Chitubu hitmaker Jah Prayzah is undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s top musician and the most obvious contender to replace the late Oliver Mtukudzi as Zimbabwe’s music icon across the globe.
The young lanky musician boasts of accolades locally and in the region. He has recorded successful collaborations with Jamaican reggae sensation Jah Cure, US-based Nigerian star Davido and Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz.
With age on his side and his eyes set on making a mark on the continent, Jah Prayzah has big shoes to fill. Shoes of a national hero who cut across political, cultural and geographic boundaries to unite the people through music.
His dream is to achieve such a status. Business Times reporters Tawanda Marwizi and Taurai Mangudhla (BT) interviewed Jah Prayzah (JP) around his latest projects and future plans including Gamuchirai, an emotional song he recorded to pay tribute to the late Mtukudzi.
BT: Thank you for agreeing to this sit down. There is currently a feeling that your current album Chitubu is not performing well on the market and has failed to eclipse the levels set by Mudhara Vachauya and Kutonga Kwaro. What is your response to this?
JP: I totally disagree. Numbers don’t lie. The hits on audios on Chitubu are much greater and this can only mean that the people are listening to the music. The Dzamutsana video got a million hits in a week and that’s a record by Zimbabwean standards. When people listen to music, that’s how you measure success. In fact you should be worried if your fans are not listening to your music. I have never had an album which got so many hits as this one. What I can agree to is that Chitubu has less fast songs or dance tunes when compared to previous albums. It has more depth and in my view, it was well written.
BT: What inspired the lyrics and beat on the title track Chitubu?
JP: As an artiste with a goal and a destination; you don’t know whether or not you have reached your peak. So I was simply asking the creator if there is another door or light which would lead me to a place I am yet to discover. I was praying and saying please take me to that place because I feel I am now ready. At the same time it’s a prayer for me to be uplifted by the creator in general
BT: But why Chitubu? Isn’t this just a spring?
JP: Yes chitubu is a spring which always gives water, it never runs dry. That’s the same with God’s blessings. That’s why I was asking for a spring that keeps pouring blessings in our lives.
BT: You highlighted that Chitubu contains less dance tracks than previous albums, is this is a sign of a shift towards a new model of performance for you?
JP: My fans were crying for traditional songs; they were saying Jah is changing his sound and putting more fast dance tracks. That’s why I put songs like Sarai and Zhakata.
These are musical songs and the idea is to compensate for what I had not done in previous projects.
BT: So would you say your music is traditional? How would you describe traditional music?
JP: I would say traditional music is the beat which is unique to Zimbabwe and makes use of instruments, which are unique to it. Some of the people who sing gospel music use aspects of traditional music which they don’t see. They even make use of mhande as this is the sound that every Zimbabwean relates to. And the same with mbira.
- Still talking about sound, it seemed you were eyeing the regional market when you did songs with Davido and Diamond Platinumz but now you have gone back to your roots. Is there no clash between your aspirations to become big in Africa and your local fans?
JP: That’s a challenge. Every time I try something new, there is always a lot of criticism. Some fans may feel disappointed but as an artiste who wants to grow and go far, you introspect and see where it’s taking you to.
At times you do what fans easily relate to but at the end of the day, the sound on Mudhara Vachauya got me far. I even bagged an MTV award and I think if I keep doing it I will achieve more. As an artist your music should cut across all society preferences and not be limited.
Mudhara Vachauya cut across all markets. The reggae beat or the dance beat is appreciated by ghetto youths while the older generation prefers the traditional mbira ne hosho vibes. I always try to mix this.
BT: We know you are currently working with Tamuka on production, is there scope to bring in other producers?
JP: We are also working with Rodney and I also travel to WCB Wasafi (Diamond Platinumz record label) to work with other producers there. I am also open to new talent so I also give opportunities to those who have new ideas, Just like what Dr Tuku did; he nurtured new talent and gave opportunities. And this is exactly how Tuku got his status, it is every musician’s wish to support upcoming artistes and that is my wish too.
BT: I have observed that just like Tuku you have made collaborations with many artistes across genres what drives this when others are not very keen on collaborating?
JP: At times you are approached by people who want to sing but they have no talent and therefore it is hard to create musical chemistry. At times people want to pay for collaborations, but that’s not right.
Secondly other artistes feel they are too big and any one they collaborate with will benefit from their status. That becomes a problem on its own. I believe collaborations should be done when there is real chemistry between the artistes and