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Ten Contemporary Zimbabwean Songs Addressing Mental Health

Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE), a gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.

Ten Contemporary Zimbabwean Songs Addressing Mental Health

In communities across the globe, conversations surrounding mental health and strategies in combating its abysses have grown ubiquitous. From high-profile athletes sitting out important games over mental health concerns to high profile suicides, to groundbreaking initiatives rooted in alleviating this blight upon our communities, the world over is trying to make sense of how we keep our senses about us. Consider this: in the gun-crazed country that is the US, 54% of gun deaths were suicide, while 43% were homicide. Bringing it back home, compounding that trauma are the unparalleled socioeconomic conditions that the majority of Zimbabweans have lived through in the past two and a half decades. Folks are struggling out there.

By Shingi Mavima

As such, contemporary urban artists have emerged on the forefront of expressing mental health struggles through song, either as cries for help or to offer what counsel they can muster. (While this article focuses on urban artists, we acknowledge that they stand on the shoulders of yesteryear giants in Sungura, Jiti and other genres who tackled the same in their ways and times.)

So we’ve compiled this playlist. Now, because the bulk of music out there (as an expression of inner thought) is inherently about some ‘mental health’, we’ve had to narrow it down. While many gospel songs are tangentially about mental health (Laying your burdens down), and love songs indulge the excesses of our innermost selves, for better or worse; we’ve not included those. Similarly, songs about specific issues (drug abuse, living abroad etc) have also been left out here: they may need their own lists 🙂

So here goes, ten contemporary urban* songs that highlight critical mental health issues and paths to wellness.

  1. Holy Ten-Taura Zvinokunetsa
    Holy Ten – Taura Zvinokunetsa

“Haungambobate ka shaya
We can’t let you hang your head low
Sahwira havangaite stress
A friend can’t be stressed out
Tiri pa base, chiiko chanetsa
While we’re around; what’s the matter?

Make no mistake about this, Mujaya is one of the defining artists of the decade thus far. Since breaking into the mainstream in 2020, Ten has sustained his spot at the forefront of a game through a combination of media-worthy antics and good music. As far as the latter goes, his crowning moment thus far has been the 2021 release of his award-winning album, Risky Life.

While tracks like “Ma chills” and “Wakatuka Amai” are standouts, the extrospective “Taura Zvinokunetsa” sees the Samanyanga Sounds boss imploring his friends to lay bare their struggles and open themselves up to the help of their communities.

A worthwhile reminder, especially in seasons when we may feel we are being a burden to our already-struggling people.

  1. Feli Nandi- Ndibateiwo 
    FELI NANDI – NDIBATEIWO ( Official Video by SAP )

    “Zvinondidzingaidza zvizere
    Many are the entities that pursue me
    Madzikirira mupfungwa nemumoyo
    Paralysis of the mind and the heart
    Kufufutirwa neangu mashoko
    Blown away by my own words
    Kusimudza nhanho kutiza mumvuri wangu
    I lift my feet up, fleeing my own shadow!”

    Okay, somewhat bending the rules here; as some may well-perceive this to be a gospel song (unspecified deity/faith system notwithstanding!) But I could not leave out this equal parts gut-wrenching and heart-seizing ballad from arguably ZImbabwe’s most in-form songstress?

    The song appears on her self-titled debut album, released in 2021, and details graphically the complex external and internal struggles that often leave people overwhelmed: from wanting to flee from your own shadow to paranoia about the intentions and opinions of those around you.
  1. Garry Mapanzure- KuDeepisa
    Garry Mapanzure – Kudeepisa (Official Audio)

    “Somebody help me, before I hurt myself
    Somebody reassure me that it will be well
    Please pick up and call me, if you’ve got my cell
    Can anybody hear me, coz all I hear is myself
    Calling for help…”

While present author had been plotting on this article for a while now, it was this song in particular that reintroduced some urgency in this pen.

What a talent we recently lost.

While I had enjoyed several of Garry’s songs before his passing, I’ll admit that I had not known that he had a recent album out, let alone listened to it.
I wish I had.

But that’s just the thing: good art is an immortal gift to the world. Garry lives on in his music, and his songs will touch lives whenever folks eventually come across them if they hadn’t already.

