Soundtrack: Tapiwa Zivira
I first got to know about Ti Gonzi when he featured on the now popular Ishan track, Kure. The first few notes of the song, marked by rumbling but steady afro-pop instrumentation, captivated me so much that I listened to the entire song.
There is no doubt that Ishan did a great job in making a wonderful unique beat, and his chorus, which is on point and flawless, is one of the reasons behind the success of the song.
For me, however, what was most interesting was how the rapper I never knew about, Ti-Gonzi, weaved his lyrics into the song.
It was his social commentary that I found powerful and unique, considering that a number of young, mainstream artistes appear to be shying away from commenting on the socio-political and economic issues that have affected generations in the country.
In part of his chants, Ti-Gonzi infuses short phrases that are relevant to our current social situations. Some of the lines include: Pabirthday pangu handidi present ndoda nefuture… nzira yacho iri blurry… vadzimu vangu murikupiko? Kana ndikarasika ndadzoka kunge Zupco …Patience pays ndakazviona kuchipatara…
In just these few short phrases, Ti Gonzi has spoken to the challenges facing the younger generation in Zimbabwe, which has had to live in an abnormal situation characterised by broken dreams, collapsed social services, unemployment and economic uncertainty.
So crafty is he that, for example, in Gary Tight’s Zviroto, Ti-Gonzi speaks again about the broken dreams: …ndakakura nemadream nemagoals but like Vic, some dreams come Falls!… dzaive hope, ini ndichiti ihope!… ndaifunga kuti zviri easy but honai ndakungotenderera semakuhwa…
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The music is very Zimbabwean in that T-Gonzi uses images that are popular to locals, such as Zupco and the Victoria Falls. The way he tosses around the words in a creative manner are proof that he is a master of his craft and speaks the language that his target audience – the young people of Zimbabwe – can easily understand.
In literature, there has been extensive debate over the publication of works that use both Shona and English, pre-dominant languages in Zimbabwe, with their acceptability questioned. But if we are to be true to ourselves, we can only write and sing just as we speak. You hardly ever hear a young urban Zimbabwean speak strictly in one language.
And this is the approach that T-Gonzi adopts in his music, which makes it very immediate and familiar to his audience, and they can only embrace him as one of their own. He not only understands their daily struggles, but also appreciates and speaks their language. In Kufamba Murima, Ti Gonzi again sneaks in his nuggets: “Nzvimbo hobho dzandaenda ndichitsvagawo knowledge… kumatare kumasowe kumachurch, kumacollege kungoramba ndichifamba, soft soft, toti toti, zvekungoramba ndichichema hazvishande kunge bond note…”
That last phrase there is a tough punch. Ti Gonzi sounds very playful and simple, but at the same time is speaking to serious national issues, using the metaphor of the bond note — Zimbabwe’s surrogate currency — to explain the uselessness of crying over issues, just like how the bond note is increasingly becoming useless because of its significant loss of value.
These are just a few examples of how Ti Gonzi is, with no doubt, crafting his own niche, that of being a rapper who can speak to the current socio-economic challenges, which his generation relates to.
While the focus of this column is on his socio-political commentary, Ti Gonzi does not disappoint in songs that carry other messages; he is just on point and fits into any kind of a song.
The young man, who recently survived an unfortunate violent robbery that left him with a scar on his head, is the new face of non-elitist rappers.
He has made collaborations with musicians across various music genres, defying the local perception that rap artistes are mostly confined to hip-hop Ti Gonzi, on your birthday, you will get a future, not a present, only if you continue being so diverse and deep in your approach.