ Tamuka, and Wasafi Records producer Devi Laiza.
“I have faith in my producer now. He mixed and mastered everything. Ninety percent of the album was produced by (DJ) Tamuka and the remainder by (Devi) Laiza of Wasafi Records from Tanzania.
“We want to continue going forward. This album carries 14 tracks. My previous album was 70-30 in terms of balancing the traditional Jah Jah music and the foreign influences, but this time around it is 50-50.
“I have not departed too much from my traditional sound – my melodies are still the same. We are not changing our music per se; we are just modernising it, making it more international.”
Friday’s launch – which costs US$20 for an ordinary ticket, US$30 for VIP, US$50 for VVIP and US$100 for golden circle tickets – features not only Davido, but also artistes from Jah Prayzah’s Military Touch Movement and surprise guests.