Chitungwiza's Stiiv Intellectually Relives Dambudzo Marechera's 'Letter To Samantha' In His Album

 By Takudzwa Kadzura 

…I think by now you have heard the album. That would have been the introduction to this review had Stiiv rapped about the actual Letter.


A research on Dambudzo Marechera reveals his dislike for course syllabi which apparently is the first striking similarity between the two. Stiiv’s efforts to publicize the album were rather reactionary compared to promotional input that other rappers bank on. In his mimic of the iconic writer, he also paints a harrowing picture of the individual suffering of a person who bears much resemblance to the artist himself. At least, unlike Dambudzo Marechera’s unconventional lifestyle, Stiiv is well composed and open to publicize his work, nonetheless.

Dambudzo Marechera (1952-1987) was a Rusape born novelist and short story specialist. He is mostly known for writing House of Hunger. It is a compilation of short stories/events that are interlinked. That is what 25-year-old Chitungwiza-based rapper Stivin Mugarisi did, compiling stories and telling them raw as they happened. The album features prominent hip hop artists based in Chitungwiza namely R Peels, Beav City and Mac Fox. The production was seen through the artful hands of Cleff Jones and him singing on the track Moyo Uzere Rudo was an icing on the cake.

Stiiv talks about the innumerable complexities of life for young people. He questions his life's purpose and religion, failed relationships, infidelity and abortion, failed academic endeavors, ominous drug abuse, police shenanigans and political hypocrisy, and most importantly rants about people not purchasing the music after all. He complains about his music career and how Zimbabweans do not buy music, gender based violence, suicide and fighting demons. Basically, all the problems of a failed post-colonial society Dambudzo prophesied about.

The Letter opens with a heartfelt lash – ndaneta nevanhu vakandivenga vachinditi ndinopenga ndaneta nekuvafadza pamasong avasiri kutenga. In this song Stiiv draws us into the persona behind the bars. He goes on – Mwari ndeve munhu wese mapostori nevemasese – proving his daring, unfiltered lyricism.

Like a true literati, Stiiv’s social commentary is not only excellent but it provides us an insight into his creative process which we are most curious about. Stiiv’s Letter To Samantha LP is today one of the most important urban cultural products on the Zimbabwean hip hop front

Asked about the relationship between the LP and actual Letter To Samantha, Stiiv revealed how he almost named the project House Of Hunger and from our presumption the latter has been overemphasized and lacks appeal especially when most Dambudzo fanatics have tried also to recreate it. Letter to Samantha would be a unique title and one agrees how almost every verse is laced by messages that could as well be delivered as letters.

To serve some justice, Amai is a song that any mother would get lost into as the son creates a platform to share an introspection, appreciate and testify about life’s fulfilling prophecies. This is a song that depicts gratitude as Stiiv logs off from maternal guardianship despite needing the prayers. 

Senzenina is a coldly awakening tale of families in disintegration, about mothers marrying again, men who would become monsters and this was well articulated. You see, society is broken from micro stages creating a vicious cycle, and in the process, the children end up engaging in drugs to dodge tortuous realities. Reached for comment, Stiiv acknowledged that the track is centrally about his life experiences. House of Hunger is Stiiv’s prototype family regards to how he depicts current socio-economic landscape in the urban areas. The untimely death of Murder Arts is one which he vividly remembers and he confessed how it touched him during the time he penned this album. Note the Letter is not talking about himself, at least not himself alone. 

Stiiv's technical abilities as a rapper, storyteller and songwriter are strong enough to vindicate his usage of Dambudzo as his alter ego. In his book House of Hunger, Dambudzo was speaking for a postwar generation. He obviously did not want Zimbabwe to turn into another failed postcolonial state. And as we reflect on our independence, both Stiiv and Dambudzo preach similar messages. Dambudzo's audience, then and now, comprised of the young who cared little about hero-worshipping liberation war leaders, but about racial equality and economic advancement.

Stiiv expresses how he longed to be there when Nkomo took the father Zimbabwe title. Neshani (Track 2) and Take No Less (Track 9) are songs about drugs, prison and alcohol. A vivid picture in Dambudzo's work, growing up in abject poverty. He reacted against his upbringing and adopted an increasingly self-destructive lifestyle.

The difference with Marechera is that Dambudzo seemed to lean toward political correctness and raw obscenity and Stiiv is only reiterating the socioeconomic prophecies that Dambudzo made. This is a music album and a piece of intellectually piercing literature conflated. 

You can listen to Letter To Samantha via this Soundcloud link. 

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