Melissa Mpofu, Showbiz Editor
Musician Jah Prayzah today celebrates 33 years. Being a public figure, his life has not been his alone for the past 10 years or so as he has had to make tough decisions which were driven mostly by his fans.
From being booed off the stage and having showgoers pay music promoters to remove him from the stage, Jah Prayzah (real name Mukudzeyi Mukombe), years later, is a proud man as he never let such people deter him from chasing his dream of one day rocking the airwaves.
Married and with five children, Jah Prayzah has grown to become a national treasure, filling venues in the country.
His determination, work ethic and unmatched lyricism that has set him apart from the rest has seen him win several awards, share the stage with numerous artistes — local and international, nurture up-and-coming artistes through his Military Touch Movement and put the local music industry on the world map.
But who is Mukudzeyi Mukombe and 33 years later, is he content with the decisions he has made in life?
Just by looking at him, one can tell that he is a humble person who was raised well, something his mother confirmed.
“Mukudzeyi is a kid who was well behaved and mannered. He was never one to dodge each time we sent him as he was a straightforward person,” said his mother Shirley Savanhu in a recent interview.
Jah Prayzah’s workmates and friends all had one thing to say about him, that he is a very hard working person who takes his art and time very seriously.
To celebrate his birthday, Showbiz Editor, Melissa Mpofu (MM) this week conversed with Jah Prayzah (JP) on WhatsApp to have an appreciation of the artiste’s life and music.
Below is the interview.
MM: Where were you born?
JP: I was born in Uzumba-Maramba Pfungwe at a place called kwaMusanhi in Murewa. First born was my brother called Joshua, followed by Chamunorwa and Simbarashe, my sister Lydia and me. But we’re now just three as Joshua and Chamunorwa are late.
MM: When did you start doing music?
JP: I started doing music when I was still at Musanhi Primary School. Most of the times, I’d sing at assembly when we’d do the national anthem and prayers in the morning. I’d sing mainly gospel music which I used to sing at church. At school, I also used to play the mbira with my teacher, Mupa Musimbe who volunteered to teach me how to play it after realising my passion. And as I grew older, my skills developed. As such, I felt confident and decided to pursue a career in music.
MM: How has your musical journey been?
JP: It hasn’t been a smooth one because the main thing that set me back emotionally was the discouragement I got from people at the beginning of my music career. Some people would even pay promoters to remove me from the stage. It’s something that really affected me as it made me think that maybe what I was doing was not right.
But then, at the same time, there were people who encouraged me telling me that my music was nice. It is such people who gave me the zeal to keep pushing and numbers started growing. This gave me a positive vibe and I continued pushing.
MM: Where did the name Jah Prayzah come from?
JP: It came from my name, Mukudzeyi Mwari (praise God) hence Jah Prayzah.
MM: What has been the highlight of your music career?
JP: When I did Tsviriyo (fourth album released in 2013 that won a Nama for Song of the Year for the title track), I also started believing in myself because it was my defining moment as I realised I wasn’t going backwards as the bar was rising higher. Tsviriyo came after I’d done the likes of Sungano (first commercially launched album in 2007) and Gochi Gochi. The money started coming in as well as I paid off some debts.
MM: Have you achieved the things you wanted to when you started doing music?
JP: Yes. I think I have achieved more than I anticipated. I remember back then, all I wanted was to at least have my song played on radio. I just wanted people to hear my voice but, people ended up listening to my music and a lot of things started happening in my life. So I think I’ve actually surpassed my targets because of the hard work I put in, something I’m still doing.
MM: Has your family been supportive of your career?
JP: From the beginning, my family has been very supportive. My mother who was a preacher, before preaching, would request me to read the Bible and after that, sing one or two songs. I then noticed that my singing/ voice uplifts and motivates her when she is preaching. My wife has also been very supportive as she met me when I was into music. We’ve been through a lot together and she knows me more than a lot of people as she accepted me the way I was before I was famous. She’s a big fan of mine as well. Most of the music she listens to is mine.
MM: How does it feel being a celebrity?
JP: Fame takes a part of your life like social life because there are some things which I can no longer do as Jah Prayzah. I used to do enjoy window shopping back then. I’d just take a kombi from Chitungwiza to town (Harare) to go and look at the latest fashion trends even though I didn’t have money. This is something I really used to enjoy doing, but now, I can’t do these things anymore and I’ve accepted it.
Then sometimes I get home with makeup all over my clothes that’ll have been put by my fans who’ll be jumping all over me at shows and it’s always difficult to explain to my wife. These are just some of the things I have to deal with as a celebrity.
MM: What can fans expect from you this year?
JP: Maybe I’ll drop one or two singles since I recently launched an album and I think the market is still flooded with my songs. Maybe end of year, or early next year, I’ll drop singles.
MM: Thirty three years later, are you content with your life choices and progress you have made thus far?
JP: Thirty three years, I’ve really grown. I had a vision and I kept pushing regardless of my age. Of course as I grew, I made some decisions and choices without knowledge of how things would go. Some turned out positively and that’s just how my life has been. I had so many ups and downs and I took the downs as a learning curve and here I am today. I’m on another level as a result of those mistakes which made me tell the good from the bad.