This year’s mother’s day, like most things in this season, is a little different. More than before, many are unable to see Mhamha and, in the especially heart-rendering cases, may not even have the opportunity to go adorn the rock under which she rests eternal.
Shingi Mavima, Michigan, USA
If it offers even the least bit of solace, here is our list of ten urban songs dedicated to mothers, whether still with us or dearly departed. Because of the sheer volume of songs around this theme in Zim (it’s almost a rite of passage for singers!), we have excluded songs meant for both parents (e.g David Chifunyise’s ‘Vabereki Ndatenda’ or Sam Mtukudzi’s soulful Amai ). Let’s get to listing and listening!
- Mhamha- Enzo Ishall
“Inzwai Mhamha, amai vemunhu/
Mufaro wandinawo hauna muganhu”
The most recent entry on this list, this tune from Stallion’s hot-and-cold 2019 sees him experiment with elements of the beloved Jiti sound. Debated upon its release, ‘Mhamha’ has held on and is fast becoming one of his most beloved songs. It currently has more views than ‘Next Time’ despite the latter coming out a year prior, and is breathing fire down the necks of ‘Handirare Kuden Kwenyu’ and ‘Muchiround’-both definitive hits in the young man’s repertoire.
Besides, how often do you get a song for mom that you can dance to?
9) Seiko- Leonard Mapfumo ft Rocqui
Dai manga muri pano, muri vatsaru amai/
Taizofara tiri pamwe tiri tose amai…”
From the most upbeat song on the list to a more sombre entry, ‘Seiko’ is a tear-jerker from the turn of the century. A story of a loss all too familiar and whose pain never gets easier, the song also helped launch the careers of both Roki (Rocqui at the time) and Leonard Mapfumo- both bonafide urban legends.
(SN. The video was one of the better ones from that era, yet I can’t seem to find it on YouTube. Mildly upsetting!)
8) Amai- Alexio
“Upenyu uchidhonza, imi muchidhonza nekoko,
Pamwe zvichiramba, asi muchiramba makamira…”
Perhaps the least known song on the list, ‘Amai’ finds Alexio at his pensive crooning best. Off his 2008 Jazz-infused (and frankly flawless) album Kana, most famous for the juggernaut single ‘Shaina’, the song’s easy rhythms tell a story recognizable to all who have both cried at sight of Amai’s struggle and felt the enduring peace of her loving arms.
Go listen to it. And the whole album too, while you’re at it!
7) Amai- Innocent Utsiwegota ft Major E & Malvern S
“Dai zvaibvira, ndaibhururuka ini wo,
Ndoenda kuna Mwari ndovataurira ini wo,
Mwari komborera Mai vangu ini wo,
I, I ,I, I don’t wanna miss you in my life…!”
While the musical brilliance of Fortune Muparutsa is the stuff of legend, I don’t think we talk enough about the importance of Innocent Utsiwegota and his associated acts (Major E, Booker, Malvern S, Potatoe) to Zimbabwean in general and the urban scene in particular. From ‘Country Boy’ to ‘I’m a Believer’, they could do nothing wrong for an entire decade and then some.
‘Amai’ is one of Utsiwegota’s most memorable singles, blended with Major E’s masterful Patois and Malvern S’s s Shona chanting that helped lay the blueprint for what would be ZimDancehall.
6) Dai Hupenyu Hwaitengwa- Souljah Luv
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a ZimDancehall list that doesn’t have Chibababa in its top 5. How popular is Souljah Luh? So popular that he had everyone crooning his Mother’s name-Stambeni- like she was their own.
As such, ‘Dai Hupenyu Hwaitengwa’ carried us all, and particularly those who have endured loss, on a journey of emotion and remembrance. The video, featuring Jah Luv standing before his mother’s grave, makes the grief even more personal.
Furthermore,his declaration of “ndatatarika” (I’m wandering (in your absence)…) takes on new meaning given his very public struggles. A sentiment shared by many; maybe, just maybe, things would go a little smoother with mother around.
5) Hold on- Audius
“And we know that you’ve been misunderstood/
And I know that you’ve done all you could…”
Zim’s original RnB icon! Audius has an incredible catalog, and ‘Hold On’ is among its crowning jewels. While both the Shona and English cuts of the song are emotive and belong in the Mother’s Day pantheon, I personally am partial to the English version (I get the impression that it’s the original.) But that’s small potatoes: the song is a moving appreciation to mom’s sacrifices and, perhaps something we don’t do enough, the recognition that she gets tired and needs our encouragement as well.
4 Mhai- Tocky Vibes
“Tocky pazvinenge zvanake usandikanganwe/
Mhai, ndopika handikukanganwei!”
A king-making anthem, this song yielded what I hereby dub the “Tocky Conundrum.” When your breakout single is one of the genre’s defining songs, it both cements you firmly in the fans’ psyche and sets an impossibly high bar for your career to live up to. This may be why, despite maintaining (or, in my opinion, actually improving on) the quality of his music over the years, he hasn’t been able to recapture the summits of popularity he achieved during the “Mhai” run.
Oh, “Mhai.” What a song. A candid song that digs into both hardships and triumphs, the song rests upon one of the most sacred commitments and relationships: the mother-son bond. Simply beautiful, and a list wouldn’t be without it
- Zuva- M’Afriq
“Ndinouya Nechiedza, chenyika,
Semukombe kwamuri amai…”
A staple sentiment in popular culture is how “the quality of music was so much better back then!” The same sentiment has arisen surrounding how we remember the early days of Urban Grooves. For the most part, this is just subjective nostalgia and can hardly be proven and, in many cases, is simply not true. Some of it was good, some of it not so much- just like, you know, any other time period and genre.
M’Afriq, however,was special. It was traditional and contemporary, indigenous and Western-inspired, clean and rugged all at once.
The maternal tribute, ‘Zuva’ is one of their more memorable songs. Perhaps the most poetic song on this list (rivaled only by #2), the song literally posits a mother’s love as being out of this world, and such is the debt we owe.
2)Mai- Chiwoniso Maraire
“Forever I’ll remember your loving smile,
Sunshine to my eyes.
You had a spirit so full of joy,
Oh, the surprise… ”
Lyrically and musically the best song on this list, this entry lands on #2 on the pure basis of a technicality: I didn’t feel entirely right categorizing it as “urban.” The instrumentation evokes inimitable sounds of the continent, while the predominant English of the verses could have been lifted out of a Yeats poem.
But such was Chioniso. Beyond categorization. Genre, generation, and language defying.
And now we sing her the same song.
- Amai- Guess.
“Hakuna mumwe, akaita semi/
Hakuna mumwe angatora nzvimbo yenyu.”
Where were you when you fell in love with Urban Grooves? What song did you in?
When the story of the genre-not-genre is told, 1999’s The Future Album from Shamiso Studios will always be regarded as the watershed moment. It introduced us to the likes of David Chifunyise, King Pinn, and Alexio. It provided the blueprint for the Urban Grooves compilation album that would go on to be replicated time again by the likes of Chamhembe, Chigutiro, and Machikichori.
For my money, ‘Amai’ was the joint-best song on the album (King Pinn’s ‘The Inauguration’ being the other.)
Smooth harmonies. Poignant lyrics. For but a moment, we believed in Urban Grooves. The song, much like a mother’s love and our love for our mothers, will never get old.
Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day!
Honorable Mentions: “Amai”- Nadia Nakai; “Mwanawangu”- Mr. See; “Amai”-Seh Calaz,;“Amai Vaone Budiriro”-Shinsoman, “Ndozviita Sei”- Trevor Dongo.
What songs would you have in your top ten? Comment below!