On the existence of any god, but particularly a god of pop videos in Zimbabwe, I am agnostic. Disciples might say “In the beginning, Mukudzei Mukombe created the heavenly and earthly video style,” but I’m not sure that’s true. Nay, the artist the world has come to recognise as Jah Prayzah keeps on dropping visuals that most people consume with so much gusto and there is no doubt of his importance to the modern genre.
In fact, music videos have become so essential to the culture that sometimes the best way to prevent misconstrued lyrics and promote upcoming albums is to hype fans up with visuals, and because Jah has mastered how to mind-blowingly utilise the evolving medium, he continues to be more influential, more prolific and more famous with every release. He is a Zimbabwean icon. A musical masterclass. A man of the world. His Wikipedia page alone is a dizzying array of accolades and mentions of artists as diverse as Diamond Platinumz, Luciano, Akon, Sauti Sol, and Yemi Alade.
The mid-month of March saw the celebrated musician dropping “Hokoyo“, a music video for one of the tracks from his forthcoming and 10th studio album with the same title. The video was shot in four days in Uzumba and Vumba communities. Directed by Vusa Blaqs, it is a blend song of luring colours on traditional African inspired costume.
There has been several think-pieces about this new video. One review I read suggested that Hokoyo is a poser of a great album to follow, while another posited that the song was “already proving popular”, and was getting many endorsements as it sees Jah Prayzah fusing his traditional music with his new Afro sound.
The video stars Jah Prayzah’s son Mukudzei Mukombe Jr., who once before warmed up to his camera game in “Dangerous“. The song is a message from a dad trying to help his son understand that the trials in life don’t have to define him and that he’ll be ok. As someone who lives his dreams and moments of glory and pain, he’s encouraging him to be secure in the journey.
The song doesn’t quite scream party music here, but there’s a quiet, underlying power to it that draws on drum and dance traditions with strong local meaning, something that we have come to love JP about. When you’re watching a music video, you’re not just looking at a collection of frames to bop to, you’re looking at art. For Jah, it’s all about the details, and as someone known for spare, clean productions, the guitar chops are shark-bite crisp and vocals liquid.
While I don’t exactly bop to most of his songs (although I love Kunerima to moon and back), I do have to acknowledge the strategic timing of this release. The undeniable irony of him releasing a cautionary song at the same time a global pandemic COVID-19 is ravaging most of the world couldn’t be more on-brand for the award-winning titan. As of today (Monday 30), the coronavirus disease has claimed over 30, 000 lives and infected more than 600,000 people in 203 countries across the globe. I guess we can use the song to caution ourselves on the need to observe WHO-recommended preventive methods like social distancing and #DoTheFive, etc.
But what’s up with the part where he is telling his kid that when the rains fall and the wind blows, don’t find shelter in the cave because there is a dangerous snake waiting in there? See, this is how problematic the man is. We are living in a time where we are categorically told to STAY at home in order to slow and stop the spread of Miss “Rona and this brother is horrifically saying when the wind (coronavirus spread as an airborne aerosol) blows, don’t self-isolate yourself into the cave as there is a python (this thick-skinned ophidian swallows humans and animals alive!) lurking. I mean one could argue that the conscious implication here is that staying at home during this global pandemic is an act of slow death (the python takes its time to swallow things) as there are power outages, water crisis and food insecurity for most families.
I know most of you are probably saying, come on, it’s just a simple line and you’re overthinking it, presumably because self-quarantining is taking a toll on you. Well, guys, that’s me! I’m a deep thinker. I like to think real deep; drink something, lay back and let my mind take off. I will be thinking about stuff people don’t know about, people ain’t even thinking about. I get deep, not the chicken-and-egg hackneyed question. After all, we got like 21 days to burn (which are subject to further review, by the way) and what do we gotta do with them other than think about some weird shit? Coronavirus is some weird ish and you know the drill… wired stuff calls for weird thinking.
Speaking of bizarre stuff, there are also linear features that make this new video unique. I want to believe that this is the only music video in the entire history of humanity that you will see a man literally smack a pig’s a$$ in a seemingly smutt fashion and fans will still act like there was nothing crude and bestial about it. The audacity to smack mutton, man!
All things considered, Hokoyo makes us really excited about the Jah Prayzah’s upcoming body of work and the path he is taking or reverting back to. The video feels like a cousin of fans’ fave “Dzamutsana,” another visual gifting that perfectly captures the spirit of the towering muso’s unique musicality and profound cultural mission. Of course, this is music you don’t need to translate to enjoy. There is so much expression in his plaintive vocals and the band’s lively interplay between guitars, horns and percussion.
As the coronavirus keeps on plundering the world, leave it to the Third Generation crew to heal our ailments with pure art that reminds us of the beauty of existence and life past the pandemic. This music is built to last and whatever the genre, Jah Prayzah’s music will always echo Zimbabwe. We’re lucky that an artist of Jah Prayzah’s vintage is still around to keep the fires burning.
En passant, Hokoyo the album, once scheduled to be launched on the 3rd of April 2020, is released tomorrow, Tuesday 31 March 2020, 2100hrs via Facebook live stream in light of the recent suspension of public gatherings of fifty or more people.
Checkout Hokoyo video: