musician Jah PrayZah makes US
$60,000 a month
Is Jah Prayzah now king of Zimbabwean music or
is he just a flash in the pan?
With sungura maestro Alick Macheso playing
catch-up with a new album that has gone largely
ignored, and other recent greats not quite
churning out the stuff greatness is made of,
there appears to be little competition for the
hurricane called Mukudzei Mukombe.
Suluman “Sulu” Chimbetu provides good game,
but he too is stuggling to upstage the 10-track
“Jerusarema”, an album named after an
endangered cultural dance popular in Jah
Prayzah’s Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe ancestral
home.
In Kadoma recently, Jah Prayzah performed for
over 1 700 people, in winter, and has not
performed for less than a thousand anywhere in
Zimbabwe since the release of his album in May
2015.
Whether he charges a flat fee or collects gate
takings, the 28-year-old, takes home no less
than US$5 000 per show, which translates to over
US$15 000 every weekend (excluding midweek gigs
and corporate functions).
His lifestyle tells the story of a man in his prime.
He drives a Mercedes Benz S600 and has a fleet of
other cars parked at his offices and home. He
does not hire cars for anything anymore. He uses
his own, which are owned by his company, JP
Studios.
His PA system, Craft Audio, is regarded as one of
the best. But he wants an upgrade.
So yes, the rest of the field must be afraid. Very
afraid.
Last week, he launched his recording studio,
which saw award-winning songstress Cynthia
Mare being the first artiste to utilise the state-
of-the-art equipment sourced from the United
Kingdom and South Africa at a cost of US$16 000.
He is understood to own several properties,
although he will not speak abbout such things
because at heart, this is still a down to Earth
fellow from rural Uzumba.
“Ndine maproperty and tichirikushanda zvimwe.
(I have properties and I’m still working on
acquiring more),” he said as he dodged a question
on what exactly he has invested in with his new
found fortune.
His band, which uses army fatigues from
different countries as stage costumes, is said to
be well taken care of because they have “come a
long way with me”.
The uniforms do not come cheap. These are
original brands imported from Britain, Australia,
the US, UAE and Botswana for his Third
Generation band.
Last week, the artiste moved to spacious offices
in Harare’s Belvedere. The premises have room
for a new studio, waiting area, rehearsals and a
storage space.
This is the guy who in May this year did a red
carpet launch of “Jerusarema” at the Harare
International Conference Centre, which was
attended by Vice-President Emmerson
Mnangagwa, several ministers, MPs and top
businesspeople.
The VP said it was his first time to be invited to
such an event, and he was more than happy he
had responded to the call as it had “worthwhile”.
The launch reportedly cost over US$100 000 to
put together.
At the launch, Jah Prayzah got a residential and
a business stand from businessman Phillip
Chiyangwa in exchange for his first CD at an
auction.
Was the risk of spending over US$100 000 on the
album and its launch worth it?
“I like facing challenges. I do not look back and I
am very stubborn. I was nervous, of course, but
together with my partners who had also poured in
resources, we advertised, put up billboards and
because of the confidence I had in the product,
even invited the VP. Indeed it has paid off.”
Climbing the ladder
From curtain-raising for the likes of Kapfupi aka
Freddy Manjalima, Jah Prayzah has risen to
become one of the most sought-after voices in
Zimbabwe.
While he once warmed the mic for the likes of
Sulu, Macheso, Progress Chipfumo and Oliver
Mtukudzi, today artistes clamour to have him
feature on their tracks.
But with Peter Moyo, Macheso and Sulu all set to
release albums before the end of the year, one
wonders if Jah Prayzah will still be king at
Christmas.
“I feel that being in competition or viewing a
fellow musician as such is a complete waste of
time. When one is full of competition in their
head, the end result is that they focus on
competition and forget their own career,” he
said.
Late 2015 or early 2016 will see Jah Prayzah
releasing the DVD album for “Jerusarema”. He is
not sure if there will be a new album soon and
such a decision will be informed by the vagaries
of the music industry.
Jah Prayzah said he viewed all artistes as his
brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, which is why
he has countless collaborations, including with
unknown artistes.
He has collaborated with Andy Muridzo, Dereck
Mpofu, Gary Tight, Nox, Freeman, Guspy Warrior,
Sandra Ndebele, Ammara Brown, Cynthia Mare,
Charma Gal, Luciano, Oliver Mtukudzi and
Suluman Chimbetu.
