The much awaited Jah Prayzah album launch has come and gone. It received an overwhelming response in Harare with the Harare International Conference Centre filled to capacity. Numbers do not lie. If we take numbers alone this album launch could easily be passed off as the biggest in history in terms of show attendance.
We do not have the figures of how many copies that have been sold so far but views on social media can give us a hint of the trends. On You Tube the title song ‘mudhara vachauya’ a personal favourite of mine because my nickname in college was ‘mudhara’ has close to 56 000 views. The other popular song ‘watora mari’ on this album has half a million views. I am told that their target is 1, 5 million views for watora mari in 6 weeks. It is attainable.
In comparison with other Zimbabwean artists , popular songs such as Disappear by Winky D and Mukoko by Amara Brown have at 800 000 views for the months they have been on You Tube. Jah Prayzah will soon surpass these figures.
This is a big deal in Zimbabwe where the internet penetration levels are not that high. We also have many Zimbabweans in the diaspora who may have access to internet and make up the bulk of these views. ‘Watora mari’ probably has a bigger number of views because of the appearance of much acclaimed Diamond Platinumz who has very impressive views statistics on YouTube.
However the focus of this article is to review the album “Mudhara vachauya.” When reviewing this album I will look at the instruments and lyrics. It must pass criteria I have set that others may not necessarily share. Can I dance to the songs and also sing along? Is it easy on my ears? Secondly music has to communicate with the listener. It must invoke some feelings in the listener. Does it have meaning? I will look at creativity and innovation.
I have not stopped dancing to Mudhara vachauaya and Watora mari. These are the type of songs one will dance to in a club or at a party. The rythm, the melodies, the rhyming is easy on the ears. You need only to play it twice before you start singing along. Watora mari is a duet with a Tanzanian artist and I love the part Diamond sings in Shona.
Is there a message in the song? It looks like a love song where a man is praising his woman. Tari ‘akazunza mazakwatira atora mari’ means if this woman swings her bums then she will bring business to a standstill. In short Tari is the best woman to this man. This is a song of appreciation to a beautiful woman. We all have our Tari’s who when they swing they bums they take all the money so it invokes some feeling in the hearts of the listeners.
The song shows innovation on Jah Prayzah’s part but not creativity. These are the kind of songs being done by groups such as P-Square and Diamond Platinumz. It’s the general trend of modern music by Africans which is not really African. It borrows heavily from American pop culture. It is meant for a broader international audience which is not necessarily African.
It probably is an attempt by Jah Prayzah to tap into the wider international music via social media but the reception has not been that overwhelming. Diamond Platinumz song with P-Square for example has 4 million views since it was released a month ago. Jah Prayzah’s song is only a week old so we will see how it fares. 500 000 views for ‘watora mari’ within a week looks promising.
Songs done by P-square available on Youtube a year ago average 30 million views. I know that the Jah Prayzah camp will say P-Square is Nigerian where there are more people therefore more views. I will reject that and say that internet music is international and transcends all geographical boundaries. Jah Prayzah must either compete or accept criticism. He has taken an international outlook and must therefore accept that he will be judged by international standards.
Mudhara vachauya is a great song once again but I did not get a message from it. It came across to me as a ‘blesser’ telling his ‘small house’ to be strong in the face of adversity. If people bother you tell them that my man will come and that man is a lion which can maul you (mudhara wacho ishumba inoruma).
It is the same instrument arrangement in many of his songs. It qualifies as a song of the moment but I doubt if I will still be listening to the same song three months down the line. It will lose flavour like gum. One of his supporters said to me that well if his music is like gum then he just has to make more gum.
Where Jah Prayzah really shocks me but not surprises me is his attempt at being the late Solomon Skuza in the song ‘in the ghetto’. Jah Prayzah has been criticized for lacking identity but the opposing camp says he is versatile. He seems to be trying out all genres to have a little something for every audience. I guess it is what contributes to his popularity but it also exposes his lack of creativity. This is not surprising though considering that he got in trouble a few years ago for copying a Ghanaian song.
The other songs are typical Jah Prayzah songs. They are not making the waves both on social media and radio. I remember whenever Oliver Mtukudzi launched an album I needed time to listen to the album and what I thought was my favourite song always changed over time. I don’t get the same feeling with this new album.
Jah Prayzah has a professional approach to his work and will continue to be a star. I doubt though if he is growing as an artist. Like David Beckham, there is a real risk that the artist will continue to become an idol not for his talents on the field but his commercial value, looks and his popularity with the media. His latest album has not convinced me that he has grown.