IF it is heartbreaking, it is record breaking. In Zimbabwean music, being ditched is falling into a pit and coming out with gold. The country’s chart history, from jit and sungura to reggae and urban grooves, would not be as golden without classics that came out of the ditch — literally.
Sound Track with Stanley Mushava
Here are 10 time-tested jams, featured in no particular order, to help you enjoy your heartbreak. Sizeably genre-defining and record breaking, they prove that no songbird sings more movingly than the one with broken wings.
And their seamless back-channelling of soulfulness and emptiness, yearning and despair, beauty and darkness, vulnerability and aggression, shows that creativity, just like the Creator, is closer to the broken-hearted.
Comma – Simon Chimbetu
They called him the master of song, but he was not the master of himself. A prophet of war and love like Bob Marley, Chopper’s heart belonged to the fairer sex in between penning the anthems of revolution. In Comma, a dejected Simon empties his heart to Carol who ended it with him while he was in prison. The thought of having no arms to fall back into after serving time is infectiously depressing.
Chidzoka – Roki
This song makes you want a break up just to feel the beauty of getting back together. Everyone’s favourite celebrity couple had found the red carpet slippery, but listening to them milk mutual inspiration out of their divorce, you just had to wish Roki and Pauline back. In this deserving winner of the 2007 Zima Song of the Year and Video of the Year, Baba Sky, repulsed by stardom and side chicks, spiritually yearns for his original muse.
Dudzai – Leonard Dembo
It is hard to think of anyone who championed the underdog better than Dembo. Long before the advent of WhatsApp, he sang about the art of the friend zone on Chidhiidhii, and long before the 2% tax, he gave us Chinyemu. Here, he has suffered enough insecurity and wants two-timing Dudzai to make up her mind. Even on love songs, Dembo is a complicated lyricist, pendulously swinging from entreaty to anger. But on this altogether solid classic, he is decidedly fed up.
Zvinoita Murudo – Tongai Moyo
Have you watered your rose with tears, only for the thorns to bloom sharper than the petals? Sungura’s finest guy has been there, and all he had to do was to lock himself up and pluck away at his guitar the bleeding rhythm of loneliness. According to his visual biographer, Abel Dzobo, when Dhewa’s estranged wife heard this jam in London, she simply knew that separation could not be final and hopped onto the next flight for a reunion.
She Is Gone – Solomon Skuza
This has got to be the most layered break-up song, going at a corrupt government and lamenting loss of love in one take. Skuza addresses Willowgate, the elite stroke of theft whereby ministers bought cars at an executive mark-down and resold them significantly inflated. The inclusion of related songs such as You Don’t Love Me Anymore on the Love and Scandals album suggests that Jah Solo might have, indeed, lost his baby boo to a Zanu PF blesser.
Hatisi Tose – Bhundu Boys
Bhundu Boys’ Hatisi Tose landed the newly emerged jit band atop the charts, and helped springboard them to international stardom. Most importantly, it brought back Biggie Tembo’s wife, Ratidzai, after a period of separation. A sympathetic Rise Kagona kneads out of his lead guitar a mellow desperation equal to Tembo Brother’s vocals.
Maidei – Leonard Mapfumo
Music lovers never got fed up with this fed-up song. It stayed atop the Power FM charts for a record 43 weeks, earned Mapfumo three Zima nominations and propelled him to third position of ZTV’s Silver Jubilee Top 100, with Mugove and Nesango tied at the top. Mapfumo’s flow refreshingly switches, but the track owes its replay value to Kelvin’s cherubic chorus.
Wakandidadira – Somandla Ndebele
Somandla’s break-up song was his breakthrough song. The introverted guy has endured the scorn and instability of his better half and she rewards him with rejection. His heart is too punctured for a new patch to sit so he shrugs it off with an unforgettable song – perhaps his best to date. According to journalist and music blogger Ranga Mberi, the laid-back, jazzy lead at the beginning has to be one of the classic sungura openings.
Tambudzai – Maskiri
What sets Maskiri’s break-up song apart is the near-impossibility to separating his sincere moments and from those ironic. Back then, before streaming algorithms, rap songs could be long-form compositions of sorts, and Maskiri had yards to yarn about a relationship gone sour. From his improbable comparisons to his name-checking of unsuspecting bystanders like Mbira dzeNharira, and straight-faced jokes, he was taking song writing to a new plateau.
Chizevezeve – Mafriq
Here the fairer third of Mafriq hangs her hurt on the clothes line. Tunga T and Discord sing along, but it is clear that this is Pauline’s song to the haters after her break-up with Roki. The impassioned visuals and loving spirituals cuts like Rain Dance showed that the celebrity couple was not done just yet. Sure enough, they were back together; just for a moment, sadly.
No list of this sort would be complete without John Chibadura, whose serial monogamist persona broke up for all reasons, walking out on $5 000 lobola, being cuckolded, protecting his kids from a cold stepmother, and being the target of pesky snitches. Hard to tell who is the sweetest ever to hold a mic, Tererai Mugwadi or Betty Makhaya, but whether you listen to Waenda or Usipo, the pain is the magic.
Audius Mtawarira packed his bags to write songs at Sony after his priceless, If You Only Knew, Mitchell Jambo maps sungura history in his love in time of ESAP epic, Ndini Uyo and Leonard Zhakata crowned a decade of dominance with Pakuyambuka.
A safe while after his infamous misadventures with Tafadzwa, Alick Macheso puts on the uncle jacket and returns to form with Chikuru Kurarama. But then, a playlist built around negative energy has to end somewhere. Sad listening.