Maseru – When Zimbabwean musician Jah Prayzah started courting artistes from across Africa for collaborations, it was evident that he was serious about becoming an international star.
Some felt he was overdoing the collabo thing, even though there was no denying his work with the likes of Mafikizolo (South Africa) and Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania) was the stuff modern African pop was about.
Then he went farther afield, working with Nigerians Davido and Yemi Alade, and even Jamaican hit machine Jah Cure.
The trajectory, in terms of quality, is unmistakable and all the effort is paying off.
His latest album, Gwara, released on his 34th birthday on July 4, 2021 presents a rejuvenated Jah Prayzah who oozes quality.
Gone are the military fatigues and martial dances of yore. Forget the high-pitched vocals and fast tempo. The 16-track Gwara is a different ball game.
The tone was set on June 28 when he teased the album with the single titled “Svovi”.
Shot on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, the Svovi video showcases spectacular views and is refreshingly uncluttered, maybe because it was produced by the renowned Kenny who is behind some of Diamond Platnumz’s finest work.
The single is not part of the album, but it was used to signal that something good was on the way and the market immediately went hyper in anticipation of Gwara: The album surpassed 200,000 hits in less than 48 hours of release.
Jah Prayzah lowers the tempo and listeners find themselves meeting a more mature artiste, though the track “Murder” echoes his prior work loudly.
And a Jah Prayzah album would be incomplete without skimpily dressed women.
Thespian and arts critic Daniel Maposa told The Southern Times Arts that he welcomes the new Jah Prayzah.
“As an artiste, I think there is an issue of versatility. Even if you look at Oliver Mtukudzi, there is a time when he changed his sound to suit the so-called international market. In Jah Prayzah’s case, he can continue doing the traditional sound but it will only take him to festivals in Europe but it won’t give him the critical audience,” Maposa says.
“He must cater for the youthful audience because it is that demographic which attends shows in any country. So, if Jah Prayzah has this Afro-centric new beat that is hinged on our traditions, he is doing it for his legacy and to penetrate new markets. Yes, we might say he must continue with the old mbira beats but if we don’t change it, it will just remain heritage. I believe music changes. It is those changes that brings musicians to relevance. That has been the problem with genres like sungura which remained with that deep beat for the past 30 years and it has become monotonous.
“As a creative myself, I think Jah Prayzah is doing what is relevant and what the audience wants. For Jah Prayzah, music is not static. The moment music becomes static, it becomes monotonous. There is nothing much he can achieve when he is static. What he is doing is also good for his brand. He must to move with the times or he perishes.”
But fellow critic Tinashe Mutero, thinks Jah Prayzah is losing the plot. Instead of coming up with a new sound, he must stick to the usual sound which brought him to stardom, Mutero contends.
“I think he is making a mistake in trying to redefine himself. He has an identity and sound that was already accepted outside Zimbabwe. The stage appearance is both a function of politics and the economy. We started seeing changes when people started complaining about the army fatigue. He had to do away with both the uniform and the batallion that was on stage. But also, those boys could not dance to his new sound. They had to leave.
“There is also a time when he had a lot of international shows. I think he realised then that he was wasting money on a lot of people.”