Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Correspondent
AMMARA Brown opens up her latest single, Akilizi, with a chant that would not be amiss on a classic song by her late father, Zimbabwean music legend Andy Brown.
It is a passionate chant, one that seems to belong to the countryside, not the country’s concrete jungles where Ammara earns a living as a golden-voiced goddess. It is the sort of cry that one would expect to be followed by the sounds of a skilled player plucking gently at a mbira’s ribs.
Such is the potency of the cry that, if he were still alive, one would expect Andy Brown to caress a few riffs with his magical fingers from his famous acoustic guitar. However, after the chant, the song takes a blatantly urban twist. The immaculate work of producers DJ Tamuka and Take Fizzo immediately becomes evident as the upbeat bounce of their Afro-beat dominates.
It is a beat that takes many twists and turns and throughout the song’s duration, Ammara never loses step, keeping up with all the rhythmical shifts of the production.
Ammara’s skill as a song maker is evident throughout, effortlessly firing off verses one moment before breaking into full melody as the drums kick in and Tamuka and Take Fizzo’s production takes another delightful turn.
The two producers have made their names cooking up beats for some of Zimbabwe’s biggest dancehall and hip-hop acts and on this latest production Ammara shows the effortless prowess one would expect from a chanter or rapping wordsmith.
Lyrically, she pours her heart out. Ammara bemoans a “bad romance” with a man that sees her merely as an ATM machine, using his irresistible body to rob her blind. He is her Achilles heel, a weakness that she cannot shake off, except instead of roaming ancient Greek arenas her own Akiliz roams the streets of Harare.
While the song is about Ammara’s seduction, her skill and passion suggests that Ammara is doing some seducing of her own. Years after she stepped on the scene, the songbird has seduced her way to the top of the charts, bewitching Zimbabwe with raw talent and consistency.
As she prepares for the release of her album, Ammartia, on 1 October, Ammara is now one of Zimbabwe’s leading ladies in music. When she came on the scene, perhaps some might have thought she was just another promising, yet unproven princess from one of Zimbabwe’s great music dynasties.
However, after dropping hit after hit over the last few years, she stands as arguably Zimbabwe’s current queen of Afro-pop. The reception that she has got in Bulawayo over the past few months, including Skyz Metro’s anniversary gig a fortnight ago, suggests that as she shines, many have seen the light and are giving a royal talent her due.
A few years after her career started taking shape, no one can argue against the fact that she has managed to make a career without being dwarfed by the legacy of her legendary father.
Very often the heirs of Zimbabwe’s famous musicians have used their father’s music catalogues as a crutch, leaning on the legacy of greater musicians to mask their own weaknesses.
This has not been the case for Ammara, who has had to rely on her blood and sweat to make it in the Zimbabwean music industry. Her music and image are purely her own and although the name Brown will always be synonymous with the late Andy, Ammara has done a good job of making sure that his great name never went to the grave with him.
“I’m in studio recording the outro to Ammartia and to be honest I’m in tears. Can’t believe this moment is finally here. I pour my soul into every piece of music you hear me sing. My soul is bare before you. All in the name of the human connect. What I’ve written on Mukoko, Wachu Want and Akiliz are all testimonies. I can’t sing what I haven’t felt. I’m honoured to have danced with you, laughed with you, even cried with you. It’s all love. Thank you all for this journey,” she said last week.
Her passion does not end in mere statements but it shines thorough in her music as well. While songs like Akiliz are upbeat and ready-made for the dance floors, they also carry a strong personal message that many can identify with.
It is perhaps this personal touch in her songs that makes her stand out in the swelling ranks of Zimbabwean music heirs who sometimes feel like mediocre opportunists riding on the wave of their infinitely more talented parents.
While Andy Brown’s guitar will never accompany the sound of his daughter’s voice on song, he can rest easy and look down with pride from the afterlife at the work that she has done in his absence.