Jah Prayzah: Master of political intrigue

HARARE - Towering music star Jah Prayzah has joined the list of artistes whose music has been dragged into politics by Zimbabweans yearning for a new leader to take over from President Robert Mugabe who has been in power since 1980.

The Uzumba-born artiste’s forthcoming studio album titled Kutonga Kwaro, to be released on October 13 this year, has already been unofficially and controversially renamed Kutonga Kwaro Garwe by some mischievous music fans.

Garwe is Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s nickname.

Jah Prayzah recently insisted that his forthcoming album has no political connotations. He has, however, been quick to point out that he could not prescribe how his music should be interpreted.

“Art is out there to inspire people to talk. What we do as artistes is interpreted in different ways by different people. It only means you are still creative if people come up with various meanings to what you give them. It should never be too obvious,” the musician told the Daily News on Sunday.

This is the second successive time Jah Prayzah’s music has been dragged into Zanu PF’s raging succession battle. Last year, some Mnangagwa supporters audaciously claimed that the Uzumba-born artiste’s song Mudhara Achauya was a prophetic track about Mnangagwa’s ascension to power.

The song praises a powerful father figure — Shumba inoruma (a vicious lion). Interestingly, Mnangagwa is of the Shumba totem.

The Zanu PF youth league has also adopted the same song Mudhara Achauya as the “theme song” at Mugabe’s on-going presidential youth interface rallies currently taking place across the country.

Mudhara Achauya is played as the 93-year-old leader makes his way to the podium. The league’s leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, has ordered DJs engaged at the on-going rallies to only play that song for Mugabe and no one else.

Jah Prayzah is not the only artiste whose songs have been dragged into politics by Zimbabweans hungry for a change in leadership.

In 2001, Oliver Mtukudzi’s song Wasakara, off his studio album Bvuma/Tolerance, was widely interpreted as an indirect attack on the aging leader Mugabe.

In her book Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe, Jennifer Kyker states that the song was adopted as a de facto political anthem by members of the opposition MDC party.

“As one of Mtukudzi’s band members told me, ‘The opposition basically took it, and said to the president of Zimbabwe, ‘You must accept that you are old.’’ During live performances of the song, MDC members began engaging in overtly political gestures, flashing red cards to signify dissatisfaction with Zanu PF and waving their open palms in the air in a symbol of support for the MDC...,” Kyker wrote.

She added that a sound engineer called Steven Schadendorff landed in trouble during a live show at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) when he shone a beam on the portrait of Mugabe during Tuku’s performance of the song which forced the crowd to sing along.

Mugabe’s official portrait is hung on the wall in all government departments’ offices and buildings. It is also hung in the HICC.

As the crowd sang along “Bvuma, Bvuma Chete, Bvuma Wasakara, Bvuma Waunyana (Accept, accept that you are on the wane, accept you now have wrinkles on your skin),” Schadendorff continuously shone the beam on the long-serving Zimbabwe leader’s portrait.

Academic Fred Zindi claimed last year that Wasakara was the major reason why the University of Zimbabwe denied the most internationally-acclaimed Zimbabwean musician an honorary degree.

Then there is the late dendera star Simon Chimbetu’s song titled Simba Nederere, off the blockbuster Survival (1997) album. It triggered a cocktail of interpretations with some people claiming that it was targeted at Mugabe because he had reneged on his promise to prioritise the welfare of war veterans of Zimbabwe’s long-drawn-out liberation struggle.

Another song which some Zimbabweans alleged was dripping with political intrigue was the late sungura star Leonard Dembo’s Musha Rudziiko? The song continues to generate debate with some sections of the society claiming the song was meant to highlight the political and economic challenges that Zimbabwe has faced since the turn of the millennium.

In the song Dembo asks: “Musha rudziiko usingafare pwere? (What kind of a home is this where children are always sad?)”. Some politically-inclined music fans claim that Dembo was asking why innocent Zimbabweans were being denied their happiness.

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