The song has Garry Mapanzure desperately trying to sit his boys down to discuss an ultimately unspecified issue he’s been struggling with. As tends to be common among many young men circles, his vulnerability is met with resistance from the fellas, who are concerned that the heavy conversation will kill the vibe for everyone else. So they pop bottles instead. Thus the cycle of brokenness continues.

We miss you superstar.

  1. Freeman- Nuttin a Gwan
    Freeman – Nuti’n Ah Gwan (Moyo Wangu) [Audio]

“Hapana pandinoti nhasi zvava nani
There’s never a time when things are looking up
Zuva rega rega zvinenge zvakandidzvanya
Every single day, I’m feeling under pressure
Kutambudzika nekusuwa zvinofambidzana
And the struggle and sadness go hand-in-hand
Ukaona ndichi smila ndinenge ndichivhara
So if you ever catch me smiling, it’s all a facade.”

Breaking out in the early 2010s and cementing himself as one of the juggernauts in the then-burgeoning ZimDancehall arena, the HKD Boss is now certainly one of the music scene’s leading men, genre notwithstanding.

While his 2017 album (one of my favorites of his, by the way) does not quite boast the seminal popularity of some of his other albums, nor does it have definitive hits that rise to the acclaim of ‘Zvakaipa Dai Ndarega’, ‘Ngaibake’, or ‘Joina CIty’, it is a remarkably compact and poignant project.

The opening song, ‘Nothin’ a Gwan” describes the lived experiences of many of us (with a heightened emphasis on men, who have been socialized to be stoic in the face of trauma and stress), in which we are forced to grin and bear it, and pretend that everything is okay.

While ‘Nothin’ a Gwan’ is a special song, it is also not the only time the Doctor has tackled matters of mental health on wax, with tracks such as “Mukuru” and “Ndibvunzewo” off last year’s David and Goliath album doing the same in their own ways, among others.

The song itself is reminiscent of ‘Look on my Face’ by Jamaican artist Chris Martin who, incidentally, Freeman would go on to collaborate with on ‘Zimbabwean Queen’ last year. The parallels take nothing away from the powerful tune (and may well be just incidental); if anything, they emphasize the pervasiveness of the pain many of us carry behind these mandated smiles.

  1. Malcolm Mufunde- Alive

“Life taught me that we aren’t alive to be happy

So we just lie we’re all happy to be alive

I just wanna feel alive even when I ain’t happy

But I think I’d feel happy if I wasn’t alive

It really could have been any one of the several Malcom Mufunde songs that deal with internal anguish.Putting out an incredible seven albums since 2021, every last one of them excellent and at least one (thus far) award-winning, the spitter has been hard at work. The sixth of his seven run album titled ‘Ekhaya’ was released earlier this year and, as I argued in this review, may well be his most vulnerable yet.

On the song “Alive”, Mufunde lays bare the most rudimentary of existential questions: why are we here, and are we certain that this is a good, or even necessary place?

Like the eternal Tupac asked two decades ago, “ I wake up in the morning and I ask myself/Is life worth living or should I blast myself?”

Here’s wishing that the Spitter, and all those whose sentiments he echoes, find much-needed respite.
(SN: Malcolm has done a stellar job of making the lyrics for his songs available online. Can we get more people in the Zim musical space to do the same?

  1. Shingi Mavima & King Isaac- Mukandikoka Ndinouya

“I bet there’s many friends who couldn’t recognize the new me
Front row at my funeral, screaming out they knew me
Came up from the gutter, and my elders told me go for it
Made it to the top floor, got nothing to show for it…”

At the heart of this collaboration is the ever-too-familiar feeling of simultaneously wanting to be there for those you love and who love you, while also needing to retreat unto yourself to get over a bad spell of depression, heartbreak, and/or hopelessness.

The promise remains the same folks; just bear with us, we’ll be back once we’re back on our feet.

  1. Brity Yonly- Depression

“Ndiri munhu wenyama, ndinonzwa marwadzo
I’m human, I feel the pain
Pose pamunondituka paya ndinonetseka
When you mock me, I struggle
Ndinozvinzwa hangu zvamunotaura
I hear your words
Asi ka, chekuita, handina…
But there’s nothing I can do”

Known in her spaces as #MbiraBae, Brity Yonly belongs to a cohort of young

Zimbabweans who are simultaneously keeping traditional sonic culture alive, all th while blending it seamlessly with foreign sounds, visuals, and influences. Get to know her.

