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Embracing the “God Culture in Africa”: An album review

Raymond Millagre Langa

Africa is a continent engraved in deep spirituality where the essence of God “Nkulunkulu” or “Mwari” has been central from time immemorial.

Zimbabwe is predominantly a Christian country and the arts industry penetrates deeply into the gospel music circuit.

As an artist, I fancy the centrality of a gospel message as it empowers, hence I consider it as something that has an edutaining effect in as much as it edifies.

Adrian “Leejazz” Kaputen is the epitome of a modern day Afro-fusion artiste who is infusing and acculturating gospel music in Africa through traditional instruments like mbira, ngoma (traditional drums) and hosho with modern instruments and gospel lyrics.

He has done this in a project which he titled ‘The God Culture Africa’, which is a nine-track album recorded by Dr Brown at Blue Label Records and was mixed and mastered by Elijah Mugumisi at Tishbite Records.

“The project seeks to address social development, hope and praise. I collaborated with @Vuyo Brown in the song (Wemasimba) and Tariro neGitare in the song (Mbiri) which was tracked @Tng records. Both these tracks were mixed and mastered by Victor Davison,” Kaputen said.

“GOD culture Africa is the name for the album as I feel that it is relevant in Africa where there is need for revival and more awareness on the greatness of God and how he is the giver of life. All in the world stems from Him.

The term ‘God culture’ is derived from the aspect of praising God the creator in an African manner, embracing our culture in praising God. It is the true connection with our humanity as we are created from the soil in the image of God; hence the album title traces those roots of our divine identity as priests prophets and kings.”

For me, the title of the album has a deep connection with the aspect of celebration of black history month in February, which seeks to validate the role and importance of the black man in forging of his identity.

The album God Culture Africa has a deep connection with the aspect of promoting mother languages, celebrated on the 21st of February. This shows the importance and centrality of how inculturation has become a central element of worship, which in the process can elevate the spirit.

“So my music journey emanated way back in 2019 when I recorded my first single by Erastus Nleya at Loud records. In 2020 Mr Brown from Blue label helped me launch my first EP which was entitled ‘Christ Mission’.  We did a lot of records together including the ‘Nziyo Yerudo’ single and I can safely mention that he launched my musical career.

“The movement has been and still amazing up until in 2022 when I met Tariro neGitare who mentored me into the artiste I'm becoming.  She introduced me to greater platforms and she has really taken the role of a big sister to me by opening my eyes to a wider market and niche, readying for an international stage,” Kaputen said.

Listening to his songs it is of note that he has good vocal abilities. Adrian “Leejazz” is able to transcend into different octaves while fusing his mbira sound with that of the guitars and keyboards from a versatile energetic band.

The band comprises of Caleb Mujere on drums, Micheal Kaputen on bass, guitars being Theo Mellow Soul and Shekinah having featured on the song Chiyero only.

On the keys are Comfort Mujere and Kuda David Nyuke. The backing vocalists are Oscar Makaro, Iva Joy Kaputen and Harmony Sibanda. They all put the essence of melody and affirm the cultural and highly afro-centric sounds in the songs by Leejazz.

The introductory track in the album is a mbira song, which is the titular song. The sound of the mbira and the mastery of his skills evoke the emotion that brings one into a meditative trance as they think of the Afrocentric gospel and connect deeply with God through music.

Explaining about his inspiration to play the mbira and fusing it with Gospel music Kaputen said:  “The mbira is an ancient Shona instrument which was and is still used as an appeasement to the ancestors, but I personally loved and took the mbira as an instrument of interest in my music. I think you can praise God using anything that gives glory to Him. I use the mbira to praise God. The Bible in Psalms 150 puts emphasis on praising God using all instruments.”

Kaputen is in a quest to demystify the association of the mbira instrument with occultism and ancestral worship. Many churches have subscribed to a colonial mindset which has seen them banning instruments like marimba and mbira on the pretext that they are demonic instruments.

That is wrong as they are just indigenous instruments. In his music, Lee jazz advocates for the manifestation of inculturation and the acceptance of the importance of the musicality of the soul which can be stimulated by the use of the native instruments like the mbira.

Another track in the album ‘God Culture Africa’ is titled ‘Chiyero’, which speaks on the aspect of life when the enemy tries to hinder one’s progress.  The song says it is God that always protects us and fights one’s battles, for he knows the battles better than us. This is a song that tackles the everyday challenges individuals within the society and the wider community experience; which calls for perseverance and strength amidst strong faith.

The album also has a song titled ‘Hope’, which speaks on hope for a better life and good health. It's a cry to God for everything we hope for because He is the sole provider of our needs.  The song ‘Hope’ also has a mbira sound, vocals, percussion and hosho rendition, which I personally feel has depth and soul in it because of its acoustic predominance.

The song ‘Kuvakidzana’ is my favourite in the album as it addresses a better society for people that live harmoniously and develop a strong chemistry bonded through the love of God, hence it emphasises that the power of God should be seen amongst the people hence become a levity.  It clearly addresses the challenges of gender-based violence (GBV) and the precedence of violence which is aggravated by many factors like drug abuse, among other things.

Mbiri is a track featuring Tariro neGitare. It emanates from the book of Psalms 20 v 7. In this song I like the video concept shot in a natural environment surrounded by animals, which shows the grandeur and the splendour of God. It also depicts the potency of a collaborative experience which can enhance artistic growth and depth. For example, in the song there is a deep resonance of the instruments which are the mbira and guitar that are made to sound even more appealing by the synergy of the voices.

Wemasimba, a song featuring Vuyo Brown, highlights how powerful God is as he protects forever.

This remains another good song as Vuyo Brown has jazzy vocals which seemingly blend well with Adrian’s vocal resonance.

African Praise in the album is a song glorifying and praising God in an African manner.  My fascination with the song is that it has an upbeat tempo with an African percussive element in it that relates to the God Culture which is about deep praise.

Mufaro wangu is a song that speaks of the joy of the Lord as it helps one to flourish in all that they desire. The album does embody the elements of Afrocentric praise and worship and depicts the call for a change of mindset and perspectives through alignment to our African roots and not losing the essence of spirituality.

On challenges he has faced, Kaputen states: “There are a lot of financial challenges that I have faced.

“To record an album means that one has to have the funds and the means to pay for studio time and also the band that will be backing me up. The lack of funds has remained a critical hinderance for artistes.  Funds are needed for videos, live performances, and catering for rehearsals, among other things. It remains of importance that churches henceforth must play a critical role in promoting budding gospel musicians.

“There is also the challenge of lack of exposure and airplay on radio and also on the social media channels.  Artists need to learn how to use social media channels to promote their art to different stakeholders,” Kaputen said.

It is, therefore, important for gospel messages to be infused with edutainment as it has a moulding effect and embodies the principles of Ubuntu, which are driven by the power of love and unity.

Raymond Millagre Langa is a Musician, poet, orator and Independent Researcher. He is also the founder of Indebo edutainment Trust. Follow Raymond Millagre Langa @Millagre Ray Langa on Facebook, @Millagre Langa on twitter and email millagrepapaito@gmail.com or indebotrust@gmail.com

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