07 September 2017

My Top Ten Songs From Zimbabwe

Today's blog takes us to the world of Zimbabwean music, specifically my Top Ten Songs from Zimbabwe. For those who are actually Zimbabwean, forgive the 'datedness' of my list, (and the Shona translations (hides)) it has been years since I have continuously lived in Zimbabwe. 

The reason I love lists like this, making and reading them, is that they allow people to discover music they might not otherwise have ever heard. Click here for a similar list I compiled for my favourite French music. And now to Zimbabwe....

10. Ammara Brown - Mukoko

Ammara Brown is one of Zimbabwe's newest stars. She is also part of a family rich with musical legacy, her mother was Chiwoniso Maraire, an international legend on the mbira and her father was the musical genius Andy Brown, both sadly have passed on. In this song, Mukoko (the Shona word for honey) Ammara proudly proclaims that she isn't just a babe (a honey in Shona slang), but a real woman. The video is one of the best choreographed Zimbabweans I have seen in a while, with splashes of colour and the ambience of the township.
Best line: I will sing for you and make you my hubby. But you gotta treat me like a treasure. You gotta treat me like a treasure!!! 


9. Hillzy & Oliver Mtukudzi - Ndiwe Wega Uripo (Trap Soul Remix)

I actually had not heard Hillzy before this song and I never knew there was a Zimbabwean trap singer, much less a trip soul artist. Surprises never cease. In this soulful remix of Oliver Mtukudzi's Ndiwe Wega Uripo, Hillzy raps above the melody of the echo of the original song and then harmonizes in a haunting chorus. I wish this had a video!

Best line: Ndiwe mumwe wangu, ndiwe wega uripo...(you are my better half, you are the only one there)

8. Tricky J - TAMBISA DAKO ft.Sinte & KYD

This song was banned on Zimbabwean TV! And if one if familiar with Zimbabwean conservatism, one can begin to understand. Who cares! I love this song, the beat is amazing, the choreography is great and the video is so funny! Even funnier for me was that I initially had no idea what a 'dako' was, my Shona whilst passable is hardly perfect lol. 

Best line: Tambisa dako!!! (Shake that ass!!!)

7. ExQ - Bhachura ft. Ammara Brown

Ammara Brown makes another appearance on my list, this time with ExQ, a popular Zimbabwean urban grooves singer. The video is heartbreaking and the lyrics are bittersweet, a recently single young man singing that it was better being single. Relationships huh? 

Best line: Everything Ammara sings! The passion in her voice. Tjoh.

6. TINASHE - Bated Breath

This is technically cheating, because Tinashe is technically American. But in my defence, her name is Shona and her father is Zimbabwean so there. I will claim her back as one of our own! What makes this song even more special for me is that I was listening to my random Spotify Daily Mix when this came up on the playlist. Not even knowing that it was a Zimbabwean born singer, I played it over again and again.....

5. Chiwoniso - Wandirasa

And the Queen of the Mbira is Chiwoniso! This discordant hymn to pain is one of the most haunting Chiwoniso songs I know. Her voice rises above the mbira filled with pain and a cry to be released from pain. An ode to a lover who has abandoned her, the title literally translates to 'You have thrown me away' (it's amazing how one word can turn into an English sentence!)

Best line: Something about you baby has touched me deep inside, I can't explain it to you. No matter how hard I try to stay away from you but we both know it will never be the same.....(and the screams in the end that haunt your dreams long after)

4. Oliver Mtukudzi - Neria

This is a song that a lot of Zimbabweans will resonate with no matter what language they speak. A song that reminds us of the award winning movie Neria about a widow whose in-laws throw her out to the streets to fend for herself and her children. Decades later I can hardly remember the details of the movie but this song takes me back to the first day I heard it as if it was yesterday. Oliver's voice and the guitar of which he is one of Zimbabwe's unrivalled masters gently sing to comfort Neria, telling her God is with her, not to lose heart and to be strong. 

Oliver Mtukudzi's CV is too long to list here. With countless albums, countless awards, work as an ambassador for UNICEF and the Cavaliere of the Order of Merit Award from the government of Italy, we Zimbabweans simply know his as Tuku.

Best line: Usawore mwoyo kaNeria, Mwari anewe.....shinga moyo shinga! 

(PSA & shameless plug: head over to, an organisation I am part of and who have as their Ambassador for Health none other than Oliver Mtukudzi!)

3. Mafriq - Chizevezeve

When I left Zimbabwe in 2007 this song had just come out. And I remember at the time it had one of the best music videos I had seen for a Zimbabwean song. The song itself is an morality song, a young couple singing of the work of gossipers who are never happy when people are happy but always happy when gossip and bad relationships abound. The Shona was so deep for me at the time I had to ask a few of my Shona friends to translate the song for me. 

Best line: Nhasi vadanana, mangwana varambana. Chenjerai kunyara makuona vachichata (today they are in love, tomorrow they are fighting, watch out will all your gossip because one day they will be married)....[Shona transcribing skills fail here] when the girl told the boy her name was Chido and the boy lied back and said he was Tindo, all of you were not there, you have no shame!

2. Pah Chihera - Runonzi Rudo 

I actually don't know much about these two singers but I love the song and the video. Lovely, happy and colourful. The title translates to 'It's called love'. 

1. Chiwoniso - Iwai Nesu

I won't lie, I was going to add another Oliver Mtukudzi song to the list, he is one of my favourite singers but then I remembered that there is a song I listen to when I'm down. A song whose smooth voice comforts me, whose prayer reminds that the world, an unfair place as it, is still a place of beauty.

One of Chiwoniso's last songs before she died, Iwai Nesu, (Be with us), is a song & a prayer. It pleads with God to be with us. To listen to us. To see a world ravaged by injustice and be our Father. The mbira, played by Chiwoniso, strums  in the background as she reminds God that we are His children.

Best line: Vamwe vaparara nendzara, vamwe vachifa nekuguta, kumwe vaparara nemvura, vamwe vechipera nezuva....Tirivana venyu.... (There are those dying from hunger, whilst others are dying of gluttony, others are washed away by floods and others are finished by the sun...We are your children!) 

PS: Some will remark that all these songs are almost entirely Shona, a language I learnt at the age of ten, and not my mother tongue, Ndebele. I noticed it today and perhaps that is the subject of another blog post? Perhaps. Probably. 

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