Zimbabweans have an intractable relationship with Gospel music. While in most other countries the genre occupies the periphery of the industry, it is undoubtedly mainstream in Zim. The biggest gospel artists are often among the biggest entertainers in the country altogether. You would also be hard-pressed to find too many of the industry’s non-Gospel legends without a single (at least debatably) gospel song in their catalogue.
Shingi Mavima, Michigan, USA
Given this prevalence, it is then not uncommon for absolute bangers, usually in the form of prayers of supplication and gratitude, to come from unexpected quarters of the industry and run havoc on the airwaves (or on our playlists!). With this in mind, and in light of the Permican Gospel Awards that happened last night, here are five 2019 ‘gospel’ songs we didnt find on that list, but are definitely worthy of your ear on your way to church (or if you’re doing church at home this Sunday ;))
*Also worth noting that this is not a critique of the Permican Awards in the slightest- just using them as an angle to talk about our favorite tracks of the year 😉 *
1. Chiedza _ Noble Stylz ft Chiedza Jeke
““We stuck in between vanhu vane Moyo iri Cold/
Nevamwe vanoita Mari pese patopinda mu Road”
By the time you read this, Noble Stylz’ album should have dropped. Kungoti munhu wacho haanzwisisike mhani. Full disclosure, I’m a huge fan. Bar for bar, flow for flow, I am hard-pressed to imagine too many doing it better than him in Zim right now (indeed, including the more renowned names in the genre.)
Equally proficient in social media as he is on the mic. The MC dropped a string of singles in the run-up to the album release, each accompanied with a catchy hashtag that assumed a life of its own. #Chiedza is one such song. An existential social commentary that is sadly all too familiar to Zimbabweans, it is the chorus in particular that ‘takes us to church’ and leaves us praying for Chiedza.
Oh, and get the album
2. Kutenda _ Decibel ft Major E
“Kana Mhepo Dzenyika Dzikandinetsa, Ishe Wanozvipedza
Kana Nhamo Yemari Ikandipressa, Ishe wanondijegga
Kana utano hwangu paungandinetsa, ishe wanondi saver
Kane vavengi nemiyedzo zvandistressa, ishe wanozvipedza…”
I desperately want to title this entry “the Return of the legends,” but that connotes similar, if not equal, legendary status. That’s not the case. See, Decibel is a legend: one of the finest and most innovative to ever take to the mic during the Urban Grooves stampede at the turn of the century. By then, however, Major E was already legendary. His name resurfacing in recent times during the debates about the origins of ZimDancehall, the chanter carved his name in the annals of Zimbabwean music with his collaborations alongside Innocent Utsiwegota, Booker T and Potato on such hits as Country Boy and In My Dreams.
So it is good to see them back on this gratitude track. Although the passage of time may well ensure that the song doesn’t catch the popularity of their earlier work or its contemporaries, it is still a solid tune with all the hallmarks of sound and lyricism we fell in love with from the two artists decades ago.
3. Reurura _ Seh Calaz ft Mambo Dhuterere
“Huya Mubhanditi Huya, Mwari ndewe Munhu Wese
Dzinopembera Ngirozi, Hwai Yadzoka Mudanga”
So this one may be cheating a little bit. After all, Mambo Dhuterere is the hottest property in gospel music at the moment. Heck, he even made it to “100 Most Influential Under 40” list, much to the chagrin of one prophet-cum-social media star. His song, Mweya Ndisesekedze, won best traditional award at the Permican.
His collab with the Seh Calaz was, however, unexpected. Calaz has been somewhat of a renaissance man himself, resurfacing from obscurity with a new studio, crowd-rocking shows, and new music. This genre-bending effort speaks of redemption, and who better than the chief Bhanditi himself to showcase such.
4. Jehovah- Trevor Dongo ft Dadza D
“Nekuti Jehovah Wandinonamata
Ndomira Naye, Nguwo Yake Ndobata…”
Now, this is high on my list of the most slept-on tunes of 2019 (alongside Swag Dug Dig and others, but that’s for another list.)
A product of the aforementioned Urban Grooves era, Trevor wekwaDongo has since cemented himself as one of the finest crooners in the history of the local RnB scene. This time, the archetypal ladies’ man ventures out of his romantic wheelhouse in this reggae-infused, Dhadza D assisted anthem of defiance. Perhaps true to his love song roots, the song cleverly samples Take That’s 1990s classic Back for Good
(Also, when has a Dhadza D feature ever gone wrong?)
5. Jah Jah Ndichengeteyi- Ras Caleb
“Ini Ndinotanga Zuva with a Prayer and a Morning Glory
Munhu Wese Muupenyu, Ane Yake Story!”
There was only ever going to be one winner on this list. Ras Caleb is dope. Although his lethargic conscious style and sporadic release schedule may not earn him the laudits of his peers, rest assured that he is a giant of the ZimDancehall Era.
Case in Point: Jah Jah Ndichengeteyi.
To fully contextualize it, the song dropped at a particularly heavy moment in Zimbabwe’s 2019 story. April was only a couple of months removed from the stayaway and internet blockade that confirmed to the masses that the gains of November 2017 may have been initially overstated. Samanyanga had recently passed away. The Zim music industry had been reduced to a Winky vs Jah Prayzah fight as proxy for the two main political parties. Things kinda sucked.
In comes the Rascal Dread with the prayer we all needed. Not only a musical triumph, the lyrics go a long way in validating the varied and troubled experiences of our collective psyche.
I mean, consider the “munhu wese” (Every single person alive has a story) line at the beginning of this entry. At a time when those at the bottom of the totem pole may feel unheard or unrecognized, here comes validation. This is an understanding of Jah that even non-believers would be eager to embrace.
That’s my take on the matter. What other songs do you think deserve to be on the list? Let us know below!