*Muzavazi Soul Musaka aka Soul Jah Love
*22 November 1989 – 16 February 2021
By Mtandazo Dube
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
Soul Jah Love was a complex character – constantly changing and exhibiting a variety of traits to his many personalities.
Like all of us, he did not choose the world he was born into but certainly decided how he engaged it and dare I say how he went out.
We have learnt through his new hauntingly real song, Ndichafa Rinhi, how Soul Jah Love viewed death as peaceful, demanding to know from God when he would die as he would rather rest (zvirinani kuzorora).
“Vakare vaiti rufu ndimadzongonyodze vanhasi vanoti ndimazorodze, regai ndizorore…ndozvifira, ndatozvipira, musambondityira, ko chii chandingararamire, mwana handina…,” he sang, showing his apparent abhorrence for continued living and a desire for time-out from what he believed to be a torturous life.
He definitely had some good wind in his sails at several points in his life, which some say he squandered while others would beg to differ.
That was Soul Jah Luv for you – a man of many moods, reputation of a bad boy, and no single identifiable character.
I met both the celebrity monster – hot tempered and impatient, and the brilliant, intelligent, soft-spoken thinker who was a mentor to a number of young artists.
Death Becomes Life
“Life will always find a way to cheat death”
Having lost his mother aged just one, his grandmother who had assumed responsibility for the toddler while in Grade Five, his twin brother, John, in 2004 and his father a year later – Soul Jah Luv wandered in search of his raison d’être.
It landed him in South Africa where he tried his hand at one of the most popular jobs for Zimbabweans in that country – being a waiter.
While in Cape Town, South Africa – Soul Jah Luv fell ill and had to be assisted to return home by friends and relatives, who expected that he would die a quick peaceful death back home and save repatriation costs of his ‘body bag’.
When I interviewed him years later, March 2014 to be specific – he told me he had turned to music after his failed South African adventure. That escapade contributed to him becoming “Ndini Uya Uya”.
“After returning from South Africa where I worked in restaurants having fallen ill, I turned to music with many people, including Roki. I was his backing vocalist but things did not work out well – I got mixed up with the wrong crowd just so I could get my next meal and a place to sleep,” he told this writer.
His story had reached mainstream. It was the first front page story of him in The Sunday Mail. He took full advantage, making sure his choreographed tale reached its desired audience in the manner that he wanted it to.
House of Horror, Creativity
‘There is talent everywhere in the world if given opportunities.’
Rewind back to our first encounter in 2011.
Soul Jah Love was invisible, overshadowed by Rockford “Roki” Josphats, who was then the undisputable favourite bad boy in the land, and was the subject of our story.
Among those I remember to have been present when I had my first encounter with Soul Jah Love in Waterfalls in 2011 were Maliakini “Kinnah” Saizi, before he was Mr Mbare.
Ras Kaleb, Silent Killer, Hyper Simplex (who never blew up), Terminator (an irregular visitor) and Discord (formerly of Mafriq), who was the resident engineer, were also there.
Zhetstar, the singer who later made an x-rated film starring urban grooves sensation Tererai Mugwadi, also frequented the place while the likes of Yoz, Ba Gamu and BG also made use of the studio, sometimes spending a night or two.
Although Soul Jah Love was the landlord at that house, sharing rooms with his stepmother, it was Roki who was the drawcard. Roki had reportedly received, months earlier, state-of-the-art equipment from former First Lady Grace Mugabe.
So, together with Discord they formed a formidable team that recorded mostly underground artists, the likes of Soul Jah Love, Ras Caleb and Roki Jnr – that boy from Highfield whose Guvheya musical blood has somehow failed to take him to the top.
Yes, Soul Jah Love was an underground artist!
It was in this home studio that original versions of Soul Jah Love’s songs such as Magetsi, Zvandomudira, Marijuana, 4-4-2 Formation and Makonzo Ndichawafirita were recorded. Roki recorded those songs, although they were all later redone elsewhere.
Contrary to popular belief and the lies that the artist peddled himself, Soul Jah Love was never a street kid, he was never evicted from his family home in Waterfalls – he became homeless by choice, it was strategic.
He was not taken in by Roki, in fact, the Chidzoka hit-maker was Soul Jah Love’s tenant.
When Roki introduced me to, rather ordered a select few of the scores of virtually unknown artists that hung around him at that Waterfalls house – I could not have guessed that one of them would have such an impact on the music industry in Zimbabwe.
We had just finished an interview where Roki and his new wife (his former dancer Melody “Mama Chocolate” Musekiwa) had just allowed me and my crew from The Sunday Mail to enter and scrutinise their lives.
Scores of youths spent hours at this house while others practically lived with him.
They enthusiastically freestyled for me and my team – and Soul Jah Love was one of those aspiring artists – hungry for a shot at the big time – which he eventually deservedly got.
