Dobba Don: The Misunderstood Genius Voiced in Soul-Touching Rhythms and Lyrics (Part 1)

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza & Takudzwa Kadzura

There is music, and then there is timeless music. Any Zimbabwean accustomed with the relentless permutations of the country’s urban music dynamics will attest to the fact that Dobba Don is the checkered embodiment of timeless and fearlessly candid music – this being a general collective consciousness that permeates even the sonic tastes and urban sounds familiarity of the rural peasantry.

Dobba Don Mudendere vid, latest news and songs 2022, drugs abuse

Dobba Don is an acronym for Dancehall Original Born Badmind Artist Don; a creative name adding to a list of major talking points that have never been spoken about when it comes to this genius.

That has been the story – his predicament in listeners not properly and fully understanding his artistic provenance and prowess.

It is obviously beyond any reasonable doubt that Dobba Don’s vast discography (ever since he was enjoined to countrywide renown) mirrors the personification of eternally blissful sounds. 

It is a given; even though recent developments – those that Dobba can and cannot control –have threatened to strangulate the artiste’s enduring artistic and moral reputation.

Bona fide followers of ZimDancehall can testify to the concrete material reality that Dobba Don shares/shared with the late iconoclastic luminary Soul Jah Love a troubled existence in which riddims have been a blissful solace, even though sometimes such sounds unceremoniously fail to withstand the pressures they face.

Unlike the latter, Dobba Don is a tad reclusive with his issues, though voicing them fervently in his music, and he still portends a talent that is yet to be fully identified so as to reach its maximum potential.

And this leads us to the ineluctable and thorny issue of the daily inner contradictions afflicting gifted artistes; probably why people christen them ‘troubled geniuses’.

Any person who lays a genuine or remote claim towards proclivities for artistic crafts – as a pastime, means of livelihood, or both – is a crass, raw, and sentient walking paradox. An artiste.

The internal contradictions boiling within (to borrow from Cabral’s Weapon of Theory) are too an enormous battle for artistes to tackle with sober reflections, away from the intrusive glare of the world. It is as paradoxical as it gets. In the crudest sense of the word.

Because the artiste seeks to inspire the people; while fixing his/her own issues; and the people being inspired simply can’t resist the all-too-humane impulses of passing harsh judgments regarding that artiste’s moral stature. Aggravated by a rabid cancel culture.

Yet, this gargantuan monstrosity of self-contradictions – which have an inverse relationship with the contradictions of the public’s national collective consciousness – is a double-edged sword.

The most captivating, breathtaking, exquisite, pristine, timeless, and soul-touching art comes from a place of raging contradictions; a place of pain.

Genuine art that retains many elements of the class consciousness it had when first produced brings forth immense joy, nourishment, fulfillment, solidarity, emancipation, and edification of the mind, body, and soul; and with other people in communities; with a place of pain as its provenance.

An artist who organically exudes inclinations of real art lays bare their soul for all to see. They become naked, and the very same art they produce and disseminate (which makes them naked in the first place) is their source of refuge from all the pain in the world.

The soul of the artist is a beautiful torment. And where the writer no longer lives – when the legend of his character arc transcends the tactile bounds of empathy – he has to die in order to become a writer.

At least that’s what Zimbabwe’s inimitable literary iconoclast Dambudzo Marechera emphatically said with unmatched poignancy.

(Let’s hope these literary allusions and parallels will help vindicate Dobba Don’s legacy with a pressing sense of urgency and empathy.  Marechera was himself a haplessly willing and unwilling victim of his own eccentricity – his eccentric ingenuity stemmed from a hotbed of beautifully innocent and monstrously hideous contradictions.)

Dobba Don – the [in]famous Mudendere and Mukuru hit-maker – is an enduring household name in Zimbabwe’s music landscape; having forged his niche among ardent ZimDancehall loyalists. He seems to have forged a permanent residence mudendere, a signature feature of his art and lifestyle.

His breakthrough, which came circa 2015, astronomically catapulted him to that sanctified list of the greatest Zimbabwean musicians of all time.

In as much as those discourses are arguable and moot, often without informed context and nuance, the name Dobba Don is inescapably evocative, even though vile aspersions have been cast on his character and persona.

Don Dobba, an affectionate name among his enclave of unwavering ZimDancehall loyalists, is a walking paradox – a self-destructive, eccentric genius with a heavenly baritone and bass voiced through his soulful vocal projections; his name now echoes a hushed public opinion consensus that the ZimDancehall chanter is an artistic relic that must be shoved into nostalgic antiquity.

This is the prevailing wisdom among those who have a lot (mostly uninformed] to say about Titus Mukwevo and his career.

And the following assertion is not cliché: those who have the most to say about artistes, are oftentimes the serially least informed people to pass any opinion to that end.

They are frustratingly and obstinately not objective; their [misinformed] analyses and remarks reeking of superficial and narcissistic appreciation of art. No context, no nuance.

Just a heap of damned expectations piled on the artist before that unanimous verdict marking the total obliteration of the artist is passed – apera; haasi kurira; haana mahits; he will never repeat the success of his yesteryear hits; he must leave these substance [moral] vices. The icing on the cake? Dobba is insane; Dobba is homeless…

It is always remiss for the court of public opinion to excessively push tired tropes about an artist’s lifestyle choice and its attendant effect on the said artist’s economic fortunes and career prospects. Yet this is unavoidable.

The intransigence of certain biased opinions about high profile figures is like an impenetrable fortress. A bulwark against organically progressive art. Certain stuff about an artist will be said; and in the process, the artist’s art is seemingly inconspicuous.

2022 seems to have been tempestuous for Dobba Don, given the prevalence of recent news in past months about the ZimDancehall chanter’s propensity towards frequent episodes of insolvency and woeful economic fortunes.

This is not to say there is a dearth of genuine concern for his welfare as an artist — it is only that such concerns come from a point of moral judgments, and less of altruistic moves to alleviate the artist’s dire circumstances.

The fact that Dobba Don has been releasing songs throughout 2022 is an obfuscated reality exacerbating the artist’s ostensibly perilous material realities – his daily lived reality, where he probably longs for a warm embrace from a long lost fan in a remote part of the earth.

He has never ceased doing what he loves the most: making beautiful, melodious, angelic, soulfully recalcitrant, resilient, and uplifting music.

Yet, the concrete realities of a society that is averse towards organically taking care of its artistes – a society that now grapples with appreciating the selfless works of its organic intellectuals – threaten to stifle his career.

It is not amiss to proclaim, with the highest degree of confidence, that Dobba Don’s existential malaise is a manifestation of an artist teetering on the precipice of holistic artistic freedom; he can cast furtive glances inside his salvaged soul, promising it unhindered musical independence.

Yet he cannot throw the entirety of his consciousness in the haven of artistic freedom – the unrealistically perennial demands for him to slavishly conform to societal conventions on how to do acceptable ZimDancehall is a yoke encumbering him from what he envisages.

With Dobba Don, the dominant angle (that self-proliferates on social media/online media, radio, and print media, leveraging on ghetto rumour mills on which ZimDancehall, and all other genres in Zimbabwe thrive on) is that of an eccentric, self-destructive, intransigent genius who just needs a promoter, the latter who must empower Dobba Don to renege his rather incurable disease of substance use problems.

A careful listening session of Dobba Don’s music especially from the years 2020, 2021,  and 2022 will prove that the artist still deserves a chance — he is vindicated. What he yearns for as gleaned via his music (much of his latest songs now lack traction) is vulnerability, altruistic love, and empathy.   

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