Ah, it’s Valentine’s Day again.
For its ardent adherents, the hallmark holiday means grand gestures: flowers galore, chocolate boxes and, who knows, maybe a little…trip out of town? (Get your mind out the gutter!)
By Shingirai Mavima, USA
Indeed, even for those who find themselves outside of Valentine’s Day—either by choice or by misfortune—it still evokes pressure. Who are you gonna be with, and what are you doing then?
You may two-stepping with your paramour to Feli Nandi’s “Munhu Wangu”, rocking it slow with Nutty O’s “Be My Girl” or just feeling “Happy Again.” We can take it to the genesis of urban grooves and chill out to Alexio and Tererai on “Tinodana.” Or we can take it old, old school, and let “Furuwa” or “Ruva Rangu” flow through our veins. While I don’t have this empirical data in hand, I am willing to venture that, per theme, love songs hold the largest market share in the history of recorded music.
Today, however, we are flipping that script. In this countdown, I’m breaking down ten songs that buck the lovey-dovey trend in the most spectacular way. True to my usual emphasis, the list will center largely on urban 21st century numbers, although I’ve thrown it back to the 90s for a couple iconic jams as well. In the spirit of comedic cynicism, I have kept the list as light-hearted as I could; so no overwhelming heartbreak songs, songs to do with abuse etc (if interested in the latter, please check out this piece written for the 16 Days Against GBV Campaign.)
This is all in good fun! Finally, if you don’t see a song you think should have been on here; leave in the comments!
10. Maskiri: Hama neHama
“Ndakamboenda kunhamo, ndakanakidzwa zvikuru
Mudhara anga afa zvikanzi ndiBabamukuru”
From these now-iconic opening lines, you knew you were in for a trip. Maskiri’s penchant for taboo relationships is, by now, well-established. But I don’t think it ever got more flagrant than hitting on his first cousin at her father’s (his uncle’s) funeral.
Definitely not a situationship you would fancy being caught up in come Valentine’s though.
But you know what? We got a kick out of it. Only you, Skillaz, only you!
9) Freeman- Kurambwa Ndaramba
“Saka Dzikama, usada kundiitira hunhu hwaNicki Minaj”
Since bursting onto the scene a decade ago, the HKD Boss has transformed into a force on the Zimbabwean music scene. A bonafide top five ZimDancehall artist of all time (a hill I’ll die on), Freeman charts highly every year. In this, one of his earlier and perhaps more obscure songs, the chanter confronts a lover he has invested so much in over the years about her decision to leave him. On the surface, it could be another “aggrieved boyfriend” song; but it’s the unrelenting denial, and the turn of phrase in “kuramwa ndaramba” (I reject being rejected) that makes this a dainty little tune!
Though if it’s gotten to that level, is the love still worth fighting for? Definitely not a sentiment you want to carry into Valentine’s season!
8) Steve makoni – Zvachonyana
Risati ravira, vachonywa”
Reverting to the funeral theme for now, this one is a throwback to the 90s.
For my money, I think it is criminal that Steve Makoni does not show up in more conversations about the all-time greats. He may not boast the sizable discography of some of his peers; but the work he has put out is unlike any other in sound, and largely unmatched in cultural resonance.
In the humorous yet dignified way that only Dhongi can, this song describes how, even in the immediate aftermath of the passing of a loved one, somebody is trying to slide in on the bereaved. With brilliant music to go with it, the song’s strengths lay in the idyllic description of the love story and sacrifice that has gone into it, only to be interrupted by a wink from a ‘wrecker.
Don’t dwell on that too much this Valentine’s Day. It will mess with your mind!
(Indeed, the song was originally done by Steve Makoni. It has recently been brought back to the waves by songstress Feli Nandi, so I shared her version above. You can still hear the original Makoni version here.
7) Kae Chaps- Juzi
“Uri mboko yemunhu, I felt I should tell you this…”
Okay, so I promised that I wouldn’t be delving into any heart-wrenching breakup songs here, but allow me this one. The line quoted above shifts this ultimate forsaken love story into ever-so-slightly humorous territory, as does the centering of the narrative on the “juzi.”
Also, I just feel some type of way about how this song, which barnstormed its ways into our hearts this time last year, was missing from many “Song of the Year” lists come year-end. You have a home on this list, Mr. Chaps!
(SN; as I finished writing this list, the man dropped another, similarly poignant, similarly slightly humorous heartbreak anthem, Gehena. Check it out!)
6) Selmor Mtukudzi- Nguva Yangu
“Now you telling me, that you need some space,
Space yei, space yei?”
See, this is yet another one that had the potential to be a run-of-the-mill heartbreak song, but its popularity on a danceable beat, and the equally emotive and hilarious plea of “space yei?” lands it on this list.
But also, space for what, indeed!
5) Noble Stylez- Nobody Can Stop Reggae
“But ndikakuudza kuti marriage is overrated/
Still uchangoroora, even though you hate it”
The boy from Masvingo does two things pretty well: he raps,and creates catchy hashtags that, more times than not, end up being social media colloqualisms. “Nobody can stop Reggae ” was one such turn of phrase, repurposed from the classic Lucky Dube song of the same name.
