Ntunjambila: Jeys’ sound of hope, love

Jeys Marabini

“MY music is rich, natural and classic. It will be listened to by future generations even when I am gone,” said Jeys Marabini a week before he launched his ninth studio album, Ntunjambila.

SOUND TRACK: Sindiso Dube

Jeys Marabini

Marabini’s latest offering has been making waves on local radio stations since its sold-out launch at the Bulawayo Theatre. Last Saturday he faced the test of performing live songs from the album for the first time after the launch alongside South Africa’s Soul Brothers.

This was during the Umcimbi Wabantu show meant to celebrate Skyz Metro FM’s second anniversary. Fans who attended the show literally ate from Marabini’s hands as he belted love and hope songs from the album.

Marabini takes us through a life of struggles that ordinary Zimbabweans have to deal with everyday. But the silver lining on that dark cloud is that there must be love to heal the pain.

But to limit the album to just those two themes would be to misread Marabini because, in the same breath, he reminds the listener to preserve their cultural heritage.

Marabini sweeps us away with a song called Sthandwa, centred on a long distance love relationship as a man who is taken away from his wife by work urges her to wait patiently for him. The poignancy of the song lies in the fact that Zimbabwe’s crippled economy has separated many spouses in the mad rush for greener pastures in foreign lands.

In the title track — which is the second on the album — the tone switches to hope as Marabini deftly moves to spiritual matters with a timely reminder of the significance of Ntunjambila in his people’s traditions. Ntunjambila is a cultural shrine in the form of a hard rock which is found in Matopo where people go whenever they are faced with problems. It is believed to have protected the people of Matabeleland from harm and difficult times and when one leaves the place, they are said to carry with them some good luck.

With the blending of different cultures, creating a homogenous society, the song is a timely reminder to the listener probably lost in some urban metropolis to consider retracing their footsteps back to their roots.

The song also suggests that the problems we are facing as a nation can be traced back to how we have disconnected ourselves from spiritual landmarks such as Ntunjambila.
Marabini revealed that he will shoot a video for Ntunjambila, which will be set in Matopo, at the rock. Apart from luring people back to their roots, the video will also help promote local tourism.

Bhasikili, featuring Marabini’s protégé Hwabaraty, aptly means a bicycle. It is about a person experiencing troubles in life and is in need of reprieve from misfortune’s roll call. The troubled soul is contemplating leaving for a better place where they can start afresh and thinks of using a bicycle on that sojourn. Hwabaraty’s poetic rap verse in the song adds a ‘new skool’ cutting edge to the album.

Just like Ntunjambila, Bhasikili is more like a prayer for divine intervention in the country’s harsh economic conditions that have shipwrecked the lives of many ordinary people. The two tracks resonate with Lovemore Majaiva’s Lizwe Kalila Mali and — if we are to dig deeper into the past — Edwin Hama’s prophetic offerings Asila Mali, New Day and Today’s Paper of the 1990s. The self-exiled Majaivana belted other similar social commentary tracks decades ago.

Another song that will remind the listener of Majaivana’s Umoya Wami is the last song on the album, Ngizobuyela. It talks about a homesick individual who left his country for greener pastures but still longs for his home.

With the latest album you can hear the different and unique and “new skool” sound that Marabini employed with the help of young producer Nathaniel Oktopus but Marabini goes back to his traditional sound on the song titled Yiyo lingoma.

The groovy beat with traditional elements will force you to abandon your seat and take to the dancefloor to showcase some cultural dance moves. It is so rich that even just the instrumentation will lift your soul and body to dance along the beat.

Marabini also reveals his soft nature in Wobuya. A man who misses his wife after leaving home following a heated argument pleads with her to come back because life is not the same without her.

The musician goes on to explain the grief and loneliness he is facing in a well-choreographed video released at the beginning of the month. The song encourages couples not to end their relationships or marriages over problems that can be solved by the two.

Marabini also goes “new skool” on My Chick. But this is a non-derogatory slang term for “girl.”

Listening to the song brings déjà vu, taking you back to his older song, My Girl, off his 2011 album, Jeys @40. The song is a fitting love dedication to the woman in your life.

Marabini’s Afro-jazz sound on Ntunjambila is food for the soul. One can listen to the instrumentation and still be filled with joy. In an interview with our sister paper The Standard, Marabini described the executive producer Nathaniel Oktopus’ work as classic.

“I am happy to have worked with him. He is a young man who understands the language of music. What he did with my album is classic. He brought in a new element that resonates with the younger audience whilst not abandoning my traditional sound,” he said.

Ntunjambila describes Marabini’s 28-year music journey in which he has birthed nine albums. Despite the challenges associated with the industry he has managed to stand the test of time and remains one of Bulawayo’s brightest lights in music. He is Ntunjambila — that hard rock.