“ONE Night With John Legend” was the talk of the town among connoisseurs of good soulful music up till an announcement about the cancellation was made on ZiFM by Davies Events Management, the show promoters.
At the time of going to print no reason had yet been offered. One can therefore imagine the chagrin of local musical fans. But life goes on. Look, it’s a fine lesson to Zimbos who fawn over imports and disdain their own.
We have very good musicians locally who can stand up against the best of them. Still, the cancellation grates big time because John Legend is not run of the mill.
He is in a special class, much the same way Lionel Richie was to the generation that grew up in the ’80s. Well, almost. Speaking of Lionel, we “composed” love letters to our childhood flames using lyrics “borrowed” from his many hit love songs such as My Love and Penny Lover.
That is the mark of an artist who speaks for a generation. In a field glutted with mediocrity hiding behind technology, John Legend is one such shining diamond at the top of the pile when it comes to organic soulful music.
He is riding the crest of the wave with his wedding hit song All of me. Born John Stephens over thirty something years ago, the singer, songwriter, music producer, pianist and former Kanye West protégé, is a multi-award winner at the Grammys, among many other awards.
John Legend has been consistently churning out timeless music that belie his rather youthful age. One thing about him is that he is one artist whose career debunks the romanticised idea of an artist who “drops out of school to pursue his dreams”.
His musicianship has quite possibly been enhanced lyrically, by the fact that he has a degree in English. Unfortunately, he is no longer coming to Zimbabwe in November.
Musical trends globally appear to indicate that there is a shift toward the ’80s sounds. Artistes are currently reprising the sound and groove of a bygone era in which music was more organic and melodic.
At the Grammys this year, Pharrel scored big with his song Happy winning a gong. The ditty has a 70s Motown feel and harks back to a time when music was pretty and earthy.
Today, auto-tuned music has been dominating the airwaves. Need one mention the electro dance vibes many artistes have piggy-baked on? Dancehall is also not innocent of the synthetic.
Here and there artistes such as Aloe Blacc (The Man), Usher with new track Good Kisser, Bruno Mars with his song Treasure and even Michael Jackson posthumously released Love never felt this good reflecting the apparent shift.
The music is all retro sounding. Could this be signifying a weariness the market has begun to develop with auto-tune and the EDM genré ?
The definition of a sound
Whoever called music done by urban Zimbo youths, urban grooves quite clearly had run out of adjectives. Urban contemporary would have served a better purpose.
Why? Because Zimbo urban music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s always contained different genrés. From reggae (Transit Crew, Pied Pipers), RnB (Midnight Magic, Calvin and Muzi, Rusike Brothers, Fortune Mparutsa), to Afro-jazz and soul (Ebony Sheik, Ilanga, Mateu, Prudence).
These are just examples of groups which personified what I mean. When the 2000s came we witnessed the onslaught of a fresh batch of musical youths who went on to hog the limelight.
The music again spanned all the genrés already existent globally from RnB, house to reggae. We did not see the invention of new music per se only musical “collations”.
I got to reflect this week about days gone by upon hearing that Calvin Gudu of Matonto fame had been in town. I missed his performance at the Family Voices fund raiser. I began to look around.
The resurrection of Roki? Has Roki reached icon status? Maybe not yet. But with a couple of chart hits under his belt, the singer-songwriter, dancer and music producer is a controversial, troubled and quite possibly a musical genius.
Consider his hit of last year Chidzoka with its rhumba inflection to Bona Mugabe name just one. I would say that Roki merely is a prodigious talent who can do anything musically that he sets his mind on.
One time he took a church song Jordan and made it his own to devastating effect. Having watched the music industry for a stretch, I think I have some idea of what a good song sounds like. With the track Number One tearing up the charts, Rokford Josphats is onto something.
The song exhibits a dexterity and grasp of the intricate song- writing craft. The song builds up to a crescendo. It is sung over with Roki’s lilting baritone voice.
His pitch perfect tone is impeccable. Press reports have mentioned that Roki has been trying to find himself musically.
With his current hit record, he may have finally found the sound. He did meet Congolese musical giant Koffi Olomide with whom he exchanged notes about his music. That Roki has embraced a Central African frame of reference is therefore not accidental.
He has been leaning toward it for a while. Having released Number One, a love song with its distinct Congolese groove Roki is enjoying pole position in the charts once again.
Rock and roll lifestyle up and down and up again goes his career. One of a crop of young musicians who benefited from minister Jonathan Moyo’s 75% local content stipulation.
Today though, Ba Sky as Roki is known by his friends, is in the papers for his “extra-curricular” activities and sometimes at the cost of his music.
Ditto his shortlived Big Brother Africa appearance, Roki’s resurfacing began in the show’s aftermath and this year was boosted by his performance at the wedding of Bona Mugabe.
He is a cat with nine lives it seems and need I mention his string of female hits? To say this is not to aid and abet the lifestyle.
Yeah, it is tempting to stride down that murky path.
Roki’s recently reported relationship with starlet Ammara Brown might also turn out to be another cautionary rock and roll tale.
Think Ike and Tina Turner or the late Chiuoniso and Andy Brown. History tends to repeat itself.
Needless to say that telling young lovers that they shouldn’t “go there” is just akin to piling firewood onto an already raging bonfire. . . Ultimately, Roki as an artist is ahead of the former urban groovers pack.
He challenges himself artistically whereas peers such as Leornard Mapfumo and Nox have failed to snap out of the formulaic urban grooves funk that gave them fame over five years ago. But not Roki.
Personally, I find that barring the rock and roll lifestyle of drugs and women, Roki is a gifted consummate artist who challenges and demands more from himself.
To be safe, Roki is better off, like his urban music forerunner Calvin Gudu of Matonto, shining for the Jesus team.