Analysis: If I was uninformed, I would probably think that Jah Prayzah is at a crossroads and is unsure of which way to go. One road is the continuation of the road he has travelled. It is labelled Domination of Zimbabwe’s Music Scene. The other is not well travelled and is very inviting. It’s labelled Entry into the African Music Scene. To most fans, it seems we are definite that one cannot travel on both roads. He has to choose between the two. Its either he chooses to continue pushing the Mbira based Zimbabwean sound or he chooses to vibe along with trendy Afrobeats sound.
However, I am greatly convinced that Jah is a well calculating artiste and his every step is well measured and calculated. This is so because he has managed to see what most have failed to see. If we are to look closely, there is narrow path that is between the two main roads that will enable one to dominate the Zimbabwean Music Scene whilst also allowing entry into the African Music Scene. That the narrow path that he has chosen. That he accommodates both niches and the music will play on. However our discourse today on the difference between the Jahs, so to speak. The local Jah and the international Jah.
The Old Jah
Jah Prayzah has always loved his Mbira. From his days back at Musamhi High School, he says the mbira has always been part of his musical journey. Though he made his breakthrough with hybrid sounds mixed with dancehall and afropop on the song Sungano, he was quick to find his way back to the comfort of the mbira infused sound. Somehow that is the Jah Prayzah that the multitude of his Zimbabwean fans love and cherish. He made a number of hits on this localised sound. From Maria to his current hit, Hokoyo, it is the localised sound that overflows with drums, mbira and marimba sounds that have carried him this far.
One of his most loved songs is actually Goto, a recreation of traditional bira event from both sound and performance. During live shows, fans cannot get enough of this song and he has to repeat it over and over to satisfy their thirsty ears. This song carries so much of the traditional musical spirit and when he performs the song he seems to be possesd. And that is the classic Jah that the Zimbabwean audience seem to appreciate.
His most popular songs with a traditional feel include Goto, Jerusarema, Hakata and Dzamutsana. These songs seem to always to get agood response especially in live shows and he when he perfomes them, you can see that he is in his space, the Jah that we know.
The New Jah
Jah Prayzer started to experiment with afropop sounds that dominate the African music scene when he realeased the track Hello as a bonus track. The track was accompanied by an exquisite video that brought a different dimension from the Jah of old. And that was the beginning of an era.
When he collaborated with Diamond Platinumz on track Watora Mari, he opened a new chapter as he was official pursuing international stardom. Jah has gone on to collaborate with Mafikizolo, Davido and even Jamaican Star, Jah Cure. As of the impact of these songs on the international front, one can only tell by the response he gets on live shows.
However , as he pursues international stardom, some fans think that he is leaving them behind. They believe that songs like Ronika are a result of his flirtation with the so called international sound. They further believe that if he continues on this avenue, he will get lost, never to find his way back to the home sound.
Personally, I believe Jah has managed to find a balance between pursuing his most intricate dreams of African Stardom and satisfying a hungry multitude at home. In his most recent albums, like on Chitubu, he has tracks like his collaboration with Patoranking for the African market and others like Dzamutsana for those who thirsty for local waters. If lucky is on his side angangorowa tsuro mbiri ne dombo rimwe chete.
Trevor Mawaka is a Musicologist and Journalist in Zimbabwe. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music and Musicology and a Diploma in Mass Communication and Journalism.