The Sunday News
“IT was like trying to run with one of your limbs cut off.”
These were the words of former Afrika Revenge front-man Willis Wataffi, after a year living and performing without his trademark dreadlocks.
Wataffi’s decision last year to cut off his dreadlocks took many by surprise although, ultimately, it was taken with noblest of intentions.
Wataffi had lost the only surviving member from his family, Marshall Wataffi, in a car accident and felt that to properly mourn the man that had been his rock and pillar of support for years, he needed to cut off the locks that were a key feature of his persona on stage.
Although many understood the reason why he had decided to go to such lengths to mourn the death of his only surviving kin, some fans would have been nervous about the direction his career would take without the hairstyle that seemed very much an extension of his personality.
Would his career take a knock because of that decision? Would his overall brand also suffer because of this style shift that would come as a result of this change? A year after his brother’s death, the musician is now ready to again bring back the dreadlocks, as the period of mourning is effectively over.
According to Wataffi, life without his locks was not easy for him both on and off stage.
“Like I said it was like trying to run without a limb when you grew up with one. The year has been amazingly blessed, supernaturally blessed and performing without them wasn’t a hassle but in my subconscious I knew a big part of me is missing,” he said.
While some fans were not entirely receptive of his new look, some embraced it with open arms. In fact, Wataffi said, some had begun to love it and appreciate it more than his previous look.
“Fans had mixed feelings but they all understood it was temporary and respected the reason I did it. Some ended up falling in love with the new look so there was that there usually was debate between those who felt I should put them back on and those who felt I shouldn’t,” he said.
For some hair is just a fashion statement. It is just an accessory that complements whatever style that they have adopted in life. In most people’s eyes, Wataffi’s dreadlocks had a similar motive, as they complemented the style he and Afrika Revenge were trying to push as they encouraged youths to remember and honour their culture. However, according to the musician, his dreadlocks have a greater symbolic meaning as they connect him to his ancestors.
“My dreadlocks are ancestral, they are a part of me, I am a Kore Kore tribal King Rainmaker and hunter descendent from King Mashayamombe whose son Mushowani birthed my Grandfather Kachambwa. We still have a kingdom and dynasty in Mt Darwin, Dotito which is the Kachambwa Kingdom. King Mashayamombe was also known as Chinengundu because his dreadlocks made people think that he was wearing Ngundu,” he said.
Like the biblical Samson, some fans will believe that the musician’s powers have been restored by the re-growth of his dreadlocks and if what he has in store for 2018 is anything to go by, there will be more believers of this myth when Wataffi is done with this year.
The musician has an album, Uhuru, that he believes will have tongues wagging when it is eventually released some time during this year.
“The album title talks about the total unification of Africa with Zimbabwe particularly in mind. It talks about building hope for total independence of a people, the Zimbabwean people. The album is imploring the people to rise up and be counted for we have been long in the wilderness but we’re now coming to the magnificent light,” he said.
Over the past few years, Wataffi had taken a musical detour and started making gospel tunes and while that experiment was a success, it led to some unforeseen complications.
“I just did a gospel album. Same as Dr Oliver Mtukudzi did a gospel album. I will always at some point do a gospel song here and there as its part of my ministry in church. When journalists said Wataffi has gone gospel they misled my fans into thinking I’m now a gospel musician.
“I struggled getting work because most journalists I never gave stories would tell the world I m now a gospel musician but this wasn’t the case. For example, Anochengeta is a gospel song on an album but it didn’t mean Afrika Revenge was now switching genres,” he said.