17 November 2012

Zimbabwe: It All Began in Uzumba - Jah Prayzah

Many artistes would go to great lengths to conceal their backgrounds. Some will do anything within their powers to block the media from getting an insight into their personal lives, let alone descend on their rural homes. They would rather keep their parents at bay and away from the public glare. For all the flamboyance and swag associated with musicians, most of them live a lie that will only come out the day they die.

However Mukudzei "Jah Prayzah" Mukombe has dared to be different.

He agreed to have an exclusive interview with this reporter, not on the sidelines of a show, in his posh car nor at his splashy urban residence but at his rural home in Uzumba, Mashonaland East province.

"This is where it all began my friend," Jah Prayzah said as he welcomed Herald Lifestyle at the Mukombe homestead in the midst of Uzumba.

The tiled blue house is a lone ranger in a world where thatched small huts and houses rule the roost.

It befits the fame and lifestyle his parents have instantly found them in, following Jah Prayzah ascendancy in the arts sector.

The house is good enough to be in Harare's middle class suburb of Houghton Park or Westlea.

Just a stone's throw away is where a barefooted, quite young man, who had deep love for playing mbira, would walk to buy household groceries.

"Yes, the shops that you are seeing are where we used to do our groceries and a few kilometres away, there is Musanhi School, where I did my primary school," said the soft-spoken Jah Prayzah. It baffles the mind how a religious family like the Mukombes raised a child who is passionate about secular music, to the extent of playing the mbira instrument deemed unholy by some Christians.

However, fame has not blighted Jah Prayzah, who still regards himself as a mere country boy.

"I was born here and I am not ashamed of where I come from.

"This is my community and these are the people that nurtured me," he said, pointing towards hordes of people who had come for his mother's birthday bash.

To show his gratitude to the community that nurtured him, Jah Prayzah has also adopted his rural fast jiti genre in some of his songs. Jiti is quite popular in Uzumba.

Jah Prayzah, who was accompanied by his wife Rufaro and child Mukudzei Junior, said growing up in the rural area inspired him to make a difference in society, laying a firm foundation for his unwavering principles of oneness.

Although he now spends most of his time in Harare, he yearns to spend some time farming.

"Farming is something that I really miss.

"I used to help my parents with farming, but because of my busy schedule I can longer come here as much as I used to," he said.

His mother, Shirley Mukombe, who was full of praise for her entrepreneurial son, echoed his sentiments.

"He has been looking after us very well, I am very happy. He has always loved to sing and paint, and I was not surprised when he went into music full time," she recalled.

His father John Mukombe reiterated, adding that Jah Prayzah was quite passionate about music, while growing up, something he encouraged him to work on having realised that the young crooner had set his sights on music.

The Uzumba community has embraced him as their 'son' and his songs are popular in the area as attested by the number of shops which were playing the music when the news crew arrived.

Who would not love someone who can perform for them, the whole night for free?

Maybe an old adage, "A prophet does not have honour in his own village," should be recoined to say "a musician has honour in his village".

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