Once more for the people in the back: Music videos aren’t dead! There’s never been a better time to experiment with what music videos can be. When artists like Winky D and Hilyzy decide to utilise the evolving medium, it’s further proof that sometimes the best way to prevent misconstrued lyrics and promote upcoming albums is to hype fans up with visuals. They can be an hour long. They can be events again, via YouTube Premiere. They can be virtual reality.
These artists and more are doing just that by releasing incredible new music videos that we’ve rounded up, below. Make sure to check back at our running list of the best throughout the year.
Winky D – Ijipita
Dancehall superstar, who some have come to dub political popstar Winky D writes and performs with an emotional intensity that makes it seem like he’s screaming out for the numbing anxieties that are otherwise suspended in the silence — both those within his own mind and out in Zimbabwe at large. Earlier this week he released a video for Ijipita, a song off his much-talked-about twelfth studio album Njema. Donning somewhat archaic Middle-East costume, the Gaffa President, as he’s known now, coupled this with lyrical narratives that arcanely bemoans the deteriorating economic conditions and wanton unconstitutional human rights violations and a struggle for a better life. The video is dark, moody and spine-chilling but it comes with a glim of hope as the people are free and celebrating at the end.
That goal, to glorify people and practices that the powers that be in Zimbabwe marginalises, has been constant in Winky D’s career. Ijipita tackles it in a particularly literal and urgent way, not only by showing solidarity with the hoi polloi at a moment when they’re extremely suffering but also by posing a simple question to listeners: Whose lives do you value? The video may prove controversial for reasons that it seems to want to assert the dignity and beauty of people who are often denied those things. What needs to be highlighted is that he produced a music video and not a documentary. Too many videos try and capture the whole human experience in under five minutes; this one actually succeeds. He did something we still rarely see in the mainstream. As a music fan and a fan of strong, empowered artists in an industry of steadfast gatekeepers, I love this.
Lloyd Soul – Katarina
There got to be some sort of unwritten law that sanctions people who sleep on young artists when they are starting out and yet fuss over them when they make a boom. If that rule is put in force today, I, for one, would be bereft of enjoying the rich saccharine that is upcoming RnB/Afrosoul singer Lloyd Soul. Although I was one of the few folks that wrote on him a couple of years back, I might have lulled off him, only to be awoken by his latest release “Katarina”. With this video, you don’t just listen to a ballad Afropop, slithering track; you experience it. You get enveloped in it. Then you press “play” all over again.
While I’ve my misgivings about the video vixen and a bit of the direction, the sultry single indeed makes you want to be in love. It beautifully captivates the essence of classic Afrosoul uptempo jams. It’s mature tracks like this that give me the agonising suspicion that Lloyd Soul has been here before. As young as he’s, he sings with the same kind of depth, passion, and conviction as any of the Afrosoul greats you might have heard of. The Mulb’s instrumentation and Lloyd vocal prowess stand up to the vibe in equal measure. Ultimately, that’s what makes “Katarina” a comforting reminder that the bedroom anthem hasn’t lost its way. Can we afford to sleep on Lloyd now?
MADE IN ZWE: Chido
Whenever we think about falling in love, we always wonder how we would bump into this person we will fall for or how we would change when they come into our lives. It rarely occurs to us that this person might have been around all along. They have been a part of our past and are still part of our present; we just weren’t looking their direction. We only considered them a childhood friend. This friend could be the homeboy/homegirl next door, a primary school friend, your mom’s best friend’s son/daughter etc. Having feelings for them is forbidden, a clear violation of the social order… isn’t it? This one is kinda arguable! That’s the moment we need to highlight, the moment you doubt whether this childhood friendship can develop into something else altogether.
While it’s a narrative we’ve seen played out time and time again, spanning the Dukes of Shakespeare to the Hugh Grants of Richard Curtis, the friends-to-lovers paradigm bears such perennial relevance. Taking his storytelling into the future with fruitful collaborations that cross disciplines and musical borders, Zimbabwean comedian Munashe Chirisa through his brand MADE IN ZWE racks John Falsetto, actors Tinaye Wayne Chiketa, Tendai Chitima and Melinda Shumba to tell the above, all-too-familiar story on his debut single “Chido”. Like collard greens simmering on the stove all day, or wine that’s been aged to perfection, this song doesn’t rush the process. And what better vehicle to deliver this critical message than having those hilarious three actors play it out on screen?
Hillzy – Destination
The Afro R&B landscape is becoming much like its rap counterpart; there is a smorgasbord of something for everyone, ranging from new neo-soul stylings, trapsoul, to Afropop chart-toppers. Since his inception in music a few years ago, RnB/rap star Hillary “Hillzy” Chipunza has been harnessing the versatility of the genres to subtly strip away the layers of his artistry in order to expose his bare, soulful side. Released just in time for Valentine, “Destination” doesn’t need much explaining, but here goes: Hillzy perfectly crystallises the feeling of just wanting to be near the object of your obsession, intertwining his usual tranquillity aura with harrowing emotion. It prioritises tenderness over bluster, starkness over excess. It helps that the video is just as good as the infectious tune itself.
As much as I have loved to write about Zimdancehall more often, ferocious competition and constant upsets are the two of several factors that makes it harder to pursue it. I get it, competition may accelerate innovation in dancehall; it’s what makes the culture such a bottomless wellspring of new rhythms, choreography, fashion, and slang. But what of the sheer mass? Does it also play a part? For most years, the genre has possibly released more music per capita than any other genres in Zimbabwe.
Literally, I have to sift through hundreds of Zimdancehall videos to arrive at Freeman’s latest work, “Mudzanga”. As has become a thematic datum for the genre, it is aimed at his detractors. For someone who has given so much service to the genre and still feels so underappreciated, he penned a song that portrays him as the most emotional, goofy, introspective chanter ever to grace a mic. With the rise of young dancehall chanters in recent years, his detractors have called him soft, his music washed-up, his swag corny. Well, the more noise the mob makes about him and the more their jealousy smoulders like a cigarette, the more he gives them to hate on. He literally doubles down on himself with every release.
Selmor Mtukudzi – Mandidzimbira: A tribute to Oliver Mtukudzi
Death: It’s inevitable, and a subject that musicians always come back to, no matter how often they drift to places other than mortality. Whether it’s about the artist’s own eventual demise or their experience with the passing of someone close, it’s a theme that spans across all genres and eras of popular music. To mark a year since the death of her father on January 23, 2018, daughter of the late star Oliver Mtukudzi, Selmor finally put her disquiet to words in the poignant, “Mandidzimbira”, a song that details the bewilderment, affection and pain of a child who lost a beloved parent. Hypodermic needles pierce her back, and darkness clouds her eyes. It’s a song about the bond of blood between fathers and their daughters, no matter how distant they may be from one another.