Zimbabwe has its own political and economic challenges, which are well documented. These problems have threatened to cripple the music industry: the country is a haven of music piracy. The problem is partly fuelled by some artists who believe that piracy spreads their reach.
However, Alick Macheso has proven that such an idea is not just a myth but the height of stupidity. By the close of business on 21 March, the day his new album Tsoka Dzerwendo first hit the streets, it had reportedly sold over 100 000 copies. Music consumers have shown that they are ready to support well-baked products. Zimbabweans jostled to grab a copy of the original CD. Music pirates no doubt queued for the album too, for speculative purposes.
For the past 24 hours, Macheso's tenth album has dominated the news feeds and timelines of Zimbawe's music lovers. We forgot about the internecine political and economic chaos. We embraced the album for its lyrical depth, its instrumental density and its unifying power. We will surely dance to Tsoka Dzerwendo with wild abandonment as we journey on in pursuit of a Zimbabwe where all are assured of sublime living.
Zimbabwe’s self-proclaimed and largely undisputed King of Sungura, Macheso released the six-track album just yesterday (at the time of writing) and has already succeeding in silencing many prophets of doom. The album comes after an exasperating four years’ wait - but it was well worth it.
I'm not quite sure of the contextual meaning of the title Tsoka Dzerwendo, which literally means ‘journeying feet’, but one has a feeling that Alick Macheso is affirming that he is a trailblazer in as far as sungura music is concerned.
As per tradition, the Orchestra Mberikwazvo frontman continues with his social commentary role. The opening track, ‘Baba’, is a gentle reminder to men that they should enjoy taking care of their babies, just as much as they enjoy “rabbiting” (chasing women). In the song Macheso uses the voice of a child raised in a broken family, where the father dumped all responsibilities onto his wife. It speaks of how mothers toil to fend for their children, doing everything that is possible (and at times even the impossible) with a view to raise well-rounded children. It’s highly likely that this song will resonate with many single mothers and even some married women whose husbands are mere ‘place holders’. Such messages are not the end to what makes Macheso tick. The sincerity in his voice and the excellent instrumentals make the song arresting. Of special mention here is the rock-steady rhythm guitar, which amidst all the dancing reminds you that there is a deeper message to ponder.
The third track on the album, ‘Wandirangaridza’, which was already popular at Macheso’s live shows because of its sing-along hook, talks of how our actions and experiences are shaped by our relations and by extension the environment. Our physical appearance, character and attitude is almost always similar to one of our relations. We are often reminded of days gone by and of our deceased relatives through their these lving relatives bearing striking resemblances. We all have times when we reminisce, and that is what Macheso is singing about here. Listening to the song, one cannot help but think of the days when Macheso still had competition in the late Tongai Moyo; the days of ‘Shedia’ when we all thought the Zim Dollar was only taking a temporary slide.
‘Mude Mude’, the last track on the album, has already been endorsed by many Zimbabweans on social media to be the run-away hit of the year. It’s a song that encourages unfiltered love and commitment to our relationships and our work.
‘Gungwa’, meanwhile, offers a message to haters: no matter how hard they try to pull one down, their efforts will come not nought. The expert use of imagery in ‘Gungwa’ is enough to seal any debate on Macheso’s lyrical wizardry.
While it’s very difficult to single out which song on this album stands out from the rest, ‘Munyaradzi’ also promises to be a monster hit. There is something about the track that demands to be replayed over and over. In the song Macheso encourages us to invest in strengthening our social capital. He laments that life may be tough but we are better together.
Like ‘Munyaradzi’, another track, ‘Kurarama Inyasha’ is also devotional. With a more moderate tempo it calls our attention to a supreme being who makes life and everything that matters. We are reminded here that we are who we are due to God’s grace and we ought to give praise.
Though Macheso decided to tread with caution by sticking to a sound that we’re familiar with, one cannot help notice that Jonasi Kasamba is absent on this project. Kasamba is a gifted chanter who brought a different flare to the Mberikwazvo brand - but then again, some complained that he was just noise. Obert Gomba’s complex drum rolls are also absent on some tracks, and even on the tracks he does play on, he seems to have not been given the freedom he enjoyed on previous projects. Perhaps his replacement Givemore Chokumanayara taught Obert a lesson that at times simplicity still does the trick.
At the end of the day, as one hits the play button yet again, all one can say is, “Well done King Alick!”