Jah Prayzah - 'Mudhara Vachauya'

Artist: Jah Prayzah
Album: Mudhara Vachauya
Label & Year:  JP Studios, 2016

Jah Prayzah has just released a new album.
Jah Prayzah has just released a new album.

Zimbabwean musician Jah Prayzah dropped his seventh album on Friday 12 August at the Harare International Conference Centre in Zimbabwe at an event officiated by superstar Oliver Mtukudzi.

The album’s title, Mudhara Vachauya, created a lot of buzz amongst journalists and fans alike.Translated into English the title means 'the old man in coming', although the word 'mudhara' can be used as slang to mean someone who is generaly superior. In this case, it was widely believed that the title is the artist's way of underrating his competitors' albums from this year, thus laying claim to being the best. This comes after Alick Macheso released Tsoka Dzerwendo, Leonard Zhakata followed suit with his 11-track 21st album Mutunga Dzose, and Sulumani Chimbetu recently named his upcoming release Havasi Kutiziva? (they don't know us). It seems like everyone is claiming dominance!

On listening to tracks such as ‘Seke’, ‘Tsotsi’, and ‘Mudhara Vachauya’, one cannot miss that the musician did not abandon the signature sound of 'Tsviriyo', which brought him fame. The down side of this turn is that Jah Prayzah is now sounding monotonous. He already risks being compared to himself or even worse to his protégés Andy Muridzo and SaMukoko. Andy is basking in glory after releasing his second album Ngarizhambe, which carries the hit songs ‘Dhafu Dhunda’ and ‘Derira’. However, there is an argument that the sound is now familiar, easy on the ear and more appealing to listeners.  

Worth noting is that the theme of hatred recurs in the songs ‘Hossana’ and ‘Tsotsi’. In these two songs the ‘Soja rinosvika kure’ hitmaker takes another opportunity to warn his adversaries that he is aware of all the evil they plot against him. No doubt the message will resonate with most Zimbabweans, who in their selfishness believe that every other person is against their success. ‘Hossana’ might be a bit special in that it is everyone’s prayer. When Prayzah sings “Tariro yangu baba, tigare padare reumambo tikurukure dzeumambo,” ('My hope is that we sit in the royal court to speak about royalty'), indeed it is everyone’s prayer to live and dine with kings. We all live to see a better future.

‘In the Ghetto’ is a roots reggae track where Jah Prayzah laments the lifestyle of people living in impoverished communities. He pleads to God to bless them all. This song comes at a time when the musician was recently forced by supporters of #ThisFlag (an online citizen movement pushing for democracy in Zimbabwe) to openly endorse the movement. Though he does not directly ask the government to act, speaking out about the problems in song will go a long way in strengthening the plight of protestors and amplifying their cry.  

Jah Prayzah's collaboration with Tanzanian star Diamond Platnumz on ‘Watora Mari’ has so far proved to be the album's run-away hit. Zimbabweans have warmly embraced the song, which comes with a quality video, probably the best to come from any of Zimbabwe’s high-riding musicians. Being the businessman he is, Jah Prayzah makes no effort to hide his intention to break into the African market.

I don't want to be morbid, but I just have to say this: the video and song might struggle to 'break' in Africa. It's really good for the Zimbabwean market but I think it won't tap into Diamond's market. I feel the song could have been told better through dance than drama. It might be important for him to note that Diamond has collaborated on monstrous hits with many African stars, including the the late great Papa Wemba, P Square, AKA and Davido. Zimbabweans are enjoying the part Diamond sings in Shona but the question is: will non-Shona speakers have the same excitement? Perhaps the Afro-pop sound isn’t what he is supposed to take on his African and 'world music' sojourney. Jah Prayzah has the potential to make it big on the world's 'ethno-arts' festival circuit.

Another song, ‘Goto’, a traditional Mhande song, brings something different. Here the artist expertly introduces a vamped ‘magure’ acoustic guitar style. The effect is that he gives us a short, simple and rustic passage of music. To spice it up, later in the song (at 7:23 into the 10:45 minute track) he drops all instruments to leave just his voice. Perfect vocals are a language that any musical culture understands. Many modern-day Shona musicians have made the mistake of unwittingly 'freezing' their culture. Many sing in unison, not worrying about achieving perfect harmony. Here Jah Prayzah addresses this shortcoming (reminding me of Nobuntu from Bulawayo) - well done!

When the euphoria around ‘Watora Mari’ subsides, the next single will be 'Seke' (which sounds a bit like his earlier hit 'Chinamira'), a song that will surely send merry-makers into a frenzy. One has a feeling that Jah Prayzah deliberately makes his music with live shows in mind. Sounding like the children’s game song, with the lyrics “gunguwo senga mudodo, vasikana dzvirai vamwe” sung when playing nhodo (a local game), 'Seke' is a singalong track that forces you to dance with wild abandonment.

Listen to tracks from the album via Jah Prayzah’s Youtube or Twitter accounts. For Zimbabweans at home, the hunt for the album has been made easy as the artist's marketing and distribution team is selling copies for a dollar at every spot where you find a newspaper vendor. Fans outside the country will need to wait until the album is made available on Jive Zimbabwe’s online store.


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