He plays the guitar like he was born to do nothing else. Strumming the strings, his voice pouring out in song as if his whole life…nay, humanity, depends on that one song. Just when we thought the world had run out of new melodies and stories, this young old soul seems to have plenty hidden somewhere.
Ashton Nyahora, aka Mbeu, has at last released his debut album entitled Hatizvimirire. This is after many critics had been howling out loud that the young man was stuck in a live music circuit rut. The rut that gets you busy, comfortable performing covers and a few original tracks, but never really releasing anything. I know this rut; I’ve had a special corner in it for years almost like chasing one’s own tail.
Hatizvimirire was launched of course in Norton at Mbeu’s music home, Pakare Paye. This is where the young man was inspired and nurtured, and he never forgets that. The album Hatizvimirire has ten tracks. You may have to forgive the cover, for it doesn’t speak much for what it holds within. Never judge a book by its cover. The melodies will keep you entertained, the lyrics will drown you deep in thought and you may just get bitten by the Mbeu and Mhodzi Tribe bug. The first track, Ziso, is one of those songs that has fantastic live performance appeal, with all the musical dynamics applied which are true to the Mhodzi tribe sound. It’s an easy song. One that I guess is meant to ease one into the rest of the album. The most unique song on the album is the second track called Ndione. What makes the song unique is the digital sound that actually works, giving it a popular sound appeal…and the lack of Mbeu’s signature guitar, which is a refreshing change.
If it’s fuel you need to give you a much-needed inspirational kick like we all need at some point or the other, then this is your album. Ndione will get you going with a salsa samba feel towards the end. Papa did you know will get religious buffs singing along, and just maybe you can actually see the personal message in there for yourself and the nation. The “Papa” bit I have to be honest, almost got me lost as it got me thinking of our local prophets. The message is loud and clear: “The Lord is always in control.” Another inspirational song is Wakakosha, the perfect anthem for one of those days when you feel like a second-class citizen. Njila is track number five, meaning path…nzira. It’s a mixture of Chewa and Shona, and you can tell with the first few guitar strums into the song that there is a lot of Malawian Kanindo music infused.
When I listen to a song, I listen to everything. I hold onto the lyrics and I wonder whether it’s a true story or not. Kuti Unzi is a track that got me looking up Mbeu’s personal life, to see if what he sang about in the song actually happened. Was he caught up in a love triangle sometime in his life? Did the love fade away or did he make a decision to do “the right thing” and walk away from someone he still is in love with…? You can go ahead and have a listen and come up with your own interpretation of the song. That’s the beauty of art, I guess.
The title track Hatizvimirere is track number four; it’s a fun song with some dancehall influence – another one of those that is quite a gem for live performances. It would have been quite interesting had he collaborated with dancehall artists for this particular song. At a time when artists are constantly collaborating, there is not one collab on this album…which could be a good thing or easily the opposite. But…who’s complaining? Some of these collabs don’t work as well as they should. For me the star of the album is the song Mumwe wangu, track number seven. Everything about this song is perfect for me – the message, the length of the song as well as the instruments. Listening to the words in the beginning you think it’s a romantic song, and then you realise…nope, the song is about a bromance. Kind of reminded me of Oliver Mtukudzi’s ‘80s/early ‘90s song, Jerry…the only difference is Mbeu’s muse is still alive. It’s a beautiful song that I initially thought he wrote for his long time manager, Eugene Museredza. As it turns out, the entire band contributed to the song. It’s their dedication to each other, yep… so it’s still a bromance song and a good one at that.
The album is proof that Mbeu has come of age and is quite a storyteller; the way he weaves his tales is quite something. The young man also has a way with words and mixing languages – I LIKE! The language is not too deep or shallow – it’s just right! This album is a definite keeper, so next time you see a poster or flyer advertising a Mbeu and Mhodzi Tribe show, do yourself a favour and give it chance…you will be pleasantly surprised. The hope is that it is fertile soils he has landed on and not a rocky place, or thorny soils.
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