DANCEHALL music prodigy, Killer T has continued to ride the crest of a wave following the release of his hugely popular debut, Makarova Ganaz (Shona colloquial for “You beat up a Soldier”) and the signature gun sound chant, Popopo.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
In a genre where pretenders to the throne and fly-by-night artistes chant meaningless lyrics as long as they rhyme, the Mbare-bred artiste is miles ahead, with music that speaks to life’s realities in the ghetto.
Here people often pay a huge price just to go through the day in an unforgiving economic environment marked by high unemployment.
“There are things that happen here in Mbare that are so interesting. In fact, I get inspiration from the people here. Their lifestyles, aspirations and challenges make me want to pen more songs,” he was quoted saying.
Being a musician, he became a keen observer of his society — with his finger on its pulse — and understands some of the vices that hard-pressed young people get into just to survive.
“These people want to pay rent. They have to do what a man has to do to survive. I condemn their activities but I do not blame them,” he said.
His latest album Ngoma Ndaimba – with tracks such as Itai Ndione, Tavakuda Kumbofarawo and Maisafanira Kundirega — is from the top drawer. Many of his songs have become “mini-anthems” in shops in downtown Harare, commuter omnibuses and on national radio. These are songs that appeal to the ordinary man.
Killer T commands such a huge following that in February 2014, he secured a one-year product endorsement deal with Innscor Africa’s Chicken Inn, in a move that saw him featuring in several of the brand’s radio and television commercials.
Gospel musician Fungisayi Zvakavapano-Mashavave recently courted the ire of many after collaborating with Killer T on the track, Vanondibatirana, as some fans felt the two had nothing in common both in terms of lifestyle and music.
But if one pays attention to many of Killer T’s songs, they betray an acknowledgement of God without necessarily fitting the bill of gospel music. This is not new to Zimbabwe’s music. Musicians such as superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, Alick Macheso, Nicholas Zacharia and the late Cephas Mashakada have contributed immensely to that tradition.
This thread runs in Killer T’s music, particularly the songs Vakuzama Zvimwe, Vanondishora and Ndinotenda Mwari ,where he thanks God for his gift, protection and provision in his life.
The award-winning artiste has also featured on popular gospel musician Matthias Mhere’s song, Wenyasha Ungamudii, in which the youthful singers appear to be responding to the controversial negativity that they have attracted in their careers as they contend that you cannot destroy the man who walks in the grace of God.
Killer T is popularly known as the Chairman within dancehall music circles.
“Ghetto youths tagged me ‘chairman of Zimdancehall’ after seeing my hard work and hearing my songs that are relevant and identify with what they see and do on a daily basis,” he is on record saying.
Among the ghetto youths, “Chairman” is well-loved, given the crowds that swarm to his live shows, where they dance and sing alone, raising their arms as if eager to embrace their idol and become one with him. He commands a massive following, with several of his Youtube videos clocking over 200 000 views.
Reports alleging that the singer was dating a 15-year-old girl, who tragically died in an accident in a suspected car chase late last year somewhat dented the artiste’s profile. Although Killer T chose not to speak on the incident directly, but through his manager — he, however, took to music to vent out his frustrations at the rumours in Hameno Ikoko Ziso Rako Rakandimaka, where he exonerates himself.
Following viral Facebook reports that he had allegedly raped another girl, he dismissed the story and questioned the credibility of its sources in the song Makazviwana Kupi.
Bad publicity will always stalk a successful musician like his own shadow and whether the grapevine is true is beside the point. These are some of the wars fought in the trenches of music.
Killer T’s trademark Popopo chant has an interesting source. Although he claimed in one radio interview that the moniker chant was a revelation from God, NewsDay Weekender, however, understands that the chant was inspired by the killing of Mbare’s “robber with style” Boris Mushonga, who died in a horrific car crash at Zindoga Shopping Centre in mid-October 2013.
Police fired gunshots and made several arrests during Mushonga’s colourful funeral parade in the populous suburb, with people discussing how the police had fired shots.
The 23-year-old Killer T said when he started the chant, fans fell in love with it and it became his signature.
Killer T’s skill is seen in the expansive range of his themes, music styles and wide lyrical space. He has a knack for moving seamlessly from social songs such as Tavakuda Kumbofarawo, through club tracks like Itai Ndione and Ngoma Ndaimba to the “conscious” in Musodzi.
In other moments, he can be soulful and meditative, like when he sings Maisafanira Kundirega, where he regrets courting a two-timing girl and in Kumanikidzira Rudo.
Songs such as Maisafanira Kundirega and Ngoma Ndaimba cast Killer T as a master craftsman when it comes to lyrical content. Listening to the song, you just want to stop whatever you are doing, sit back and follow the lyrics and the rhythm.
Kukosha kweChikorobho tells the story of father who implores his child to respect every person because even the things we deem useless “like a filthy rag” are important, as you will need it when you spill some water.
His use of contemporary Shona and uniquely Zimbabwean expressions such as Usazofunga chikorobho warasa mvura (you will realise the importance of a rag after spilling some water) and ukarwadziwa neni haupore (grudges will only affect their holders), speaks to his generation. These help him own the music genre and make it truly Zimbabwean. These have also become favourite status statements on people’s WhatsApp platforms.
Several of his songs, in true Zimbabwean dancehall fashion, are like pot shots thrown at enemies — real or imagined — like spears. This is more obvious in Makazviwana Kupi and Vakuzama Zvimwe. Makazviwana Kupi is a “diss” song in which he lashes out at people who only see the bad in him. Despite the outward bravado and “I don’t care attitude” expressed in the song, the underlying frustration is undeniable.
The several awards he has bagged during the course of his music journey testify of his skill. In 2013 alone at the Zim Dancehall Awards, he scooped the Best Upcoming Artist award and was nominated for the Best Male Artist and, together with Shinsoman, for the Best Collaboration Award for the song Pamakati.
At the 2014 Zimdancehall Awards, he bagged the Most Popular Artist in the Ghetto Award and was nominated for the Zimdancehall Ambassador Award and the Best Live Performer Award.
In March 2014, Killer T made his debut appearance at the Zimbabwe Cup Clash dancehall fete held annually at the Dunstable Leisure Centre in the United Kingdom.
The former St Peter’s Primary School and George Stark School student was orphaned at a young age and had had to make ends meet to survive.