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#LockdownZim Day 35: Van Choga Is Misunderstood. Here Is Why

#LockdownZim Day 35: Van Choga Is Misunderstood 
While largely objective, perhaps Van’s recurrent street urchin and vagrant appearance is a general representation of what his music embodies… economic meltdown, lost humanity, the uncertainly of life, and the general misconstrued urban youthism.

It’s day thirty-five of the total national lockdown to curb and contain the problematic coronavirus, and we are responsibly stuck at home. As have become the new norm in our daily boring routines, the need for entertainment and mental stimulation is high. By now most of us have scoured catalogues of the various streaming services available to us and rewatched all the classic movies and series we feened. Others have done marathon games of Monopoly while many have downloaded the TikTok app and start making hackneyed but thrilling videos with their families.

Oh, and working. One cannot forget all of the societal productivity that’s happening right now. All extremely good ways to spend time.

I, too, find the need for entertainment and mental stimulation, but it usually results in my ending up falling down rabbit holes. Which is what happened today. This morning as I hopped up out of my bed—swag may or may not have been turned on already (I mean who cares about swag in this quarantine anyway)—and made my way into the shower, I started thinking about the future of humanity during these times of the coronavirus and filming some of it in my head. I envisioned the video series I’d do, from the start to end that would be interrupted frequently by weird musical soundtracks. And I envisioned some kind of comedic cutaway shot with the intro to the out-of-blue Zimdancehall sensation and the ever-energetic chanter, Van Choga’s “Sesando Ngongongo” playing as background music. In my mental visual, there was a general feeling of sombreness. It was surreal.

It was at that moment where I said to myself, “Dude, how do you actually feel about Van Choga?” I asked myself this question because I know for a fact that I’ve claimed to not be a fan, at all, of one Valentine Simbarashe Choga who, I’m only getting to know now, is signed with Seh Calaz’s record label Yallanation.

We all know him or have probably come across a clip of one of his performing antics on one or more of our many kins and kiths. Hell, you might have questioned why he was a thing because for one he appears unhinged, batshit crazy and not a musician material. I mean there is a fine line between pure genius and utter insanity and many musicians have made a career out of toeing that line. Or, uh, totally jumping it and never looking back. But this Van Choga guy seems to be taking it way too in to be understood.

Before this goes too far off the rails, let me be very, very clear: we grew up on music by seeming unhinged folks and crackpot pop stars who most wonderfully crashed and burned before our eyes; performers with catastrophic psychological breakdown.

We fell in love with them and the powerhouse energy they encompassed. To many like me, that all changed when I came out of age and started going for the new cool stuff, like your afro house, neo-soul and RnB, soulful raps, trapsoul, afro-pop and heavy jazz. I was out like that and you better hadn’t brought that Elephant Man, Britney Spears, Ninjaman, Sid Vicious, Brian Wilson, Gravediggaz, Carlos Santana, Syd Barrett and Phil Spector around here. And for the most part, nobody did. I basically hung with (and still do) hang with music snobs who like myself are a little older now and less angry about everything.

Just when I thought I was never going retrogressive in my musical taste, Van Choga happened and I was made to rethink some of my life choices regarding which music to listen to. Apologia, I found a way to get his overwhelming antics out of the way and listened to the stream of consciousness and Samanyika-elaborated spoken word which is deeply embedded in some of his songs like Chirungu Cheteshiari” and Sesando Ngongongo. I also went and checked his buzzin’ live performance at Nash Paints TV Garamumba Bash.

Still in disbelief, I checked out a viral interview he did with Ghetto Crown King on YouTube to establish whether his musical stint is out of pure geniousity or utter insanity. I was totally mind blown on how well-spoken and largely erratic the guy is. One minute he will be talking heads, but dare him to sing, and he goes totally nuts.

I realised the 27-year-old chanter knows not only how to differentiate his normalcy from acting but essentially knows how to put up an enjoyable show while riding on a motif of craziness. While largely objective, perhaps Van’s recurrent street urchin and vagrant appearance is a general representation of what his music embodies… economic meltdown, lost humanity, the uncertainly of life, and the general misconstrued urban youthism. The foundation to his motive is yet to be laid but one can’t be far away from the truth to say he seem to be driven by the fact that if people can’t listen to somebody in tuxedos and all the cool stuff, can they lend their attention to a filthy, unkempt, berserk man with nothing but good words and arresting energy?

Also from checking out Van, I was awakened to the fact that people, many as a matter of fact, really do love them some good music with top energy levels. And now as I’m watching some of his videos and listening to some of his songs (although quite cacophony at times), I’m reminded that I don’t detest music by crackpot pop stars and deranged-esque performers the way I did a couple of years back. I can see a world where the chanter and his music are significant parts of our Zimbabwean experience. In fact, if the introduction of Van Choga ends up being a rude awakening for all of us, the artist will absolutely feel like a successful musician.

I suppose this morning, the coronavirus brought me to a full circle moment about Van Choga. Look at Gawd!

You tell us how do you feel about Van Choga? The coronavirus would like to know.

ImChris Charamba

Head Storyteller/Critic at Large in Culture at Enthuse Afrika

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