6 January 2018

Zimbabwe: Of Ammara, 'Atrocious' Akiliz Video

It has been a tad over a fortnight since bombshell trailblazer Ammara Brown dropped the video to her anthemic track "Akiliz". It has been a long time coming. People had waited seemingly much longer for the video to drop than Christians have been waiting for the Second Coming, but the arrival of "Akiliz" finally came round and the pundits were waiting pens in hand.

Everything that accompanies such a gem of a song like that tends to elicit mixed feelings, which is perhaps the reason why such a great song would do better to have the song and video drop on the same day than to have two separate landings. It is almost always a review disaster.

The easiest story that comes to mind is the landing of the "Disappear" video by Winky D aeons after the release of the track. It has disappeared from the people's video playlists because it didn't seem as catchy as the song and the same would befall the "Akiliz" video from what was going round on the Webosphere particularly Twitterville and Facebook.

The gods of the platforms torched storms by seeking vox pops and sound-bites and the chief priests, amongst them Jibilika's Plot Mhako, got responses from their ever so willing followers. Ammara can be forgiven for keeping people waiting. After some bit of a mishap, the video had to be shot again hence the longer than usual wait. And others argued that the video was sitting on the barstools of the Atrocious Pub and Grill especially since it was a second bite of the cherry but still fell short.

Perhaps the people are right. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And so it was too with their analysis of the "Akiliz" video. Agreed. Akiliz the character fell way short of what people imagined him to be. He was a half chiselled young fellow with a tub of lard around the waist that fell short of the Roman god that Akiliz, or rather correctly spelt in Greek mythology Achilles, should be perceived to be.

Add to that, the character that played Akiliz had his eyes darting around seemingly unsure of what he ought to be doing in the video. It is probably fair to say even now, aeons after the release, he still has no clue what that encounter was all about.

But apart from that, Ammara deserves a golden apple for what is a great video which has been unfairly treated by some armchair critics. She is typical Ammara, going terribly brave with scenes of Akiliz 'going down' on her character which left a million and one people tongue tied and other tongues wagging.

Those without tongues had their hearts raising. The scenes are enough to send the blood racing in a stone cold corpse and that is what art should be. Ammara always seems to be able to drop shock and awe like no one else can. Her "Wachu Want" video, in which she fornicates with el diablo, that slithering snake which stopped hearts, is the hall mark of the bravery that made her the queen that she is fast asserting herself to be.

To be that brave, in a nation littered with hypocritical people who want to moralise at every turn about the lives of others, is why she is arguably the biggest and best artiste amongst womenfolk in Zimbabwe today. Hands down. And with "Akiliz" she uses her sex appeal and allure as the key ingredients in defining herself and her product. So what else are the pundits complaining about with regards the "Akiliz" video? Well, others say the choreography falls flat.

It does. Not the choreography per se which is brilliant work by John Cole but rather the dancers. The backing dancers, while themed correctly and with only musicality as opposed to synchronicity being the expectation, made the moves but did not have the 'wow' factor. They lacked the hunger to impress. In fact they were hungry for something else. Food perhaps? They lacked the energy. But not enough to wreck the train that is the juggernaut video.

But the elephant in the room amongst the pundits was something called 'storyline'. It is something Zimbabweans will kill you for not having. They want a coherent story that tells what the lyrics are telling. Now there lies the problem. While a good storyline is a great thing here and there, Ammara Brown does not owe the world a story in the video. There is no law that stipulates that every video has to have a storyline. Some themes can be implied and not fed through the short film ideal.

The story can be implied in the art, something that Cole and Ammara know all too well and are good at. Even the master of the short film, Michael Jackson, had tracks like She's "Out Of My Life", "Leave Me Alone", "Blood On The Dance floor" which did not have a storyline in the rigid traditional sense of the word.

Drake, in "Hotline Bling" tells us she 'used to call' him on his 'cellphone'. But we hardly see a cellphone in the video. Just Drake dancing badly. And we enjoyed that. Lady Gaga, the remainder of whose DNA seems to have been used to also craft Ammara years later by the creator, also has very dance related videos whose choreography speaks to the colour of the mood rather than an overt storyline.

Add to that, we all watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and the movie went on to win tonnes of Oscar awards. In Zimbabwe it probably would have flopped and Ang Lee would have been given the hiding of his life by Zimbabweans who would have felt short changed. "There were no tigers or dragons in the movie!" they probably would have whinged!

To his credit perhaps he would have said they were there. Problem is, they were either all crouching and or hidden. We always want something overtly acted out like the spoon feeding that Nigerian movies gives and that is hardly art. Even in music. We insist that the song has to have a message. As is there is a United Nations Security Council resolution that says all music under the sun has to have a message.

Aunty Dot and her song "Nhingirikini" would have struggled in this new era where people threaten you with banishment into the fifth circle of death if you do not have a message in your song or a story to your video!

But seriously, even a Katie Melua song like "Nine Million Bicycles In Beijing" has one of the most lovable soft videos which features Katie being dragged around the world back to the original spot from which she begins. The entire video features her lying on her back. All three minutes and thirty-three seconds of it!

But after having read the books with illustrations and lines like; "Look at Tatenda run. Oh! Oh! Oh see Tatenda go" in primary school with bright pictures, it is understandable that Ammara should get such a response from her Zimbabwean audiences. They want stories and pictures. The world is not built on those rigid straitjackets people should know.

But the fact that Ammara is doing this for continental TV with the hope of going big on the continent beyond our frontiers, perhaps she should ignore the sounding gongs and the clanging cymbals and continue on her path beyond what we as Zimbabweans want to dictate and direct that her art should be like. Replace Akiliz in your mind and give the girls in the choreography a couple of Red Bulls and the video is a very perfect effort.

So while many may think the video is not worth its salt and that it is atrocious, Ammara should be proud, hop onto a plane and spend time in the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar. She deserves a warm round of applause for a naughty, brave, mind-provoking and artistic video that managed to generate emotion and comment from almost all and sundry!

"Akiliz" is proof that Ammara was not made by "Mukoko"; it is her biggest solo hit to date. Finally Ammara Brown is not Andy Brown's daughter. She is a standalone phenomenon who is definitely self-made!

Ammara's video atrocious? Get out of here!

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