Obituary by Philip Mataranyika – Nyaradzo Group CEO_
Every generation has its own prophetic voices that come in many shapes and sizes and one thing they all have in common is that their predictions are rejected by those who are allergic to truth.
A prophet doesn’t necessarily have to dress in the obvious gowns of the trade. In showbiz, like an echo in the desert, their prophetic voices may not shake the foundations of life as man have known it, yet when stifled by the shameless hand of death, their voices become loud, haunting and real.
The same could be said of the man that was Saul Musaka, popularly known as Soul Jah Love, who passed away on Tuesday (February 16, 2021) at the tender age of 31.
It was very easy to dismiss Saul because of his skinny, emaciated frame that borne the brunt of diabetes from an early age of seven, earning him the moniker “Chigunduru”, which means that which falls and rolls.
His comic looks, funny dances and sloppy sense of dressing did not help matters.
And yet the ‘ghetto yute’ was not only immensely talented but his lyrical prowess expressed universal truth in the barest and most simplistic language that can be understood by all.
He had humble beginnings too.
Born on 22 November 1989, young Soul attended Mhofu and Prospect Primary Schools in Highfield and Waterfalls, respectively.
He then attended Lord Malvern High School in Waterfalls for his secondary education.
It was at Lord Malvern that his haunting love for music manifested. His beautiful, yet petrifying lyrical gift would one day render the man both famous and infamous in almost similar measure.
And yet there was a bitter sweet nexus to his inherent source of inspiration. Soul Jah Love looked to his wounds and scars, both physical and emotional, to tell his story, musically.
As a young boy, he had suffered immense loss and forfeiture: Pain that would begin with his mother, Sithembeni’s passing when he was only a year old.
But the grim reaper had only just begun his haunt of the young man’s life.
His grandmother who had become his maternal guardian died when Soul was in Grade 5 – aged 10 years – leaving the young but talented boy – along with his twin brother, John – to trudge on in a dark and painful life.
His twin brother would go on to sadly pass on when they were only 15 years old.
For good measure, death returned a year later to claim his father with whom he was living when he was just 16.
Battered emotionally and scarred physically, hope became Soul’s only trading currency as he braved the future without his immediate family.
It was from that torment that Soul drew inspiration for his first breakaway hit – a rebellious sermon entitled ‘Ndini uya uya’.
It became a song of defiance, anger and impact; one in which the chanter bragged that regardless of society’s disregard of him and his wounds, he was the real deal in town.
Ndini uya uya was his song and his story, one that admonished naysayers for attempting to put down a promising career which would go on to defy all odds and become a harbinger of light and achievement.
It came as no surprise therefore that many a ghetto youth saw themselves in Soul Jah Love’s image, heard their story in his voice and their wretched footprints in his journey.
It became an instant hit. A hit that then opened the doors to a decade long career which endeared him to his fans as Soul churned hit after hit and wiped tear after tear from his ever wet eyes and unfortunate life.
Despite his misfortunes, Soul’s scars and misfortunes were the stories that made slums smell like the corridors of the Burj-Al-Arab or the ballroom of Buckingham Palace.
And so it was because of his pain that the ghetto youths identified with his music, elevating the chanter to a vocal god and prophet to the millions of poor youths who are also fighting the same emotional, physical and economic demons.
It is thus not surprising that Soul Jah Love developed an extremely strong influence on the youths with a significant, almost cult like following, one that socially was paralleled to that of Vybz Kartel – a hugely polarising Jamaican musician.
His signature chants including, ‘Chibabababa’, “Hauite Hauite,” and “Conquering,” amongst others, became a part of the social fabric, etched into our everyday life.
He contributed to the rebirth of dancehall music in Zimbabwe, making it a popular form of social expression.
Hits such as ‘Kuponda nhamo’, released in 2015, bear testimony to this claim.
A number of musicians have also drawn inspiration from his work which resulted in the dancehall fan base multiplying throughout the globe.
Despite his fame in music, misfortune still trailed him even in love. Soul Jah Love married Bounty Lisa (Lisa Musenyi), a fellow dancehall musician, having met in the music industry.
Their marriage sustained both their respective careers until they divorced latter in the years.
It was a bitter-sweet union and break-up that ended something that had become of a power couple.
Soul Jah Love’s life did not escape the numerous controversies most common in the lives of some our famous musicians with reports in the media alleging a number of incidents ranging from accidents, domestic fights, airport arrests and failure to appear for booked shows.
He never claimed to be a saint as he always showed contrition for his slanted behaviour.
I recall the other week when Soul approached a local radio station to explain his constant absence at shows due to diabetes, an ailment which he was diagnosed with when he was seven-years-old.
“My biggest achievement though is realising that I have made mistakes and willing to change,” he said, while holding tears back.
Don’t we all need amazing grace!
His prophetic artistry had, however, always been apparent.
In 2019, he once bade farewell to his family and friends following a terrible dream he had regarding his death. Words of encouragement would not persuade him to be positive. He had long accepted that he would improve in heaven.
His track ‘Kana Ndafa”, released in 2019 appears to foretell his passing for he had struggled with sugar diabetes for over half of his life.
A musical genius who was brutally honest about his flaws and mistakes, Soul Jah Love is a beautiful imperfection that many lay people identified with.
While his versatility produced multiple hits that reflected his own personal life experiences, there is no denying that his music has given hope to the disadvantaged yet talented kids scattered throughout the country to try their skill in music.
The Zimbabwean fraternity has been left remarkably poor and bereft of a voice that spoke their story following Soul Jah Love’s passing.
And as with any village prophet; Saul must sleep and his breath silenced. For we know that his voice shall continue to be heard, conquering the airwaves long after his mortal remains have turned to dust.
All prophets tend to leave this wretched earth before their prime. Steve Biko succumbed to the torment of the grim reaper at age 30 while Alexander The Great had a date with his maker at 32.
Bob Marley, perhaps the greatest reggae musician of all time, had to leave for his heavenly rewards at 36.
And on February 16, our very own Soul Jah Love left us without even saying good bye just after breaking the 30 barrier. Soul Jah Love:
Thank you for the music which shall certainly live forever.
Go well “Chigunduru”, the lyrical genius and prophet.