FOR Cee Jay, One Ariega Reloaded â€” a 15-track album the US-based musician is in Zimbabwe to promote â€” represents more than just creative work. It epitomises a â€œcoming homeâ€, literally and figuratively.
After a decade in the diaspora which bore two albums catering for his immediate market in terms of form and content, the latest offering attempts to reconnect with his â€œtrue selfâ€ and with local audiences who are getting a feel of his sound for the first time.
Born Kudakwashe Besa and raised in the mean streets of Mbare, Cee Jayâ€™s is a story of rising from obscurity to prominence through determination, grit and sacrifice â€” a theme he explores vigorously in songs such as Sinsi which features Melvin C.
â€œThis album aims to inspire myself and others to soldier on in spite of what life throws at us. It is about striving for success against the odds stacked against you, and also about unity, peace and togetherness. It seeks to bring understanding on who we are as a people, where we are coming from and where we are going.â€
It is from the humble Mbare surroundings that Cee Jay got acquainted with music, learning to play the acoustic guitar and receiving mentorship from the late Edwin Hama. Growing up at the peak of the reggae phenomenon in the 1980s he could not escape its influence which is telling in his songs such as Huyanga.
â€œWe listened to the late Bob Marley and drew immense inspiration from him. I was also a Lucky Dube fan for whom I wrote a song Tell Me Why dedicated to his memory following his tragic death.â€ Â
Fort Worth, Texas â€” where he is now based â€” ushered in the world of hip hop and brought about his first album, Screwed, Blued and Tattooed which, according to Cee Jay, sold over 9 000 copies. This was followed by Desperate Measures which he promoted extensively in the UK and Canada.
Cee Jay says the third album is a break from the mundane themes he explored in previous offerings and is â€œgeared towards enlightening listeners on the challenges of life in the Diasporaâ€ and the attendant problems they pose to the fabric of the family in such songs as Ndinodzoka and Ziyaspora, which bring to the fore that life abroad is not as rosy as it is made out to be.
Turning to Zimbabwe, Cee Jay notes that the local music industry has failed to harness the digital age â€” which includes the internet â€” for its benefit in terms of generating income from music downloads.
â€œZimbabwean music is now available online but the artists are not getting a cent from the downloads. For instance, Rokiâ€™s Chidzoka made more than 15 000 hits on the internet but I wonder if he got anything for it.â€
He salutes the Mannenberg for its efforts to give artists the opportunity to go on the internet and says the powers that be in the industry and government should hasten the process of bringing the music industry into the digital age. Â
Tomorrow he hosts a CD release party at the Mannenberg, backed by Huggies Entertainment and Spinalong.
BY NGONI MUZOFA