By Bruce Ndlovu
The last song is probably the best song of the album.
When the parties start rolling in December, when the itchy feet of revellers demand that the DJs play only the anthems of the festive season, few will probably think that this sentiment holds any truth.
Muchinjiko, the last track on Jah Prayzah’s Kutonga Kwaro, sounds like the black sheep among the 14 children that Jah Prayzah laboured to make since the release of last year’s Mudhara Vachauya. On its own it does not bear any resemblance to any of the 13 siblings that precede it on Kutonga Kwaro.
The song finds Jah in rare and unusual form. Rarely has he sounded so experimental on a song. At its core, Muchinjiko is a gospel song, a praise and worship piece that Jah does absolute justice to with a spirited display of his vocal prowess. His passionate and pained voice soars as he hits high notes while the guitar steadily bleeds into the hosho.
Jah’s interpretation of a traditional gospel song is nothing short of magical on this DJ Tamuka produced piece and one can envision the dreadlocked Military Touch supremo leading the faithful in worship as cupped palms clap and tireless feet stomp.
The track reminds one of the warmth of a Sunday afternoon church service and after the songs that came before, it proves to be an apt and fitting end.
This is because Kutonga Kwaro is, for the most part, musical heaven for the party loving listener. The album is packed with dust raising bangers that will no doubt thrill and excite many this festive season. After listening to this project one gets the feeling that this is the album that Jah Prayzah fans wanted him to make. For ardent followers of the Soja, it really does not get better than this.
Yet this is what makes Muchinjiko so special.
While the other songs seem to be early Christmas presents for Jah Prayzah legions, the album’s swansong sounds like it was gift wrapped for Mukudzeyi Mukombe (Jah Prayzah’s real name) himself. Only the proverbial fly on the wall knows what euphoric joy or soul crushing sadness drove Jah Prayzah to the Military Touch studios where he sung his lungs out for his maker.
After the up tempo joints earlier in the album, it seems like Jah is saying the party is over. It is time for worship.
Coming after the other tracks, the song sounds like the feeling one gets when they to go out to the club, wreck the dance floor on a Saturday night, only to find themselves in the bowels of their place of worship on Sunday morning, begging for forgiveness for the previous night’s sins.
While the song will be loved by critics that have always wanted Zimbabwe’s most popular musician to push himself and his listeners, the rest of the project is just what the doctor ordered at this stage of Jah Prayzah’s career.
Quite simply, his fans, will love this latest effort. Before the release of this album, questions were asked about whether Jah would pull off the monumental task of pleasing two separate markets, as he tries to keep his long time fans satisfied while at the same time becoming a continental icon.
With Mudhara Vachauya, Jah tried to bring down two birds with one storm and the jury is still out on whether his missile connected with either.
So should Jah stick to his core audience and sound and never become the continental star that he now seems destined to be? Or should he go for broke and risk alienating people that made him a star in the first place?
This is the rock and the hard place that Jah has been languishing in between before this album.
Yet on this latest album he shows that, with a deft touch and handy work by Tamuka, those two worlds can be moulded into one. As soon as the album kicks into high gear, it becomes evident that one is now well and truly on Planet Jah Prayzah. As the overlord of this planet, the musician’s sole purpose it to make the citizens dance.
Ndin’Ndamubata, the album’s second track, serves as a timely reminder to Jah Prayzah’s fans that he is still their man. It’s yet another lively, heart stopping track that finds the Soja in full flight as the track progresses at a fast march.
Nziyo Yerudo, a high powered collaboration with a continental star, Yemi Alade, follows. The Nigerian superstar’s adaptation to the Shona language on this track is admirable, and she blends well with Jah Prayzah’s style.
Emerina is another track that will please hardcore Jah Prayzah fans, with its tempo and rhythms similar to another old favourite, Eriza.
One can just imagine travellers yelling “rova ngoma tiyende” to bus drivers as their rural homes beckon this December.
If Emerina is a gift for old Jah fans Poporipo, featuring Diamond Platinumz, was tailor-made for urban dance floors. The song sounds better to the ear than perhaps even Watora Mari, with the Tanzanian’s velvety voice taming a bouncy DJ Tamuka instrumental. A lesser musician might have found the instrumental intimidating and fumbled. Not so the mighty Diamond Platinumz.
The 12th track, Chipo, sounds like another hit waiting to happen and the same can be said for the track that precedes it, Pikoko. The latter will probably become a wedding anthem, with Jah sounding sure voiced as his vocals land beautifully on the drums while the saxophone runs like a delicate thread through the track, connecting melody to instrumental.
Yet for all the potential hits packed on the fourteen track album, it remains to be seen if it will change the mind of Jah’s harshest critics. Some of the songs, as excellent as they are, feel like remakes of old anthems while those searching for social commentary during such tough economic times will perhaps have to wait for Winky D or Killer T’s albums. Jah largely sticks to his formula and he nails it on this album. For a bit of musical experimentation, fans will have to go the last track, which gives a glimpse of the immense potential that Jah is yet to exploit in full. Sunday News