Is Zim Top musician Jah Prayzah fast losing the plot or is he simply a victim of promoters that are using his brand to line their pockets at the expense of his career? Since the release of his much anticipated album “Mdhara Vachauya”, Jah Prayzah has become a big draw card as a supporting act for every international artiste who has performed in the country. These shows have been the perfect platform for the top artiste to impress his fans with the new project but he has only managed to do the opposite.
Playing the role of supporting act for touring artistes has become a nightmare for Jah Prayzah, as he has failed to impose himself on all these outings, with numerous factors affecting his sets. Gigs involving seasoned international artistes like Busy Signal, Chris Martin, Mafikizolo/K.O, DJ Tira and most recently Romain Virgo – Jah Prayzah has had to play before almost empty arenas.
In one of the worst scenarios at Belgravia Sports Club, featuring Mafikizolo and K.O, he even failed to play his music convincingly, which irritated even his die hard fans. As if that was not enough, the artiste again came to perform at the Golden Pilsener Afro-Fusion concert with a croaky voice at the same venue a week or so later, which was attributed by many to a tired larynx (voice box).
In fact, Jah Prayzah is yet to benefit from the visits of these international artistes as he has on all occasions had to settle for the crumbs as only die-hard fans have remained to watch him more out of pity than for entertainment value. Perhaps he is simply comfortable playing for crowds he is familiar with.
Could it be that the artiste is failing to negotiate better slots on his contracts for these gigs like his counterpart Winky D does? Or maybe these are simply consequences of double bookings on his part.
Jah Prayzah’s manager, Keen Mashapaidze, acknowledges that they have been facing challenges and current trends should come to an end forthwith. “We are definitely working on getting prime slots, which means going on stage earlier than we are currently doing and that is being factored in our new contracts.
“The problem is promoters engage us with certain expectations. They give us those slots with the hope that we hold people and because that’s what they want us to do we end up compromising, which however affects us in the end,” explained Mushapaidze.
“. . . I have to admit the sound was not okay at the Mafikizolo gig but that should not be blamed on the other gigs we had on the day, other factors came into play. Besides JP (Jah Prayzah) is not the only artiste doing more than a single show a day. “The issue of the voice on the said dates might have been due to small issues like flue. You cannot miss a show because of a cold. It’s different from an accident.”
Before coming for the Mafikizolo gig, Jah Prayzah and his Third Generation band had a private gig in Vumba (Eastern Highlands), which folded late into the night. Thus, the only option they had was to play after the visiting South African group Mafikizolo so that they got time to travel from Manicaland back to the capital. This meant they had no time for sound check.
What the Uzumba-born and bred singer needs to understand is that this routine habit of his is speeding up his decline. Musicians just like any other product on the market go through a life cycle.
In that cycle, Jah Prayzah is currently on the saturation stage, which is the final point before decline. And the shabby circumstances the artiste finds himself in easily places him as someone with little or no staying power.
Probably a reminder will work here. The legendary status that Oliver Mtukudzi and to some extent Alick Macheso enjoy today came not only through ingenuity but also professionalism, focus and dedication. Certainly Jah Prayzah has broken records and made history by filling up the HICC more than once.
That convoy of buses and cars to Bulawayo for the second leg of his album launch certainly did not go unnoticed, but he should remember that all that can come to naught and be history overnight if he is not careful.
At some point Dino Mudondo was regarded as a great entertainer and crowd puller of note, people followed him from Harare to Bulawayo. So was Progress Chipfumo. No one thought that Zexie Manatsa, whose wedding was at Rufaro Stadium, could one day be just an ordinary person.
Although Pengaudzoke leader and Marondera-based musician Josphat Somanje did not achieve such status as Zexie, who thought the “This Time” hit-maker could one day turn beggar.
Jah Prayzah has for long presented himself as a resolute and determined musician, who is prepared to stick to proper guiding principles to achieve more in his career but the position appears to have since changed.
The Jah Prayzah he now presents is different from the one his fans used to know during the days he was yearning for recognition performing at Mai Charehwa’s bar in Budiriro before later graduating to Jazz 105.