Except, in Chana Chidokosa’s rendering, “reggae” becomes a stand-in for, well, you see where this is going; Umjolo and other debauchery. In a nutshell, the song describes all sorts of relationships that would have survived with a little more holding on, but couldn’t because, well, reggae had to go on!
There’s a sad Valentine’s thought!
4) Paul Matavire- Kamoto Kamberevere
“Kutora gonzo, kuisa mudura renzungu/
Rikadya zvaro mungariti rakaipa here?”
We hearken back to the 20th century for this one.
This ten-minute number, from the immortal desk of Dr. Love, is a masterpiece in storytelling.
In a nutshell, it tells the story of a young woman who moves in with her older sister and the sister’s husband (her brother in law.) She eventually falls pregnant by her sister’s husband; which leads to the three voices adopted in the song; the accusing big sister, the defiant younger sister, and the blame-shifting husband.
After nine minutes of intense (and sonically thrilling) debate, the two ‘defendants’ have somehow managed to convince big sister that it was her fault for allowing her sister to move in with them and spend time with her husband, often in her absence.
3) Dai Pasina Mhamha
I have gushed time and again about how much of a lyrical giant I consider Killer T to be.
While this is not necessarily one of his triumphs in lyrical dexterity, it is still incredibly catchy. In it, he laments how his girl is taking him for a fool while he continues to go all out and, were it not for the presence of mother (his or hers; not too sure), she was going to be in trouble with him
So easy on the ear is this tune that I often find myself absent-mindedly singing along to it, despite the problematic threat of physical violence* therein.
(* in my conversations with ma ghetto yuts, they have an alternative theory; that the “ponda ponda” reference in the song is not ‘beating’ as appears on the surface: it’s sexual innundo. I don’t know how true that is, but it is definitely far more in line with the breezy, nice guy, if slightly mischievous character and lyrics of the Chairman that we are familiar with.)
2) Datler D Teacher- Dai Akafa.
“Unozonyanya kuzvida kunge munhu asingafe, asingapinde mugomba/
Kuzvida kunge munhu asingapinde munhingi, apa nhingi yenyu ndeyegomba”
It’s back to back “Dai” Dancehall songs in #2 and #3, albeit featuring two artists who are on opposite spectrums of the popularity scale. While Killer T is one of the most easily recognizable names in the genre with millions of views, The song in question here is Datler’s most popular, and as of now, all versions of it on YouTube don’t total to more than 10K views.
Which is a shame; because, as far as “break up” songs go, this is in the same vein as American crooner Eamon’s 2004 anthem “F*** You (I Don’t Want You Back.) I can’t think of a more brazen bitter yet hilarious song in the history of urban Zim music (if you can think of one, let me hear it in the comments.) In fact, it is the song that inspired this list.
(In the writing of this list, I also reached out to Datler, just to find out a bit more about him. Just to hear that he’s from Zvishavane, currently in college in Bulawayo, made me large him up a bit more: the Dancehall scene has been notoriously Harare-centric, it’s always good to see artists from elsewhere, and especially the smaller towns, make waves.)
In the most nonchalant and brazen of ways, D Teacher says “I hope your new man dies.” Morbid, I know I know. But you should hear how he sings it, and the bizarre ways in which he imagines the new lover dying; being run over by a car, then the car ferrying him to the hospital gets into an accident, only for him to finally get to the hospital in terrible shape to be told “sorry, we’re closed; come back tomorrow!” It’s insane.
(BTW, if you get round to listening to it; do yourself a favor and listen to the version on Bitcoin riddim or in the official video. The recent renditions are a little less raw and a little more “meh.”)
- Anodyiwa Haataure
“Kuuya pano kureva kuti ndinayo/
Kutokuchonya kutsvaga wekudya naye,”
Sure, yes. My lists are sworn to center around 21st century Urban Zim music. And yes, I know I have broken my own rule at least three times already on this list. It must, then, appear sacrilegious that I am giving the top spot to a song that technically should not be on here: a sungura song from the mid 90s.
But come on, it’s Mudhara System. Perhaps holding the title jointly with Paul Matavire, System Tazvida was the unabashed king of the debauched and slightly off-kilter ‘romantic’ narrative. From “Dai Hanzvadzi Yairoorwa,” to “Kaserura Ndizvo,” relationships never sounded as delightfully dysfunctional as they did when crooned by the great Tazvida.
As far as Valentine’s Day goes, though, it can only be “Anodyiwa Haataure,” As perhaps a mentor advising younger men (or perhaps women, really) to be wary of getting carried away and letting all their gold be dug from their pockets, System almost sounds wistful of the times when he had enough money to be prodigal with. As such, the line between cautionary tale and memories of a good time becomes very easily blurred.
As it tends to.
Come to think of it, perhaps this really did not belong on this list. It may well be the perfect song for Valentine’s Day. It is, after all, a holiday pushed hard by big capital to get us to loosen our pockets as the trauma of January disease begins to hea…You know what, I may be getting carried away 😉
I hope you enjoyed the list, and Happy Valentine’s Day: whatever you get up to!
(Are there songs that you feel should have been on the list but aren’t? Leave them in the comments below.)