Chikowero (n.d) Zimbabwean music can in some ways be seen as multifaceted as opposed to one identity. The country’s postcolonial nativist structure of various ethnic groups has influenced the innumerable genres that are built on traditional music that is the ‘backbone’ and also shapes compositions and meaning through semantics.
Music has this ability to change moods the past, the present, and social activities in the different light of nostalgia. More importantly a tool for identity and structure Hesmondhalgh (2008) a positive resource of self-identity.
Mukudzeyi Mukombe AKA Jah Prayzah (JP) a multi-award winning artist and a crooner currently viewed as ‘the man of the moment,’ in Zimbabwean popular music, where he has a wide audience to communicate to. On entering the music ‘scene’/industry I would argue he created a self-image boosting his self-esteem in the hegemonic culture using the ‘mbira,’ a powerful instrument in a quest for acceptance and identity within the pervasive traditional music subculture in Zimbabwe. “Individuals utilize music to construct collective identities and ritualise identity process” (William, 2006 p.2). Furthermore music therefore plays the role of creating community identity.
“Music, then, represents a remarkable meeting point of the private and public realms providing encounters of self-identity”(Hesmondhalgh, 2008, p.4). I would add that JP wants to be unique and maybe in a way does not want to be defined by a particular genre. However, this is raising concerns amongst communities both home and diaspora who feel JP is becoming disconnected and lacking in his role as representative of national identity, compared to the way he had begun. Africa Pulse (2016) quotes JPs fandoms as saying “His music preserves our culture and our pride.” Williams (2006) states that when listening to music, individuals locate themselves in specific subcultural formations.
JPs latest song Watora Mari, with its video reaching 1 million views in just two weeks after its release (Prayzah 2016), indicates perfectly in my opinion, the notion presented by social constructive theorists that we are not stuck in a single core identity, and that this identity is continually constructed and reconstructed and changes depending on the different times we live in. Bruner (1990) states that we have a set of identities triggered through our interaction with other people through autobiographical narratives.
After only 4 years in the music industry Jah Prayzah’s identity has been fluid without staying within any particular genre. I would describe JP as style-surfing (Polhemus 1996) hence he could be called TRUBUS (Maffesoli 1996) and is ‘mashing-up’ different cultures. JP creates an identity that is no longer just linked to the traditional music of Zimbabwe or to the role of fostering community as a priority of tribe or neo-tribes. However, manipulating and applying ideas, styles, and groups from different subcultures he states that he would like to appeal to the international audiences satisfy his individual needs, moods and identity to suit the ever-changing society. “Rather authenticity is a claim made by or for someone, thing or performance and either accepted or rejected by relevant others” (Peterson 5005, 1086) cited in Williams 2006
Music as a business where the genres and identity are merely useful in conceptualising relationships within music cultures – though not wholly adequate Hesmondhalgh (2005) as people do not always reflect outwardly their taste in music. In an interview (JP, 2016) justifies himself, “There are a few songs on the album where people will question if it was really me, just like I did on Hello.” McKerron (2003) Identities are constructed from the individuals within the group, experience, knowledge, and creativity, from the past, present and expected future.
I would also ague that JPs current identity fits with the notion that identity rather is “constructed’ rather than ‘given’, and fluid’ rather than ‘fixed’ Bennett (1999). This process of becoming (Shuker, 2013) is convenient “catch –all’ term applied to any aspect of social life in which style and music intersect.
Frivolous as music may seem, it is nonetheless wholly ubiquitous, and plays a huge part at the centre of Zimbabwe’s lifestyle, culture and tradition, and still continues to shape and address daily social discourse. Self-identity is expressed through consumption, indicating membership of constituencies (Shuker, 2013), and music is a symbolic connotative panorama of shared identity crossing all social, political, gender, ethnic, & disability boundaries.
AfricaPulse (2016) Zimbabwe: Identity crisis haunts Jah Prayzah. Available at: http://www.africapulse.com/2016/07/26/zimbabwe-identity-crisis-haunts-jah-prayzah/ [Accessed 18 November 2016].
Bennett, A. (1999) Subcultures or neo-tribes? Rethinking the relationship between youth, style and musical taste. Sociology, 33(3), pp. 599–617. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/s0038038599000371.
Chikorero, M. et all (2013) Music, performance and African identities. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Chikowero, M. (no date) ‘I too sing Zimbabwe’: The conflict of ethnicity in popular Zimbabwean Music. Anon: Africa Research. Available at: http://www.africaresearch.org/Papers/Np02Cwr.pdf [Accessed 16 November 2016].
Jah Prayzah ft. Diamond Platnumz – Watora Mari (official video). Directed by Jah Prayzah. YouTube, 2016.
Polhemus, T. (1996) Style surfing: what to wear in the 3rd millennium. New York: Thames and Hudson.
Prayzah, J. (2016) Blog. Jah Prayzah. 24 October. Available at: http://www.jahprayzah.com/blog/ [Accessed 18 November 2016].
Shuker, R. (2013) Understanding popular music culture. 4th edn. New York: Routledge.
Smith, C. (2008) The nee African journal of new poetry. Canada: Lulu publishings.
Williams, J. P. (2006) Authentic identities: Straightedge Subculture, music, and the Internet. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(2), pp. 173–200. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891241605285100.