Ndasungirwa murder, attempted murder/ Ndarova ngoma kusvika mumwe munhu afenda…” In one line the charge, defense in the next line. Murder was the case but what does this mean?
By Onai Mushava
When Snoop says, “Murder was the case that they gave me” none of the key words has a stable meaning. To begin in the middle, what is this “case”? A court case or a “caught” case: caught up “in that case” where your options narrow to one option? Even God’s case, maybe, so that we can now go back to the first word, “murder” and see that Snoop is, after all, the dropping body, the man in front of the gun…
Indeed, Snoop dies in his short film, Murder Was the Case, is the object of the murder, but around the same time, he has a real-life murder charge. So even this word falls into itself.
But is there a difference? Doesn’t murdering someone always pass through a case to be, in effect, murdering yourself?
This self-murdering murder is Jah Prayzah’s case. A murderer is cut off from society. He is someone who has lost all his human privileges.
A murderer is not a citizen but a cabbage head. His head silently cries out, “I am a beast!” and a beast that shows its head is asking for it to be taken off. Did Jacques Derrida, perhaps, read Chinua Achebe’s: “A head of state who puts his head on money is asking for people to take it off” to come around to the idea that the beast and the sovereign are one and the same?
Jah Prayzah had murder case in 2020. The case required him to be cut off from society… Those of you who grew up in the 1930s, recall the ending of the Alfred Hitchock movie, The Lodger. The city is chasing the alleged to tear him apart to a deserved end. New information emerges, complicating the case, but what good is it amid the frenzied shouts of scandalized righteousness and instant justice?
Jah Prayzah’s case had this frenzied vibe. The nuance of art and the complications of political history got lost amid shouts of: Cancel! Mute! Decampaign!
So how does Wagwizi plead? “Ndasungirwa murder…” is the charge but is he actually pleading guilty? What does he say he, in fact, did? “Ndarova ngoma kusvika mumwe munhu afenda.”
He played music and got the murder verdict! How, though, does the outrageous jury go from music to murder? We have to take in the line patiently.
“Ndarova ngoma kusvika mumwe munhu afenda…” He hasn’t only played music but his music has “fainted” the listener. To faint… to lose consciousness.
A Freudian confession providing the wide bridge between music and murder. “I played music till somebody lost consciousness.”
Recall the 2020 charge: Jah Prayzah has no conscious songs… In fact, his songs induce unconsciouness on behalf of the establishment… The characterisation of Jah Prayzah’s fans as politically undiscerning and so on.
This black out of the consciousness, ironically confirmed by this bubblegum song, is how the crime of playing music is escalated to murder. Is how Jah Prayzah opens himself up to be decampaigned and muted.
Notice the usual pairing of cancel culture (“Mhosva yangu ndichiri mukati, kuRemand”: prisoners neither talk nor trade) with and consciousness/wokeness.
A disapproving buzz then: “Inyaya irikupisa muchaunga” and a touch of bleeding narcissism: “Vamwe vakandibuka” (Prisoners are social rejects).
But is the bubblegum irony lost on Jah Prayzah. Not when he attaches his testimony that to a body of evidence. To a body of work. An album. Gwara.
Gwara is a concept album about precarious womanhood. Indeed, Murder, looks misplaced on this masterpiece, on this daring return to rituals which deserves to be counted among Jah Prayzah’s best album.
But it’s probaly a clever way to revive a stale beef. Who says there is a singular consciousness? Who says the personal is not political?
Let’s redirect to the album title to tarry with this challenge of political polysemy?
Is gwara the political coward almost exclusively personified by Jah Prayzah in the subthreads of #zimlivesmatter.
The celebrity who don’t run with our issues are cowards, we said. A coward has no scars, the ancestors said, but Jah Prayzah got dragged and slurred for his his very “cowardice.”
So the coward is given the sentence of a murderer. At which point Gwara forks into another Gwara. A path. Freedom is a path. A designated, signposted road without deviations. An artist must sing this or else be muted! Criticising is not enough; it must be solidified. Freedom is this path but is this path still freedom?
But what happens when you put a woman in the middle of the path on album cover? He, we Gwara forks into yet another Gwara. The path of life and the precarity of the traveller. Of the female traveller, especially.
Stories from the bottom. Struggles within the struggle. Is this also art? Is this also consciousness? Does the murder charge hold?