BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI –
WHEN Winky D (pictured) first chanted his way to fame with Musarova Bigman a few years ago, the temptation was strong to dismiss him as a fly-by-night musician churning out “bubble gum” music branded Zimdancehall that would not stand the test of time.
But several years down the line, Gafa — as the popular chanter is known among his fans — is rated by music promoters among the country’s big five musicians that include Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, Alick Macheso, Sulumani Chimbetu and Charles Charamba.
In a crowded music genre, where many seek fame by “dissing” fellow musicians or preaching violence, the Ninja President has distinguished himself as a prolific social commentator who combines unparalleled lyrical prowess and engaging poetry.
Winky D’s latest album, Gafa Futi: Chi Extraterrestrial — a follow up to Gafa Life Kickstape (2015) — has set a new level in Zimdancehall, as the album also demonstrates flashes of intellectualism not expected within the genre.
The album title itself is likely to be a point of conjecture, as it speaks to a realm many are not familiar with.
In the recent past, there has been speculation, albeit outrageous, that Winky D has been recruited into the Illuminati, believed to be an influential secret society to which some of the world’s most powerful politicians and musicians are said to belong.
During a recent radio interview, Winky D, however, discounted the speculation. Although he admitted the album was “out of space,” he said it would be easily understood by future generations.
When pictures of him clad in a strange costume — including a spooky mask — appeared on social media, they set tongues wagging, Winky D said: “At that time I was actually coming from the galaxy, so I just came straight to the studio like that but at the end of the day, it’s just art.”
The album opens with Happiest Man, a catchy, sing along soundtrack of the Gafa Life in which the persona — perhaps clad in Winky D’s garbs — throws potshots at perceived rivals miffed by his successes. This appears to be a running thread in the album, as it resurfaces again in the songs Bob Marley Funeral, Karma, Photo Life, Mwendamberi and the title track, Extraterrestrial.
The word play on the title track is quite interesting, blending a mushy love theme and hard sci-fi. Here, the persona, smitten with the young woman, who has captured his heart, opts to demonstrate love “from other solar systems” and brags that the woman is lucky like someone “moving along the Milky Way”. His enemies are not a factor because in this extraterrestrial realm “where there is no gravity” his enemies cannot pull him down and he reigns like a king. Such imagery, applied in Zimdancehall demonstrates the scope of Winky D’s creative genius.
Just as Zimdancehall itself stirred much controversy during its early days, this album is likely to spark a storm in conservative Christian circles. The 10th track, curiously titled Bhebhi RaMwari, is a cheeky song that has already started rubbing some people the wrong way. Here, the persona cries out that he needs an exciting — and probably “fast” girl — who is easy to spoil because a conventional girl “who lacks pattern”, can only come from the devil.
He drills even deeper, singing “our love has become so hot like Lucifer’s home” (in the Christian pantheon, Lucifer was Satan’s name before he was cast out of heaven). Interestingly, this follows the discourse tradition, where terms with negative connotations are often used to describe good things, such as “diabolic” skill or music “wizardry”.
At his finest, Winky D chants conscious lyrics meant to make you reflect on the serious issues of life, and demonstrates that as a music craftsman, he is conscious of the pressing socio-economic circumstances in which his generation is hewn. In Daddy, the persona does not look forward to a time when his children will be mature enough to ask him important questions about how he was left behind in life’s rat race during which others were buying properties and making critical investments.
The same thread is picked up in Twenty-Five, where a young man expresses his frustrations with life. Captured here are the longings of young people in Zimbabwe, whose dreams and aspirations have been shattered by circumstances beyond their control, as their homeland spirals into the doldrums.
Many a young boy prays that by the time they reach 25, they would have settled in life, but disillusion sets in when they get to 30 and there is not even a job in sight, Winky D sings. This is the story of the “degreed” young men, who stand by the street corners in the ghetto with nothing to do it. But Winky D — who commands a huge following among ghetto youths — contends that “Gafa Life” is about working hard despite the austere circumstances.
In Karma, the chanter sings about upward mobility in life. The title is derived from the spiritual principle of cause and effect, where the individual takes deliberate and systematic steps to shape their future in a positive way. This is about moving from the grinding poverty to the ease and luxury of a better life on the back of hard work.
As the festive season fast approaches, this tune is likely going to become some kind of anthem among the Gafa fans. The persona tells off poverty because a banquet has been laid before him, as he now belongs to new circles, thumbing “the greenback and bond notes” away from the stench of poverty.
Bob Marley Funeral, littered with biblical allusions, is like a self-praise hymn, in which the persona celebrates becoming a champion in life after their enemies have been scattered. Here, The Ninja President describes himself as the Bill Gates of Zimdancehall, “big like a Bob Marley Funeral.” The theme is taken up in Mwendamberi, where Gafa becomes untouchable on all levels.
Winky D uses the image of a series of photos developed from film negatives to describe how the negativity from his enemies offers him an opportunity to shine as he turns around for good what has been meant for harm.
Other tracks to look out for on the album are Gafa Party (Toitoi), Panorwadza Moyo (featuring Oliver Mtukudzi) and Hooray. In this album, Winky D challenges the listener to stretch their interpretation of music as the poet him surfaces strongly. – News Day