By Bruce Ndlovu
On Saturday night, as blistering winds swept through and battered the Bulawayo Amphitheatre, many a curious fan would have paid a pretty penny to be a fly on the wall in South African rapper K.O’s dressing room.
For on the stage he was waiting to set foot on, Zimbabwe’s Winky D was in the middle of another commanding sermon.
Before him was a congregation seemingly in a trance, hanging on to every verse flung their way by a man at the height of his powers.
Feet shuffled, cheers rang and in one moment, at Winky’s asking, scarves and jackets waved as those that made the pilgrimage to the Amphitheatre continued their rebellion against a biting cold that seemed determined to drive them from the comfort of the Gafa’s lyrics into the embrace of their beds and blankets.
In the dressing room, only a thick wall separating him from the pharaoh in skinny jeans rocking the stage, the proverbial fly on the wall would have been watching K.O’s reaction.
The rapper would have heard the cheers. He would be taking in every scream.
Presented by promoters as the ‘Best of Both Worlds’, the show was to be a collision of Winky D’s rapid fire lyricism and the South African rapper’s smooth and township influenced take on the rhythms of hip-hop.
After his set was done, the Gafa had presented his world vividly and in the process, threatened to totally eclipse a pretty formidable opponent.
It would not have been the first time. Urban folklore is full of tales of how Winky once outclassed even Zahara in her prime, proving in one instant that the savage aggression of the dancehall chant can outshine angelic voices and they accompanying guitars.
Stories also abound about how Winky has outclassed various visiting Jamaican stars, proving to the chanting journeymen that although they originated the craft, he is the law in his land.
Was Saturday to be K.O’s turn to be eclipsed by the Gafa’s blinding brilliance?
As a solution to his habit of outclassing the imported talent promoters now ask Winky to go on stage last.
Rumours on Saturday however, suggested that the chanter vehemently refused this offer.
More than the frenzied adulation of fans, one gets the feeling that the ultimate thrill for him still lies is proving that he can outwit, outperform and ultimately outshine every and any star that sets foot in Zimbabwe.
This is what has turned him into the promoters’ nightmare. He is now so good that he exposes most visiting performers that think they can breeze through a set and cash a handsome cheque at the end of a routine showing.
On Saturday he was just as irresistible.
Regular attendees of Winky D shows would know that most of the songs are delivered as meals in two courses. First the Gafa launches into a snippet that serves as an appetiser before halfway through the song he abandons it as the drum and guitar from his band tail off. He then asks the DJ to rewind the song.
This is when he launches into the song proper, delivering on the promise of a feast that the appetiser enticed his audience into. This tactic was used to beautiful effect on Saturday night and it was a bouquet that those who attended, freezing as they were, could not resist.
The most impressive aspect of his display on that and other nights remains his breath control.
When in the grip of a verse, with the drummer banging away behind him as if coercing him to go on, Winky does not take a moment to gasp for breath. Instead the rhymes keep coming at machine gun speed.
Sometimes, and this was the case again on Saturday, he seems to drown in his rhymes, only resurfacing to breathe again when a verse is done.
A drummer and a guitarist are usually all that Winky takes on the road. His voice is the third band member as, bending it and switching his tone animatedly for dramatic effect, he gives a version of his songs on stage that are as close as possible to what was made in the studio.
As great as Winky was, K.O himself proved that he is a cut above the rest as he delivered one of the most satisfying follow ups to a Gafa set.
The man formerly known as the Ninja President put his cards on the table and many wondered whether K.O could match his counterpart’s standard.
He did so perfectly, dripping swagger as he rolled out a decade long worth of hits from his Teargas days to the current Skhanda era.
However, only the fly on the whole would have known how he reacted to the fire and brimstone sermon that was delivered from what he might have thought would be his pulpit.
Until flies start disclosing the secrets of the stars, fans will continue to wonder what happened in that Amphitheatre dressing room in the wee hours of 30 April in 2017. Link