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Tocky back with the right Vibes

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TOCKY Vibes returns to form with his latest album, Chamakuvangu, this time not as the long-form lyricist who wove proverbs into riddims, but as a distinctive musical innovator who will not be disappearing anytime soon.

BY STANELY MUSHAVA

Tocky Vibes

Chamakuvangu has a strong case for album of the year, thanks to its replay value, internal variety, catchy melodies and social relevance. The 23-track album, which drops barely eight months after the 19-track February release, Tsamba, is not just a throwback but an improvement on Tocky Vibes’ shortlived glory days.

Seamlessly merging dancehall, reggae, Afropop and even jiti, the 24-year old artiste’s fourth studio album is hard to pin down to a genre. Frequent and recent collaborators, Tman, Cymplex, Munya Vialy, Samcris, Marcelo and Moze give the production a blast of star power, and gel well with Tocky Vibes’ sonic experiments.

Whereas the past two Tocky Vibes albums were big on length but not on hits, Chamakuvangu, Zvotangidza and Chimuzaya are made for popular rotation.
Socially conscious records like Ndiani and Jeri cut back on Tocky Vibes’ weakness for esoteric lyrics and manage to please and inspire at the same time.

Tocky Vibes flexes lyrical swagger on the jiti-inspired, Marcelo-produced title track while Zvotangidza is equally music about music. The video to the latter fails to keep advertising subliminal but still rocks for the hood dances, acrobatics and the naughty reference to all-too-precious cooking oil. The Vialy-produced late cut, Mapapiro, soulfully extends the self-pity of the previous album.

Random and weed-whelmed visual annotations to the album on the artiste’s YouTube channel provide some useful insights. He tells Dadza D that the album is “diluted” or “ready to drink,” compared to his lyrically voluble and notoriously obscure recent albums.

His breakdown of the song, Shainira — an overseas chick telling her former neighbourhood boyfriend that they are now in different time zones, socially and economically — shows that there is more happening even in Tocky Vibes’ sometimes distracted, apparently aimless rhymes.

The Mhai singer stormed atop the showbiz roster in 2014 with educational songs that converted Mai Chisamba, cultural purists and sungura enthusiasts to Zimdancehall but underwhelmed moments into his teenage reign.

Anyone who has been following the Kambuzuma-based artiste’s progress as he tirelessly reinvented himself from obscure barbershop conversations can, however, tell that he has been consciously trying to secure longer shelf life for his music.

The fruits of his painstaking evolution are evident on the latest offering. He re-enters the conversation, not just as the wordsmith with Shona witticisms and mature-guy motivations but something much more personal.

Frequent advice for Tocky Vibes should go back to the days of Mhai, Usakande Mapfumo Pasi and Kudzamisa Pfungwa misses the point. Back in 2014, he was sustaining a niche and giving people moments but all that took was a good Shona vocabulary, feel-good motivations and moralist wisecracks over ephemeral riddims.

It is too easy to wear the uncle jacket in the dancehall booth but if one goes back to hits from the era now, there is too little to enjoy. He must have known this when, self-aware and soul-searching, he confused fans by introducing marimba to his set, wearing Mbuya Nehanda rattles on stage and enlisting katekwe and gospel keyboardists for his albums.

He was looking for another Tocky Vibes — one that would not be best before the next riddim. In 2018, he connects even better lyrically by tapping into personal struggles rather than just public-domain wisdom; and has more to offer sonically, thanks to his hands-on approach to production.

The sources of his lyrics are a lot more expansive too, from quiet allusions to other musicians to the Bible, the campus of hard knocks and trademark witticisms. There is, more than ever, a stamp of personality to the music.

Tocky Vibes has the right mix – one that will be rotating long after the next riddim.

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