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Jah Prayzah evokes slave turmoil

Hundred and sixty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.

Despite the proclamation’s claim, many people remained yoked and served their colonial master, among them was a great margin of African descent.

The slave trade hit its peak in central Africa around the 16th century with the majority of the people dying in slave ships on board.

From the 16th to 19th centuries, approximately 10 million to 12 million enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade. 

The triangular trade involved the shipping of arms, textiles, and wine from Europe to Africa, enslaved people from Africa to the Americas, and sugar and coffee from the Americas to Europe.

The enslaved populace lost their freedoms, denied the least basic human rights, and lived in turmoil and fear. Lashed and coerced by their masters. 

According to the BBC, the term slave has its origins in the word slav. The Slavs, who inhabited a large part of Eastern Europe, were taken as slaves by the Muslims of Spain during the ninth century AD. Slavery can broadly be described as the ownership, buying, and selling of human beings for forced and unpaid labor.

Fast-forward to 2022, Alice is an American crime thriller film directed by Krystin Ver Linden, in her directorial debut. It is set in the 1970s and plots that Alice is enslaved by Paul Bennet on a 19th-century plantation in Georgia.

At the peak of the movie, Alice the protagonist is separated from her lover, Joseph, a slave too who gets shot by Bennet’s foreman when he attempted to escape and free himself. 

The separation of the duo is ridiculed in Mukudzei Mukombe’s new song, Sarungano released on 8 May 2023 a year after the premier of the movie. He featured a prominent female singer popularly known as Feli Nandi.

The exposé of the single track shares the same plight that of Alice the protagonist. Mukombe’s featured song revolves around the theme of love which bonds the two prominent slaves as suggested by the visuals of the song.

Love is central in both plots of the film and the song, Like Joseph in the play, Mukombe is separated from her lover and the act evoked the turmoil of enslavement. 

During the peak of slavery, Native Africans where perceived to be property owned by a minority privileged group of people and would not posses marriage freedoms and rights. Instead the slaves where viewed as procreating machines meant to multiply the labor force of their relative owners.

Shot in a 19th-century plot, the song kicks off with a melancholic melody as birds tweet morning epitaphs.

The visuals from the track reveal an enslaved populace walking in a file from a plantation or supposedly going to work as they are armed with shovels, hoes, digging sticks and picks.

The scene transitions from the crowd and focuses on a solemn picture of Mukombe tilling the hard surface of a field next to his master’s mansion. His pick is hard felt as it kisses the hard surface of the ground, tiling.

Juxtaposed is his owner’s daughter, drowning in admiration of the lad yoked, she stares from a high position on a balcony. Smiling as his pick thuds, marking the first sixty seconds of the single track.

In the intro verse, the lyrics suggest a premature death of the duo's relationship which was cut short when the antagonist connived with her father to sell off Mukombe’s lover in the song. 

“Zvakagumira pasarungano, zvakadzaro ndokufunga munguva yechando ndaitodawo dai tanamirirana senamo, hana yacho yongorwisana nemwene wayo, rudo rwacho rwakagumira pasarungano…”

Jah Prayzah’s featured Sarungano evokes a dark history, ancestors of African descent endured in America's slave trade epoch. Among the turmoil was the denied liberty to marry and have relationships.

The depictions from the song’s visuals suggest the repressive dominance of the minority. It also spells the authority vested in the oppressor of the black majority.  

The phrase “masodzi oyerera,” suggests a somber mood and a tense atmosphere that is prevalent in the single track, Sarungano. The song bare a painstaking storyline and as suggested by its native Shona title, Sarungano which means a story, Mukombe, and Nandi implore a repeated verse that foreshadows the heartbreak the duo finally encounters as the song end evoking suspense on what happened after their force split.

“dai tatapindawo nemwoyo, dai taenda kumaroro, dai tine tariro taizofuratira nhamo.” The lyrics have a wishful tone filled with despair and misfortune. The verse also yearns for a traditional marriage and a prolonged relationship however, it yields a sad reality as the characters in the song eventually are forced to cut ties.

Ironic the antagonist character assumes a victim role to her father who then gave a directive to get rid of his daughter’s obstacle. 

In the last thirty seconds of the four minutes and forty-one seconds track, the enslaved blacks are lined for potential adoption by a buyer and unfortunately, Feli Nandi assuming the role of Mukombe’s girlfriend is handpicked and a cart is drawn off.

The Audience is left in suspense as the song concludes with a snippet of what was bound to unfold after the separation of the lovebirds.

Unlike in Alice, the protagonist eventually meets up with her boyfriend. After she was inspired by Pam Grier’s character in the film Coffy, she persuaded Frank to go back with her, so that she can exact revenge on Bennet and free the rest of the "domestics" being held there.

Will Mukombe continue the storyline evoked in his featured track such as he did in his Nhorondo in an album dubbed Gwara?



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