The incident would be quickly erased from my mind only to be reminded by Soul Jah Luv himself in early 2013 at City Sports Bar in Harare during a gig I was hosting featuring Kinnah and Seh Calaz.
The three had done a song together called Ma One Atanga.
“To become a better you, dare to take calculated risks and overcome your limitations. Your scars can make you a star, but you have to decide.”
I am reliably informed that a close associate of Soul Jah Love who goes by the name Father Paris, that name that is found on a number of Soul Jah Love’s songs – is the one that convinced the late Zim dancehall star that his career would never take off as long as he lived in Waterfalls.
They had to move to either Highfield or Mbare.
“That was a strategy. He moved to Highfield first and started playing (doing freestyles) at several bases (houses or temporary structures where drugs are sold) in Mbare and Highfield where he would sometimes spend a few nights or more,” said an insider who declined to be named.
“Eventually, because he was talented and got free drugs, a lot of youths began to follow him wherever he went. That helped him, and not by chance, but as a deliberate strategy. Wherever he would go – be it a base or a bar where he would have been hired to perform, he would already have 30 or so people supporting him.”
The strategy worked like magic. Highfield embraced him and Mbare adopted and recognised him as its own son.
Add to that the fact that he was a charismatic, talented youngster – the hangers on only increased in numbers – attracted to him like bees to flowers.
To The Top
‘Be competent not just confident.’
“Ini handinyori lyric pasi – zvese zvinogara umu (pointing his index and middle fingers to his head),” the gifted chanter and king of the freestyle Soul Jah Love, famously claimed to this writer back in 2013.
Of course it was another calculated lie meant to enhance the idea that he was a superior being. Soul Jah Love wrote songs down, not many. There are images of him writing songs and he even wrote a few songs for others including his onetime mentor, Roki.
Anyway, I digress. Known variously as Chibaba, Chigunduru and Makuruwani among many other monikers, Soul Jah Love’s star was on the rise but the mainstream had not yet accepted him nor had it paid any attention to his compatriots Kinnah or Seh Calaz, real name Tawanda Mumanyi.
Not many even had a hint that Soul Jah Love’s enchanting lyrics and popular sayings would soon turn into dollars and cents or that that he would be one of the most sought-after voices in the country with collaborations cutting across genres.
“I love mangoma (dancehall) and have to keep on producing music that resonates well with the people,” he told this writer.
That same year would see the three artists take part in a Ghetto vs Ghetto clash at the City Sports Centre which was organised by Red Rose Entertainment.
It would be the birth of the Mbare kings but it also gave birth to a fierce rivalry, particularly between Soul Jah Luv and Seh Calaz which would culminate in Sting 2014 – a gig which was aborted half way through after violence erupted in the packed City Sports Centre.
I was there, this was his defining moment, he raked in the fame and the fortune.
The show had been organised by Chipaz Promotions and the top Zim dancehall performers Soul Jah Love and Seh Calaz raked in US$250 per minute each during their Sting 2014 performance, which lasted less than 15 minutes.
The two artistes played just five songs combined.
Having been promised a VW Bora each for their performances, they opted for cash and each got US$3 500.
Despite the fact that the show had to be cancelled after violence erupted, the artistes got their full payment.
Before that, awards, both at the Zim dancehall Awards and the Zimbabwe Music Awards (which made a return that year) – followed for the affable chanter.
Soul Jah Love, scooped two accolades under the Best Dancehall Music and Best Male category.
“I cannot explain what I’m feeling at the moment because I will be lying. Honestly I don’t know what I’m feeling. I never thought I would one day achieve this (awards),” said the ecstatic chanter back then.
His life changed – he left the one room he rented in Mbare and moved into a full house in New Canaan, Highfield.
Promoters were falling over each other for him.
“I’m rolling in a Hummer H2 (the Hummer belonged to late businessman Zikhali), I now live in a full house loaded with furniture I bought with my sweat, every promoter and wanna-be promoter wants a piece of me, yet this is not my story,” said Soul Jah Love, sitting down for a chat with this writer at his lodgings in New Canaan.
He continued: “All this is a result of a few months’ hard work and blessings from God not stretching back beyond October 2013. Just months ago I slept on the floor in Mbare in a makeshift house that I couldn’t even call home.”
Hope & Love
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
Soul Jah Luv had a point to prove.
He wanted to show those that had “forsaken” him that he could make it without them.
More importantly, he longed for a normal life similar to one he grew up in – with a loving dad and siblings. He wanted to build a family with his then girlfriend, Bouty Lisa aka Lynet Musenyi.
“I had nothing but music and love to keep me going. My queen, Bounty, showed me unconditional love. She would visit me and talk to me about life, giving me hope that there was something to live for,” he said in an interview with this writer.
