The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
IT would have been easy to forget, amid all the social media flutter, what Winky D’s album launch on 31 December was all about. With accusations and counter accusations, conspiracy theories and half truths, one could be forgiven for thinking that what was about to take place was more than just an album launch.
In all that noise, some might have forgotten what the night was supposed to be about — music. The songs that Winky D had prepared to welcome a new year, playing undertaker to a dead 2019 and midwife to a newly born 2020, were now being overshadowed by a sideshow that in the end proved to be nothing more than empty talk.
A few weeks later, it is possible to look at the album soberly away from the noise and emotion of those frenetic 24 hours before the end of 2019. Njema, Winky D’s new effort, comes after a year-long drought that saw people thirst for new music from the one time Ninja president.
After over a decade at the top in Zimbabwean music, it is difficult to think what Winky D could achieve with this new effort that he has not already with past albums. Winky D’s greatness can no longer be debated. The time for that is long past. It is not greatness that he seeks with efforts like Njema. It is immortality.
He now wants to be one of those men who live forever. Society can bury an Oliver Mtukudzi, a Hugh Masekela or a Miriam Makeba. However, whether these die off completely is subject to debate.
How can society kill off men and women whose music is the soundtrack to everything from funeral processions to weddings? These are the men who would in one moment write and sing timeless ballads for their wives before putting pen to paper furiously when they got a sniff of the stench of society’s corruption.
These are the men and women whose exclusive club Winky D now seeks membership. It’s an invite only club and to these men and women you are only as good as your last song and only prolonged excellence is rewarded. For a while now Winky D has been knocking on this club’s door, microphone in one hand and pen and pad in another, as he seeks to seal his name in legend.
For the most part, Njema illustrates Winky D’s talents and suggests that he may perhaps be ready to sit and break bread with these undying gods of music. On tracks like Sekai, Winky cements his title as the people’s champion. He is that one chanter who will always stand in the underdog’s corner. His ability to come up with a catchy melody to cushion his sometimes aggressive lyrics is evident, and this is what gives songs like Sekai an emotional punch. Whether such tracks, meant to tug at the heart strings of listeners, will grab and hold the attention of listeners like past emotionally charged songs like Daddy and Panorwadza moyo remains to be seen.
Perhaps the surprise on the album is the personal touch that Winky D brings to the song Amai. The track is a peak behind the curtain into the life of a man who has always been eager to retreat behind it, avoiding intrusion into his private life.
Naye is a brilliant track from start to finish, with Winky’s faint voice at the beginning sounding like it’s coming from an old broken bottle store’s speakers while an accordion plays in the background.
The song is a mixture of all the elements that have made Winky D the force that he is over the last few years: a great Oskid production, clever wordplay that illustrates that his pen has lost none of its magic and a catchy melody.
A traditional dancehall musical backdrop on Mangerengere finds the Gafa very much in his element, chanting what only he seems to be capable of telling. Over a decade since he became a mainstream music superstar, Winky D’s fame’s notoriously poisonous fumes are yet to choke the wise man who resides within the 36 year old.
Area 51 turns a simple ghetto love story into an extra terrestrial affair, as Winky D promises to teleport the love of his to this area where they can meet not only his relatives but also such historic figures as Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei. While other chanters might be offering damsels a trip to the local posh bar to pop champagne, Winky D is proposing to take her back in time to meet astronomers, physicists and other men of science.
However, despite his valiant efforts, some might still question whether Winky D has as yet earned the right to be mentioned with the all time greats on the evidence of his latest album.
Stripped of all the drama that preceded it, does the album stand steadily on its own two feet? Would it stumble and fall by the wayside if it were put alongside some of the erstwhile chanter’s best efforts?
When you hear the name Winky D, one expects something amazing. One rightfully expects new ground to be broken. One excitedly expects new paths to be carved and trod on. Unfortunately a few tracks on this album do not bring that level of excitement and innovation. This is not because the songs are bad. Winky D has reached a stage in his career where he is no longer capable of making outright bad songs.
However, even the staunchest of fans cannot listen to a song like Bhatiri and claim that it is something that they have never heard from before from their beloved Gafa. He has a winning formula and he is not changing it anytime soon.
On the Buffalo Souljah assisted Ndidye Mari one gets the feeling they have heard Winky D on this topic before. The only difference is that when they heard it last time, he did it over a better beat, with better lyrics.
Chandelier sees Winky D once again dabble in hip-hop but the result is as uninspiring as Paper Bag, another song that flattered to deceive, causing a flutter on social media for a few days before disappearing off the radar.
Criticism of an album with so many great tunes might seem harsh. However, good or even great is no longer good enough for Winky D. He is the Gafa, an extra terrestrial that has no peers in this world. He ceased competing with the living a long time ago. He is now competing with the dead.