In this song, she evokes the long-beloved Zimbabwean sonic tradition of imposing a heavy, didactic message on a danceable beat. But make no mistake of it, the themes in the aptly titled tune are gut-wrenching and relatable.

  1. Kae Chaps- Zvikurwadza
    Kae Chaps – Zvikurwadza (Official Lyric Video)

    “I know ndiri fighter Baba
    I know I’m a fighter, father
    And I’ll make it out
    I’mma continue, but I need you know
    Kuti zviri kurwadza…
    That it hurts…”

Okay, let’s just say it: nobody does “pain” in this generation like Kae Chaps. Deviating

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From such heartbreak anthems as “Juzi” and “Gehena”, Chaps taps into the quotidian struggles of a young man dealing with the perils of success, starting a family, and struggling to catch a break.

Through it all, the young crooner remains defiant; insisting he won’t break.

Thanks for the word Chaps; we’re rooting for you too.

  1. Voltz JT- Mangwana
    5. Voltz JT – Mangwana #lifeofmuvhimialbum

Wangu unomuka everyday uchizvitongesa (uchizvitongesa)
You wake up every morning, taking yourself to task

Ende unofeela kunge Judas mutengesi (mutengesi)
You feel like Judas the traitor

Inotambika (tambika) dayi kwakuregedza
It happens, but I hope it lets you go

Dayi kuzvidya mupfungwa kwakuregedza
I hope the self-hating thoughts let you go.”

While Holy Ten’s Risky Life project took top honors in 2021, it was Voltz JT’s Life of Muvhimi was Zim Hip Hop’s album of the year for 2022. And for good reason: the ten track was just long enough to remain tasteful, while featuring some absolute bangers from the boy and his friends/

The standout song, it may be argued, is Mangwana (currently sitting at 40 000 more Spotify streams than the next most popular song on the album.) The numbers don’t do it justice. The song, in a nutshell, does a good job of reminding us to let go of past hurts, and to tamper our worries, and to stay hopeful for the morrow: and it does all this without being overly dismissive or wandering into toxic positivity territory.

Solid, encouraging song from an all-together outstanding project.

  1. BP Yangu Yakwira- Jazz Invitation

Kufunga zvakadzama, pamusoro peupenyu
Deep thoughts about life
Kufunga zvakadzama, mangwana ndinodyei ko?
Deep thoughts, what am I going to eat tomorrow?

Our last song on this list is, by no definition, the least. In fact, not only is it the oldest one
listed here, it sits awkwardly among the rap, RnB and Dancehall tunes that populate
much of this list. Composed by Filbert Marova, this smooth Jazz joint was immortalized

by the Prudence Katomeni-fronted Jazz Invitation on their 2007 album, Rehearsal Room. 

But don’t let the smooth crooning fool you; this song is a poignant tale of “going through it.” Using high blood pressure (the titular ‘BP’) as a well-understood euphemism for stress in the Zimbabwean (and beyond) vernacular, the coolness of Katomeni’s vocals succinctly channels the inner turmoil of trying to figure out how to make it, not in life per se, but just through the next day. The fact that this iteration of the song was released at a time when the country was jettisoning towards the incomparable socioeconomic nadir that was 2008 makes it especially hard-hitting. Yet in its sultry refrain, “Nyarara kuchema, shiri dzedenga dzinorarama wani…” (‘Dry your tears, the birds of the sky live on…) we find some much needed respite, if only for a while.

An equally beautiful and heart-wrenching anthem for the ages!

Those are our ten songs for this list. If I missed any of your favorites out, don’t be mad, I am but one man doing his best here! Be kind, and let us know your suggestions, and we may do a part 2, or at the very least, we’ll add them to the playlist below.

Playlists for these songs:


(*We recognize that ‘urban’ is a nebulous term in the music space. In this instance, we’re using it to reference the Hip-hop/RnB/Dancehall-infused genre that rose to prominence at the turn of the century and continues to be popular particularly among the urban youth of Zimbabwe. Admittedly, there are songs here that don’t fit neatly into the categorization, but make important interventions to the discourse, so have thus been included here.)

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Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE)
A gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.
Truly, for the culture.

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