KILLER T’s last album, Ngoma Ndaimba, announced the chanter as one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of Zimdancehall musicians.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
While reproducing the magic of that top drawer album was always going to be a tall order, one gets the feeling that the musician’s latest release, Bvunza Tinzwe, fell far too short of the bar he had set.
Although Killer T’s fans seem to have given the album the thumbs up, on many levels — from the lyrics to the rhythm — it is largely a disappointing effort. Interestingly, it carries a song titled Ma Fans Angu in which the chanter salutes his loyal fans (who turn a deaf ear to when he hits the wrong key). He is definitely going to need a large dosage of that fanaticism to see him through to the next album.
In many of the songs collected here, Killer T sings on his knees. It would appear that he has continued on the gospel trajectory we have seen in many of his songs before. Gospel themes are threaded through the new album, particularly in the songs Dai Magona Kunamata, Bvunza Tinzwe, Mutoro Warema and Makandinyararidza.
This “divine factor” is almost like a refrain that the woes afflicting youths in the ghetto are so binding that they need the hand of God to come out of that fog into the light in an otherwise dark, unforgiving world that revolves around the orbit of drugs, violence, alcoholism and sex. This is captured in one of his earlier songs, Ndoda Kuiburitsa which — just like Seh Calaz’s No Under 18 — is a graphic description of a sex scene.
In the song Dai Magona Kunamata, a reflective track with profound lyrics on a rather dismal reggae tune, the former rank marshall sings that despite life’s hardship, he survives because God lives. He calls on the afflicted, those seeking reprieve from misfortunes’ roll call, to invest their faith in God.
Although one can predict that the album may not last the distance in 2017, it has a few takeaways, like the sing-along Takazvarwa Takangodaro, already on its way to becoming a ghetto anthem.
The song has so far attracted mixed reactions, with some observers accusing Killer T of reinforcing the stereotype that ghetto youths cannot escape the pervasive poverty, violence and crime of the ghetto.
But reading between the lines, one gets the impression that Killer T actually recognises the survival skills horned in hardships as youths keep vigil with the owls at night working for a living while those living in luxury are already fast asleep. This song is a hustler’s manifesto, carrying on the tradition in zimdancehall where the ghetto, despite its punishing environment, is romanticised.
In an interview elsewhere, Killer T said: “I was born here (in Mbare) and I shall die here. This is where I get my inspiration on a daily basis and apart from that, I enjoy life in Mbare. If I leave Mbare, surely, I will lose focus when it comes to the way I compose my lyrics.”
Although Takazvarwa Takangodaro is already causing a stir, it remains to be seen if this one song will be strong enough to carry the dead weight of the entire album.
One observer noted during a discussion on Zimdancehall elsewhere that on the title track, Bvunza Tinzwe, “the bass line is not intelligent”.
“It’s actually a regime on its own and doesn’t respect the laws of bass lines. Even on the other conscious tracks, you see a lack of understanding of the philosophy of the reggae bass line,” he said.
Perhaps it may be unfair to nail down Killer T over this oversight, but a producer of Oskid’s reputation should have been able to cure this weakness.
The lowest moment on this album, however, is found in the song Wakandigona, where Killer T simply mimics Jah Prayzah. Quite honestly, this is the most embarrassing moment on the entire album.
“Worse still is when he (Killer T) tried to do a track similar to one by Jah Prayzah and Andy Muridzo,” the observer noted further. “You will be forced to jump into the loving arms of Prayzah’s and Muridzo’s music.”
Generally, the album is bereft of the thoughtfulness that is quite visible in Ngoma Ndaimba, where picking a favourite is no easy task, especially when you look at the tracks Itai Ndione, Tavakuda Kumbofarawo and Maisafanira Kundirega.
Mutoro Warema is a prayer offered by a broken soul seeking strength to tread the straight and narrow when the other option is to survive through unsavoury means. In Makandinyararidza, the persona thanks God for coming to his rescue after he had come to his wits’ end.
Perhaps a Zimdancehall album is nothing without flashes of romance, thus the track Kugara Newe. Other songs on the album include Hauchaterera, Mumwe Wangu, Nhaiwe Rufu and Vana Vangu in which Killer T goes paternal. Here, the persona hands down advise to his children to hedge them against the vicissitudes of life once he is gone, doing all that a man should before death knocks on his door.
In its entirety, the album feels like a rushed effort. It was perhaps meant to wade off competition at a time when other dancehall artists are releasing albums. But in the rush to catch up, Killer T may have hit the wrong key.