Artist: Alexio Kawara
Label, Year: Harmony Studios, 2016
Zimbabwe has had a drought of songs with a crossover appeal for the past few years. Efforts that attempted the feat ended as disasters, muddled up at the very least. Here I am talking of music of the same quality as that released by the likes of Bundu Boys—hits that topped national and international charts. Many wonder how we lost this kind of musical genius. Alexio Kawara’s release of ‘Hatidzoreke’ on Monday, 14 November 2016 is a wonder that shows the genius isn’t lost. You have to be wary of accidents; this song takes you zones away from the road.
Lex offers a fascinating travelogue through song as he moves across musical influences. There is some slick surf music, Afro-beat, and Zimbabwean influence. He fuses these three elements into one undeniably Zimbabwean yet cosmopolitan song in an act of genius. The resultant sound is an explosive novelty with a simple musical message: stand up and dance. The song keeps you on the edge. It’s not typical ghetto music, yet it has the animal energy that powers the ghetto and ta glamour the affluent can identify with.
Alexio’s vocal prowess is apparent. But there is something to be said for the talent of his bass player. He awakens the Zimbabwean in me, particularly with the mild imitation of shangara drumming. The other instrumentalists are, of course, equal to their tasks, but the bassist had to be singled out because he aces it on the song. Ecstasy is assured. The song has some call and response sections, which makes it a sultry, sticky, easy to sing along.
It was impossible for "Hatidzoreke" to be lacklustre, because the song was created by some of Zimbabwe’s best instrumentalists. It features Enoch Piroro and Winfred Manyoro on bass, Trust Samende on lead guitar, and Cornelius Mponda and Nelly Ndomupei on the keyboard and backing vocals respectively. The reason I am not talking about the mix is that it was done by Keith Ferguson. It just had to be balanced.
'Hatidzoreke' is also a song that one can totally love for its social relevance. The chiming voices of girls singing the opening phrase, “Tamuka twakakwidza, hatidzoreke” (We have brought our ‘A GAME’ and we aren’t retreating), set the tone for the inspirational journey. Alexio reminds us that ‘the expert in everything was once a beginner and we have to keep soaring higher. In a fragile environment like Zimbabwe, there could never be a better tool to uplift the people’s spirits than beautiful melodies saying “our happiness can never be dampened by challenges, for it is these challenges that makes us champions.” Even when this song gets ponderous, it still tickles one to dance with wild abandon.
The ending “Ndirime musana unorwadza,” which I am sure is taken from a folk song, reminds me of my grade one teacher, Mrs Kusosa. This functional metamorphosis of a song will not just keep our musical traditions alive but it maintains the agency of song in society. Beautiful memories, beautiful music.