Vera’s music was made known to me quite recently, and armed with her SoundCloud and YouTube links, I made my way through her online catalogue to see what was what, and to share my thoughts. The first song that played from her profile is a new one, and it’s called Tongai. It’s got great harmonies dancing about, and a catchy little melody. I can’t say a whole lot about the writing on this, but it’s a smooth listen.
I’d have loved to have spoken to Vera about some of her work (if I do, I’ll update this post), but I’m pretty swamped with life right now. By the time you read this, I shall be knee deep in adult things, with this blog post scheduled to post. All I’m going off is my being a fan of all kinds of music, and whatever it is I’m listening to while writing this. So, as I said up top, Tongai is a good listen if smooth jazz-pop is your thing.
A Word to the Wise, However…
The writing in Vera’s music isn’t the most thought-provoking or complex stuff you’ve ever listened to, to be honest. While her musicianship is undeniable (she plays the guitar, and does so really well, while having a controlled, interesting voice), the words she sings don’t really complement it much. As mentioned above, I’m playing music from her SoundCloud and YouTube accounts, and so far I haven’t heard lyrics here that really lend to the atmospheric, almost didactic nature of her singing. They do however, carry a message along just fine – she tells a story about her drunk driving escapade after being stopped by a police officer, for instance. It’s all just done in a very straightforward, slightly by-the-numbers manner which I feel doesn’t do her really great voice (and guitar skill) much justice. Still, it didn’t get to me to the point of being something I’d consider annoying.
Music, and Musicians, are a Product.
Products, by nature, must appeal to a targeted demographic. That’s how this stuff works. Vera’s product is a combination of her musical ability, as well as her overall aesthetic. So, how is she performing on that front? Well, I can’t really say. Not being on the ground in Harare means I probably won’t see her live any time soon, but a quick glance at her Twitter page shows she generally tweets about her music and related interests, etc. She’s not as “package-focused” with her social media engagement as, say, Tehn Diamond (a Zimbabwean rapper) is, what with his whole “man of the people, part of the people” aesthetic, evidenced by his use of mostly ephemeral media to give an insight into his behind the scenes life.
Vera is much more about the music, and just the music – a SoundCloud awash with vocal experiments that are blatantly imperfect, cover versions, acoustic sets from shows and more, will tell you that yup, she’s a muso, and not really intent on convincing anyone otherwise. Likewise, her YouTube is like a musical diary of her performances, and not really a curated lineup of her best work only. Tongai’s video description even has a grammatical error in it, for good measure.
Could this be why she’s not as known as, say, Shingai Mangoma (another Zimbabwean songstress, who has received a National Arts Merit Award for her work)? Well, yes and no. While both women sing well, Shingai seems a little more diverse in her approach to music. She seems more radio-friendly, and when she does put music out, it’s packaged and marketed effectively (I don’t know if she still makes music, though). Vera, in contrast, is who you’d go to see in a charming little dive on a Sunday and come away saying “why isn’t she more popular?”
She is Clearly Trying to Change That, Though.
With Tongai, her latest (and first proper original release, I assume) being a mash-up of her comfort zone Jazz-esque sound and Rhumba, I get the sense Vera is focusing in on both radio, and general Afro-Pop recognition. It’s produced by Military Touch Music’s Dj Tamuka, and it floats nicely against the ear, with guitars leading the melody along. If this is the direction Vera is going, it may just be a promising one. I say this because Afro-Pop (even of the chill variety) is rarely ever replete with thought-provoking writing. It’s a simple, catchy song that will likely appeal to older audiences who want to sing along to the simple lyrics. I like it, definitely, but given my predisposed preference for complicated and layered songwriting, I may not be the best person to judge the writing here.
One thing is for certain however, Vera is talented, and if she keeps this Tongai vibe going, she may just be on her way to a NAMA of her own.
Listen to Tongai below, and follow Vera on Twitter to keep up with her releases!