By Nyasha Themba Dhliwayo
It takes a certain type of artistic boldness to announce the arrival of your latest project wearing a bright green alien mask and shimmering gold space suit.That’s unless of course you happen to be a certain Winky D and the concept of your current album is premised on your artistic elevation to “extraterrestrial” levels.
A few weeks ago the charismatic dancehall artist did just that at a local radio station when he launched Gafa Futi: Chi Extraterrestrial, his new 12-track offering. This conceptual album captures the major Zimbabwean issues of the day in a witty and engaging manner and yet despite dealing with quite weighty subjects, it avoids “constipating” the listener. Winky D intermeshes nimble word play, double-layered meaning and varying flows to craft an album that is worth more than just a few spins.
Panorwadza Moyo, one of the lead singles features the only guest artist in the form of music legend, Oliver Mtukudzi.Tuku’s husky voice and acoustic guitar provide the emotional backdrop to a wistful track where Winky D expresses the powerlessness all mortals feel in the face of losing loved ones.The self-appointed “poor peoples devotee” has not abandoned his day one constituency. He continues to voice the struggles and frustrations of the urban youth as heard in the popular track Twenty Five. Equal parts regret and hopes for better, this song aptly captures the frustrations of middle-age as one looks back and realises that childhood dreams might take a bit longer to fulfill. In all this retrospection Winky D manages to remain optimistic as expressed in the song Happiest Man — the album’s “feel good” tune. With or without truckloads of money and regardless of prevailing circumstances, the Gafa vows to remain the “happiest man” in town. Still not quite done yet with tackling poverty, Karma is Winky D’s bare-fisted attack on negative socio-economic conditions. With a wicked sense of humour, Winky D gives poverty a face and delivers a verbal beat down that reinforces his encouragement to listeners that they too can rise above their circumstances. On most of his previous works Winky D has those “don’t mess with me” moments where he let his detractors know that despite his relative silence, his bite remains as dangerous as ever. On the album, Mwendamberi (Winky D’s totem) plays that “warning” role where the artist states that despite those that might try to hold him back, he will continue to press ahead. The rousing beat sees him demonstrate that he hasn’t lost any of the hunger that saw him rise from obscure dancehall battles to mainstream entertainment over a decade ago. The song Daddy is a bare palmed smack to the face reminding listeners that they have a responsibility to future generations to whom one day they will be accountable. In the polarised political environment that is Zimbabwe, the song Gafa Party (Toi Toi) is Winky D’s crafty disassociation from any particular political entity. Instead, his allegiance remains to one party and that is the one that makes all merrymakers dance and where regular “rallies” are held at various pleasure spots. Other tracks on the album include Extraterrestrial, which gives the album it’s name, Hooray a celebration of young love, Bob Marley Funeral, Bhebhi Ramwari and Photo Life.
Caught up in Winky D’s punch lines and rich use of language, one can easily forget about his vocal abilities. On this album, he switches comfortably from the dancehall-inspired chanting that he has become synonymous with to singing various melodies. This flexibility has enabled him to become an all-round artist not restricted to any particular genre. Similarly this album marks his ongoing foray into Afro beats, the West African-dominated sound that is invading world charts and dancefloors. This move is commendable if he is to grow into the continental space. Towards this end, the bulk of the beats are produced by Oskid, the Afro beats go-to producer of the moment. The downside to this is that Winky D’s rapid evolution as an artist has not been complemented by similar growth among the majority of local beat-makers. In terms of sound and quality, they have not been able to keep up and this is shown by the seeming monotony of similar sounding beats on the album. The reported fallout between Winky D and Oskid might actually be the impetus the former needs to venture out in search of alternative producers. Another gripe often expressed by music fans has been the visual side to Winky D’s otherwise exceptional sound output.
It is hoped that at least some tracks on this album will be complemented by good quality videos, which are a prerequisite if Winky D is to tap into the lucrative continental market. As a stand alone album, Gafa Futi is a solid offering that will please listeners regardless of their preferred genre. It’s greatest weakness, however, becomes apparent when the green-eyed monster that is comparison comes into play. No track meets the lofty benchmark set by the hugely successful track Disappear from his last year offering Gafa Life Kickstape. Even as a whole, despite it’s cohesion, Winky D’s current offering remains overshadowed by the gem that is Gafa Life Kickstape.
It could actually be a while before the creative whizz can replicate the magic of that landmark album.
Then again this is an artist whose most innovative works have been produced in the pressure cooker of adversity and competition. –The Standard