28 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Josh Meck Dazzles Fans

Dynamite comes in small packages. This is true for afro-jazz musician and guitarist Josh Meck, who set the Book Café alight with his dazzling guitar-playing skills on Thursday night. Dubbed "Josh Meck

neShamwari", the show brought together the afro-jazz crooner and some his friends - songbird Diana Samkange, Selmor Mtukudzi and husband Tendai Manatsa, award-winning hip-hopper Synik, urban groover Stunner, BaShupi, Madiz and Fifi among others.

The little dynamo dumped his familiar bass guitar in favour of the more mundane acoustic guitar, but still put up an electrifying performance.

Missing too was the trademark fedora hat and in was a glittery mauve suit that shimmered under the glare of the stage lights.

During his "solo" act, the former Prince Edward student had the sizeable crowd eating out of his hands with a string of hits from his two albums "Wanetsa" and "Time".

Popular tracks included "Vanobata', "Chinono", "Ngwara", "Chembere Dzokwedu", "Ishe Makakosha" and "Zvaoma".

"Vanobata" talks about how more and more people are dabbling in witchcraft in a bid to acquire wealth in order to live lavish lifestyles. The message is clear: Just work hard and good things will come your way.

His advice could not have come at a better time as Harare and Chitungwiza residents are still reeling from the shock of the mysterious blast that killed five people and destroyed property during "consultations" at a n'anga's Zengeza home.

In "Ishe Makakosha", Meck gives his listeners an assurance that God is the answer as everyone of His children is special to Him in one way or the other.

"Once in a while we have got to remind ourselves that we are special no matter what we might be going through," says the talented artiste.

"Mai Mwana Zvaoma" struck the right chord with many in the audience as he talks about the tension in homes as breadwinners cannot make ends meet while Zesa load-shedding has compromised the situation.

The afro-jazz sensation also took time to salute one of the legends of Zimbabwean music -- Chimurenga guru Thomas Mapfumo -- with a selection his yesteryear hits, notably "Ngoma Yokwedu", "Nyoka Musango", "Joice" and "Vanhu Vatema" which he used as his swansong.

Songbird Diana Samkange, who has just dropped an album titled "Kumazivandadzoka" serenaded the lovers in the crowd with her chart-topping "Kumagumo" before she was joined by Josh on the late Andy Brown's "Mawere Kongonya" and Oliver Mtukudzi's "Mandipasa Manyemwe".

And who said that jazz and hip-hop don't go together? Josh proved otherwise when he was joined on stage by 2012 Hip-Hop award winner Gerald "Synik" Mugwenhi.

The two took the revelling mood a gear up when they performed some of the tracks that won the hip-hop star accolades in December last year.

Apart from Samkange and Synik, Josh Meck also did collaborations with urban groover Desmond Chideme, better known as Stunner, BaShupi, Selmor Mtukudzi and hubby Tendai Manatsa and resurgent rhumba exponent Madiz.

As usual, BaShupi was not short of surprises. The evergreen "Godo" already has three versions - Shona, English and improvised Chinese.

This time he had a "traditional remix" which will not look out of place at a "bira" to the accompaniment of the mbira.

The "Mai Mwana Muri Chocolate" hitmaker also did a duet with erstwhile friend Stunner in which they proclaimed "Tiri maShark" to prove that there was no beef between them.

Forgotten Madiz of the "Kazevezeve" fame brought a rhumba flavour to the proceedings with his waist-wriggling "kwasa-kwasa" dance routines much to the delight of the crowd.

Meck is the same predicament as Music Crossroads winners Mokoomba. Both are better known overseas than in their motherland.

For those not in the know, Joshua Meck was born in Harare in 1983 and attended Prince Edward School, well-known for its grooming of younger generation musicians such as the late Sam Mtukudzi.

He has toured Europe, America and Africa doing collaborations with international artistes over the past six years.

Meck started touring as a supporting act in 2006 with different artistes like mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire and poet Comrade Fatso.

In 2010, he did a collaboration with US-based jazz saxophonist Max Wild at the prestigious Africa Festival held in Wurzburg, Germany, and went on to do a collaboration tour of Germany, Estonia, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Czech Republic with Max Wild in 2011.

He has also collaborated on a tour of Zimbabwe with Kenyan jazz sensation Asali who has performed at the Harare International Festival of the Arts.

He has two albums to date, "Wanetsa", recorded partly with help of saxophonist and Tuku ally Steve Dyer in 2008 and "Time", recorded during his international tours and launched at the Book Café, Harare, last year.

Oh yes, in his spare time, he also plays the bass guitar for Cde Fatso's Chabvondoka.

That's Josh Meck for you - and he's dynamite waiting to explode on the local music scene.

He has already done so on the international arena.

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