Contrary to what the musician and his management say, they have clearly stopped prioritising their fans ahead of cash. But who can blame the Third Generation front man; he has already amassed riches and made investments that probably will see him through this lifetime even if his career is to nosedive.
It is so sad the artiste has decided to drastically cut his time on stage to the extent that even his hardcore fans now feel like they are being robbed each time they pay to watch the musician’s gigs.
Furthermore, his interaction with fans is now minimal, which is different from Dr Oliver Mtukudzi with his legendary status, Alick Macheso and Suluman Chimbetu, who can spare a little time to interact with fans before and after gigs.
The “Kumbumura Mhute” singer, whose car is always parked close to the stage in a reverse position, has developed an art of bolting off the stage at a speed that can even turn top sprinter Usain Bolt green with envy.
And Mushapaidze defends his boss’s action. “It is difficult for JP to interact with fans when thousands of people are involved compared to say 200 that attend his acoustic nights. “But he is available for a picture in intimate environs just like was the case at Jazz 105.
“In short it’s better not to create bigger problems by posing for photos with a few fans and leaving the rest at gigs that attract thousands of fans.”
Adds Mushapaidze: “We are used to artistes performing for five hours but that is wrong. Visiting artistes perform for an hour or so even in their countries and fans are satisfied with that. We are making our act international thus we will be using those guides, meaning we will only be on stage for a few hours. Those that like playing for more hours can still do so.”
Perhaps Jah Prayzah’s former band member Pamela Zulu aka Gonyeti was not off the mark when shortly after abandoning the Third Generation Band last month she said; “Mukomana (Jah Prayzah) hasisina moyo, hasisina rudo. Zvake zvaita hasisina basa nevamwe (the guy no longer has a heart, he has no love anymore. His ducks are in a row now so he does not care about anyone else).”
Gonyeti is not alone in this school of thought as many including a sizeable number of Jah Prayzah’s band members believe the lanky musician now behaves like a misguided missile. Signs of Jah Prayzah’s immodest behaviour became apparent for everyone to see early this year when he had a tollgate fracas in Midlands involving the ZRP and Zinara.
He refused to pay US$20 for vehicle licensing and even bragged about his celebrity status and that he was well connected to top Government, police and army officials. The previous year the “Eriza” hit-maker also had a brush with the law for wearing his military gear in Avondale alongside his band members away from the stage as was agreed as part of his ambassadorial role.
“People have the right to suggest what they want about Jah Prayzah but I’m sure those that work with us closely can testify we are not that bad. “Perhaps what people just need to understand is business is business and we cannot compromise on certain things that affect our brand,” said Mushapaidze.
Meanwhile, Jah Prayzah’s latest offering “Mdhara Vachauya”, has done enough to keep the musician afloat but certainly the album is not up to scratch. The album, which consists of borrowed efforts from musicians like Oliver Mtukudzi and the late South African artiste Lucky Dube on songs like “Goto” and “In the Ghetto”lacks the panache and solidity that characterised his last effort “Jerusarema”.
And this is not the first time Jah Prayzah has had to “borrow” from other artistes. Rather it has become more like a trend in all his productions that came after “Tsviriyo”. Market watchers opine the over-hyped product was rushed and consists of new styles that were created as a move to run away from pressure that is coming from Jah Prayzah’s copycat Andy Muridzo.
“Our music is being driven by market trends outside Zimbabwe. We must be popular outside Zimbabwe just like in Zimbabwe. “The new style is a strategy to penetrate international markets. We can’t abandon our style because they are people copying us.” Moreover, the replacement to Gonyeti is struggling to fill the gap left by the affable backing vocalist/dancer.
Excavator, real name Thobekile Nleya, is not only struggling with her vocals but also at keeping up with the energy sapping drills that characterise the Third Generation. Often she sings off key or she is behind the stage resting after a couple of minutes of action.
“We are happy with her progress. Pro’s like Gonyeti and Stimela (Fatima Katiji) are difficult to replace. Excavator is only left with a few items for us to certify her perfect. “She would have surprised us if she came and instantly matched the endurance of the guys,” remarks the Third Generation manager.