The name ‘Afrow Zenda’ maybe relatively new on the music scene but let that not fool you. Afrow is a man of many surprises. This week I have the opportunity to review his new album ‘Zhara’ which is about a week or so old at the time of writing this.
Let’s get into the meat and bones.
Zuva is one of my favourite tracks on this offering. It’s a love song about how when you are with the right person, a day is never complete without seeing or talking to them. The teamwork with Chindube here is stuff of legends. Chindube has a more refined voice fit for ballads while AZ comes through with a welcome Afropop style and the mashup works well. This is a beautiful love song that should see AZ gain many fans.
Ndiyeuke Yesu is somewhat an interlude in the context of this album. It is a rendition of one of these popular church hyms of old and takes me back to the late HHP’s song Mmabatho. What AZ does here is put a hip hop spin to this hymn without doing too much to disrupt the authenticity of the hymn as we know it. Love it. When I heard Ndiyeuke Yesu I knew AZ was serious. We all grew up the same as much as we grew up differently. I remember going to church with my Mum, hating it at the time but cherishing those very moments as an adult. Now translating those memories by doing a rendition then putting a youthful spin to it without making a mockery of the depth of the song as we knew it? That takes exceptional musical awareness!
The surprise song for me was Kana Zvakusafaya (Album Version). Firstly I am not a fan of reworking hit songs – I’ll admit that. I mean, if the first version worked so well, why redo it? But gees Afrow made me eat those words! This is one instance that I might just love the reworked version even more than the original. I can’t even explain how! A runaway hit!
You get the ever popular trap sound on Handisati Ndatanga which is easily one of the best songs on this body of work. The subject matter is of particular interest to me and sounds like the ‘lead track’ to this album. He says “Handisati ndatanga, ndichitori neHunger” meaning “I haven’t yet hit full gear, I’m hungry for this.” How does this relate to the title of the album? ‘Zhara’ in Shona means ‘Hunger’.
To label this particular song, I would call it Afro Trap Soul but even then that might be occasionally misleading in its own way. In short, he is under the Afropop bracket. On the contrarty, when you venture into songs like Nhai Tari you get a rapper through and through. Dope multies and similes on a Shonglish tip, you get them all. The story-telling prowess on Nhai Tari is quite impressive to say the least. This tells you what kind of musical range you get with AZ. His versatility is one of his strongest weapons all things considered.
One thing is for sure, Zhara is littered with hit songs and downright good music. As much as I have said this to him before, it’s worth sharing with anyone reading this: Afrow Zenda has the potential to become an African star. From his singing technique to the uniqueness of his voice and the way he creates a balance by not giving you too much of one version of himself, it’s all part of what you get with him.
I think for such an excellent album, the real let down comes in the mixing and mastering. On occasion there was evident muddiness in the vocals and I would find myself listening harder to find that overall clarity. AZ’s style and clever lyricism gave me the ‘Wow!’ moments more than the technical of the compositions did.
There is a certain level that AZ is yet to reach and once he gets there, he will be a force to reckon with. I can understand that he used the resources available to him so making a project of this magnitude is no mean feat. We all know the Zim situation too so that presents its own challenges. On the other hand the album artwork also needs some love to really capture attention, as they say, first impressions are the most important. In the grand(er) scheme of things, these issues can easily be rectified and I see the only way being up for AZ.
Other songs likely to tickle your fancy are Cindirella, Nhai Tari and Paradise.
I would love to see someone take a bet on Afrow Zenda. Get some high quality videos going and aggressively push the boundaries in the next 12 months. It’s not hard to see him score a hit or two across the borders. It would be interesting to see how far a strategic campaign will go for him.
Very well done on this album Afrow, I believe in what you are doing. It’s time for the money moves.
To get yourself a copy of this album, $3 via EcoCash Zimbabwe number 0773016163