EXPERIMENTS can either be risky or turn out successful.
In his latest album, Gwara, Zimbabwean trailblazing singer Jah Prayzah has delivered on both fronts.
The new offering is a sparkling collection of Jah Prayzah’s trademark contemporary music, and his fans are already raving over it.
The first thing I noticed is that the album is highly experimental. But then, in the same vein, I immediately concluded that this is yet another masterpiece from Jah Prayzah.
As an art critic, yes, you heard me, not as a music critic, the first thing that caught my attention was in fact the album cover and the title of the album.
Most people have seen the cover, which has circulated widely on social media platforms. It features a young woman on a journey in a picturesque countryside setting, down a dusty path, surrounded by nature, in what appears to be sunset.
“Gwara” means “a way” in Zimbabwe’s Shona language, so the young woman, befittingly, is on her way somewhere.
But again, “gwara” carries quite a few meanings in Shona. It could also mean a “coward”, or “guidance”.
So after scrutinising the album cover art and the title, I therefore concluded that Jah Prayzah has indeed chosen a certain path, or direction, that he wants to take.
And that direction will take him to his final destination where he has set his eyes on.
I also looked at the album cover art, this time on the flip side, and I noticed there are no featured artistes on the album, a sign that tells you, perhaps, that Jah Prayzah has full confidence in his artistry.
Music-wise, at first the album sounds like it was pulled out of the bottom drawer of the archives, but again I realised it was penned from yonder after serious consultations.
There is no doubt that Jah Prayzah believes in his traditions and customs. It should come as no surprise that he consulted the guidance of the “elders and traditionalists” on Gwara.
It is easy to see why he often refers to “machembere”, “mhondoro” and “machangamire”, terms that are steeped in Zimbabwean tradition and customs.
Of course, he tried to fuse the music with modern instruments – the guitars and drums – but then the experiment yielded a sound that is uniquely Zimbabwean.
You cannot fail to notice the rhythms by Rodney Beatz and Young DLC, whose signature “Young Dee on the Beat”, which preface the beat, in a manner somewhat similar to how some American artistes arrange their music.
Jah Prayzah has come up with his “Wagwizi” chant which he says simply means “Hi” in colloquial language.
Frankly speaking, Jah Prayzah exhibited his unadulterated raspy voice on almost every track on the album, much to the delight of his cult-like fanbase.
A fan commented on YouTube about Mhondoro: “This song gives me goose bumps and touches my soul. It awakens the Zimbabwean warrior within. JP’s raspy voice, the melody, the beat, the fusion of modern and traditional instruments, created one of the most powerful and moving songs I have ever heard in all my life.
“I live overseas and this song makes me so homesick. It also makes me incredibly proud to be Zimbabwean. I feel like walking around these London streets draped in the Zimbabwean flag from head to toe blasting this song at maximum volume.
“I wish I personally knew all the top DJs in every station worldwide and all the playlist selectors at all the major music streaming platforms so I could ask them to put this song on heavy rotation so the masses can hear how powerful and inspiring Zimbabwean music is. Thank you so much JP for blessing us with this musical masterpiece.”
The subjects on the album are as varied as the tracks themselves. He is talking about divine protection on Bvumbamirai, lamentations on Chimwe neChimwe and Mhaka, inheritance in Nherera.
He also brings his spirituality in songs such as Gone (pronounced as gonee) and the title track where he talks about missing the entrance to a place that is hidden (muninga).
To appease his female fans, as he is always keen to do so, Jah Prayzah included a few love tracks showing his tenderness on the song Nyeredzi, about a beautiful and well-endowed woman.
And then there is Ndichiyamwa, which talks about mother’s love. On a scale of one to 10, Gwara is an above average effort, considering that it is experimental and something new.
On the whole, if you are a fan, it makes for enjoyable listening. But if you are not, then you probably do not know what you are missing!
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