MUSIC: Solo Slomo tests the sungura waters

THE resonance of the bass guitar laced with the smooth timbre of the rhythm vibes leaves you with little or no doubt with regards to the endowment of the musician.

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Franco “Slomo” Dhaks’s album cover and the artiste himself

Franco “Slomo” Dhaks’s album cover

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Poignant lyrics aptly complement the well arranged instruments as the singer dwells on topical issues that structure people’s routine lives.

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Some music enthusiasts say he is an Alick Macheso sound-alike while others say it is a variation of sungura never heard before – but one thing for sure is that Francis “Slomo” Dhaka’s debut solo offering “Zvipo Zvedu” has stirred debate among sungura fans.

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Composed of six-tracks, the album is Extra Kwazvose’s third project, but Slomo’s debut since his three partners and co-composers (Obert Gomba, Noel Nyazanda and Jonas Kasamba) left the group last year.

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Apart from the enchanting tracks, and the “Alick Macheso-inspired” beat and singing – the drama characterising Franco’s musical journey somewhat makes this project a subject for debate.

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Extra Kwazvose was formed in 2013 by Slomo and the three aforementioned former key members of Alick Macheso’s Orchestra Mberikwazvo.

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The quartet, nicknamed “Rebels”, broke away from the sungura giant following a misunderstanding over a number of issues, among them remuneration. Critics have rightfully been tempted to compare the new album “Zvipo Zvedu” with the group’s previous projects “Ndizvo Zviripo” and “Zvepasi Rino” released in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

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The two projects featured the now former band members Kasamba, Gomba and Nyazanda – whose immense talent is undoubted.

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On the other hand – Slomo’s new offering, produced by veteran music architect, Bothwell “African” Nyamhondera, is also being compared with the work of his former boss, Macheso.

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“It would have been good to have the guys around but my fans think we are doing fine without them,” said Slomo.

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Evidently it is still early to assess the impact of the album that was released a fortnight ago, but interest has already been generated. Some critics argue that Slomo has managed to improve the group’s music, but reasons for the “improvement” also remain a subject for debate.

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Others argue that the album is good but the absence of the three founding members of the group can be felt.

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However, going through the album, one can easily notice that the group’s sound is now robust with less noise. Whether this is due to the Midas touch of veteran music producer Nyamhondera, Slomo’s freedom to experiment on his own or the coming on board of fresh blood to the outfit – it is not clear.

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What is apparent though is the smooth blending of instruments.

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There is a smooth flow with the sound of the lead guitar distinctly standing out. All the tracks on the album are danceable but it is the composure that characterise the overall project that is wining the hearts of many.

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The album somehow appears to suggest that team work is better than individual talent. After all, a yesteryear Real Madrid’s star-studded team which featured the likes of David Beckham, Ronaldo, Zidane, Roberto Carlos and Raul failed to perform to expected standards and rake in the trophies.

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“I’m working with average guys but their input is valuable. The journey has just begun and I’m positive we are going to achieve more together. If we can produce such a project within a short space of time, God knows what we are going to do on the next project,” said Slomo. Coming from a humble background, the musician finds it easy to appeal to the ordinary ear. The melody and message on the track “Nherera” can easily put one into deep thought.

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Armed with the lively offering, the musician’s only challenge at present is to find a breakthrough on the live show front.

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Producing good music and attracting healthy crowds are two different things in this part of the world. The entertainer acknowledges the fact. “The response to the album has been overwhelming.

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“I hope the numbers that are showing interest in the album will translate to bumper shows. It is only through their support that we can be able to grow Extra Kwazvose to dizzy heights,” said Slomo.

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In an interview last week, Diamond Studios marketing manager John Muroyi said, the album hit the ground running. “The album has been well received. It is currently topping our sales sheets. We are busy making sure that we supply every corner of the country. In short, the sales are encouraging,” he said.

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The album opens with a love song “Lorna” which is dedicated to his expecting wife. In the song, Slomo narrates the challenges he went through for him to win the apple of his heart.

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On “Manuwero” the musician lambasts people bent on using “dark forces” to bring misery in other people’s lives. “Zosanga” is a Chewa song that calls for everyone to appreciate unconditionally the services of those that look after them.

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The musician exudes a different finesse on “Rudzi Rwangu”. The song has a katekwe touch that is synonymous with music legend Oliver Mtukudzi. Slomo said the beat was inspired by his Dande/Korekore bond.

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“Zvipo Zvedu” folds the project. It is a simple but emotional song that highlights that everyone has his or her talent that only God can destroy. In the song, probably basing from experience, he encourages people not to fear to try new things.