“I found myself lonely with just music in my head and the love of my life, Bounty, whom I met through music. But one day after a gig, we had made about US$90, I just gave her all the money and with the little she had saved up plus borrowings from friends we bought a bed and managed to rent a room in Mbare,” narrated Soul Jah Love.
He wanted a professionally run band too.
“If Bounty managed to bathe me kusvika vanhu vaakuti ndiri mukhedha – surely she can’t fail to turn us into a professional band,” said Soul Jah Love. “I’m giving my wife my life – she has handled so many things for me.”
Bounty also spoke glowingly about her knight in shining armour:
“He has been a real gentleman. He has done everything as it should, getting introduced properly to my parents and even paying tsvakirai kuno, to let them know he has me and is responsible for my welfare.”
He had it all – love, something to do and hope.
‘When you open the window for fresh air expect the flies to blow in.’
Soul Jah Luv was to soon start making headlines for all the wrong reasons; drugs, double bookings, cancelled shows, willy-nilly firing of managers and even arrests.
And the one person who always managed to keep him straight – the “love of his life” and “soul mate”, as he once claimed in an emotionally charged radio interview – would defend him.
“He (Soul Jah Love) is sick. But people do not get that be it promoters, journalists, fans or even his own manager. When Tuku (the late Oliver Mtukudzi) tells people that he cannot perform because he is sick everyone listens and they are sympathetic but when it is Soul Jah Luv hanzi haa ndewe dancehall. Come on – he is diabetic just like Tuku.”
Even as he sang songs that glorified drugs and openly smoked mbanje, Bounty would have something to spin.
“People think that we are always drunk and taking drugs, no. We are a normal family where I am the mother and wife and he is a proper husband.”
She even spoke of her desire to have children one day.
“We are now fixing our mistakes, making sure that we sort out our lives so that our kids will not live the same life that we lived. We are planning so that they have a better life.”
She would claim that the cloud of controversy that seemed to follow the couple was “mostly fiction”.
“It is mostly fiction. Some of these stories, I’m surprised when they come out because most of the time we are together. The few things that actually happen are then sensationalised – 90 percent of the stories are wrong.”
One thing she could not wish away or sanitise was his legendary temper. She sometimes found herself on the wrong side of it.
‘A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.’
To some, the life of Soul Jah Luv was a tumultuous one with an inevitable tragic end. And to others, it was a life well-lived capped with an appropriate honour upon death.
In my considered humble opinion – Soul Jah Love’s death was a culmination of lifelong misfortune.
Disease, represented by his own battle with diabetes from a young age; loss seen through his mother and twin brother’s death, abandonment – something he preached as having suffered at the hands of family, and betrayal, which is captured vividly in ex-wife Bounty Lisa divorcing him.
In fact, Soul Jah Love never accepted that he had lost Bounty Lisa, which means he never recovered.
But to add salt to injury – after living with Bounty Lisa for almost seven years, trying unsuccessfully to conceive – she left him and was immediately blessed with child by another man.
Effects of the Covid-19 national lockdown, which kept people apart with no income for people to sustain themselves should also not be discounted.
The scores of people that usually hung around him started disappearing. He felt deserted leading him to turn to the things that had saved him the first time around – drugs and the recording studio, where he made music.
And it was in the studio – where he bade us farewell, explaining his decision for wanting to quit life. This is a guy who injected himself daily to stay alive, now, having given up – did he still have the energy to do it?
He sang: “Kana ndafa, ndapinda muguva, ndoda mugoziva, zvimwe zvamaiudzwa, aiva manyepo…”
I interviewed Soul Jah Love not less than six times and wrote lots of articles about him.
We had conversations that were never meant to be published and indeed never got to be published. I helped organise his Engagement party with Bounty Lisa – so yes, I think I can safely say I knew the guy.
But I don’t think there is anyone who can claim that they fully understood him – he was an enigma.
From Gum Kum, to Ndini Uya Uya, Pama Monya Ipapo, Dai Hupenyu Hwaitengwa, Kana Ndafa and now Ndichafa Rinhi among some of his hits – one can tell that he was a lyrical genius.
He changed the musical landscape and contributed immensely to the Zim dancehall culture in Zimbabwe. Soul Jah Love kept everyone who listened to his music abreast with the latest lingo from the ghetto and contributed to vocabulary.
He normalised what was once considered abnormal – opened a way for several chanters that came after him.
Yes, many who knew him will say Sauro aidhomoka, but it does not take away the fact that he was an intelligent man, a great artist and a decent human being whose works touched millions and was adored by thousands.
His name shall forever remain etched in the local music hall of fame.
Fare thee well Ngwendeza, go in peace Makuruwani Mafundan’a, till we meet again Chibaba! Nhau/Indaba