The shadows
It has not all been a rosy ride to the top.
Jah Prayzah’s biggest scandal has been the
lifting of a Ghanaian artiste’s song, which he
passed off as his own.
Titled “Samini”, the track by Emmanuel Samini
was released in Ghana in 2007 and Jah Prayzah
used its arrangement and harmonies on his 2013
hit song “Mwanasikana”.
The artiste has admitted to this being a low point
– but is quick to point that “all songs on
(“Jerusarema”) are original compositions by Jah
Prayzah”.
Soon after the release of “Jerusarema”, the
artiste fired his manager, Mother Filo, under
unclear circumstances.
Jah Prayzah has kept his mouth shut about this
episode, only speaking to praise the “wonderful
workMother Filo did for get us to where we are
today. Personally I appreciate her contribution”.
His baby mama also casts a bit of a shadow on his
image, as she speaks freely in the company of
strangers, dishing out nuggets like “Jah Prayzah
is an irresponsible father who neglects his child”.
However, the boy, named after his father and
often seen in his dad’s company at family shows
(he sometimes joins the Third Generation on
stage) seems well taken care of.
“I had junior when I was young and the mother
was young as well. But look for me on my off
days or at family shows and you will find him – I
have a good relationship with my son and he
wants for nothing,” he said.
Jah Prayzah lives in Mabelreign, Harare with his
wife Rufaro and two daughters. Mukudzei Jr lives
in Budiriro with his mother.
“I like to spend my time with family. I make sure
that I make time for them – we go for braai and
we also watch movies together. I like black or is
it African-American movies and everything local,
be it drama, films or soapies. I like to spend
quality time with my family. Sometimes we visit
relatives, together and that way we have lots of
fun,” he said.
The roots
As with most musicians, he fell in love with
singing at school.
“My musical skills were honed at school and at
church. My mother was a choir master at church.
I would also compose songs for my school choir at
Musanhi Secondary School and we would actually
win competitions using my compositions.”
When he moved to Kambuzuma High 1, he met a
colleague from Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe who
was to fuel his musical career.
“This friend of mine stayed in Highfield … I
visited him and discovered that he had a mbira
instrument, which he had discarded, it was
actually just lying outside being weather-beaten.
I offered my baseball cap in exchange for the
instrument and he said ‘yes’.
“Those who know me will tell you that I would
carry the instrument and play it everywhere I
went. I was never ashamed of my dream.” After
secondary school Jah Prayzah shifted bases from
his aunt’s place in Kambuzuma to his uncle’s
Budiriro home.
There he met Senator Vibes, a dancehall artiste,
who would draw him to the genre.
“My music was traditional but I did dancehall and
conscious reggae as well. I recorded over 50
singles around (2005) in bedroom and backyard
studios. Some of the songs I’m redoing now.”
After his debut album, “Rudo neRunyararo”, Jah
Prayzah was to get into a professional studio for
his second album “Sungano” in 2009.
In 2010-11 his name and music had begun getting
attention.
“Ngwarira Kuparara” his third album came in
2012 and catapulted him to national stardom wiith
hits like “Gochi Gochi” and “Maria”. A year later,
Jah Prayzah was back with “Tsviriyo”.
“When I released ‘Tsviriyo’ I was more
experienced and knew my way around the studio.
That album changed my life – it was an instant
hit on radio and the newspapers began to talk
about me regularly.
“I bought my own PA system, a car, improved my
band members’ salaries and moved from
Chitungwiza to Mabelreign.”
In 2014 Jah Prayzah released “Kumbumura
Mhute”, an album which received a lukewarm
response but all the same kept him afloat as he
open his first office.
And then came “Jerusarema”, which has taken
the industry by storm.
Jerusarema, which is listed and protected by
Unesco under the Third Proclamation of
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage
of Humanity, is a dance practiced in the Murehwa
and Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe districts.
Jah Prayzah says his endorsements are too many
to count. Among them are those by Population
Services International-Zimbabwe, Savanna
Tobacco, Fasfit and Datlabs.
“There are many endorsement deals that are
pending and I have been fortunate in that they
have been greatly rewarding for me as brand and
financially as well, he revealed.” The Sunday Mail