WINKY D’s long awaited album, Gombwe, hit the shelves about a month ago, torching excitement among the Gafa fans. They felt hugely relieved after having been subjected to Jah Prayzah, whose shadow had loomed large over the music industry, perhaps with the helping hand of fate, when his music became the sound track of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rise to power with the backing of the military.
Sound Track with Phillip Chidavaenzi
This is the same military for which Jah Prayzah is brand ambassador and from which he borrowed the name of his movement.
The temptation to draw comparisons between Winky D and Jah Prayzah has always been inescapable.
But the discerning listener should be wise to realise that Zimdancehall and contemporary music are two diametrically different genres hewn in dissimilar music traditions.
For this reason, Winky D’s latest release must be assessed in the context of his previous work to establish whether or not he had outclassed his previous efforts.
The danger in music — unlike in other traditions of art such as literature — is that it is not so easy to produce pieces of work that are completely different from each other, because such productions always carry the personality of the artist. In fact, it takes a genius to do that.
Winky D should be commended for not short-changing his fans after packing 15 tracks into the album. Although many of the experiments in the album paid off, the track Ngirozi — featuring Vabati VaJehovha — is in a class of its own. This explains why it has dominated the airwaves.
The beauty about this track is the unusual blend between the drum-fuelled traditional apostolic music and Zimdancehall, while exploiting the Vapostori’s (white garment apostolic churches) belief system, particularly the role of angels who occupy a central role in their worship, thus the title, Ngirozi (Angels).
When one hears this song, they are curious to grab the album and listen to the rest of it.
Winky D must be credited for exploiting the dancehall tradition, originally from Jamaica, to make it his own. His Zimdancehall is so different from that played by many other youngsters, who have taken to the genre with a duck’s affinity to water but have largely produced music with a Jamaican flavour. Perhaps the only difference is in language used.
The Gaffa’s language — which is also a fine blend of English, Shona and local slang — is rich in its exploitation of idiomatic discourse.
Gombwe feeds into the extra-terrestrial trajectory that the Gafa has since taken on. His music is drawn from the spiritual realm where the ancestors dwell.
That element makes it binding. It takes on a “prophetic” hue, as he claims that his success in music is guaranteed because he is the “gombwe” of dancehall music. Gombwe in Shona traditional belief systems refer to a high ranking spiritual guide.
It is a song that has a narcissistic tone, an enduring trend in dancehall music, where self-praise, often to the point of self-adulation, dominates.
This comes to mind in the song, Highway Code, where Winky D claims women are involved in “accidents”, as they clash over Gafa’s attention, therefore, he encourages them to turn to the Highway Code because “learners” will not make it and win over the Gafa in a crowded fast lane.
This is perhaps the reason why some people, especially the elderly, frown on Zimdancehall as frivolous, if not meaningless, music genre.
But, to group all Zimdancehall chanters together will not be fair, because despite its inherent weaknesses, it has also produced its gems in the mould of characters like Winky D, Killer T and Tocky Vibes.
In the song City Life (Shift Focus), Winky D picks up the thread from his previous album in which the persona yearns for a good life against the backdrop of unforgiving socio-economic circumstances.
The persona calls forth the good life, city life, in which innovative and creative individuals “spin” money in the streets.
It’s a dog-eat-dog life in the city, where young women throw themselves at dealers just to partake of their wealth.
The chanter’s dexterity in music comes out strongly in Finhu Finhu, a happy, fast-paced track most likely to be a club banger. Here the persona exhibits an I-don’t-care-attitude, while the track Simba is a cry for strength to survive the vicissitudes of life and the ability to see hidden things.
Tracks such as Number 1 and MaRobots (which features pupils from Haig Park Primary School), also speak to the individual’s desire to shine and succeed in life through hard work.
This is almost a refusal to accept defeat, but to push through all the barriers. In MaRobots the Gafa also acknowledges that for life to be smooth, with no “red” or “amber” but just “green” at the traffic lights, cutting corners becomes a necessity.
It cannot be possible for a Zimdancehall album to be complete without one or two diss tracks, and predictably, Winky D has Onaiwo on this album.
It is yet another self-praise track in which he disses self-perceived rivals. Other tracks to look forward to include Bho Yangu and I Am Hot.
While I am persuaded to say, overall, this is a good album, I will put my money on its predecessor, Gafa Futi-ChiExtraterrestrial, ahead of this one.