Retro Reviews: The Album "Soko Matemai" Intricately Explores the African Cosmology of Totems and Everyday Life

In this piece of ZimSphere's #RetroReviews, we take a look into the unmatched album 'Soko Matemai' by Sharky (as he was then); being deeply fascinated and inspired by his holistic take on African spirituality and cosmology in making meaning for our contemporary "modernistic" existence. 


The inimitable rapper Soko Matemai (formerly called Sharky), in 2016 merged traditional instruments such as the mbira and hosho with modern live instruments and made his brilliant debut Soko Matemai album. Which was followed up a year later by another legendary album, Take Back The Land, on the anniversary of his debut project.

Soko Matemai Album Review 2016 by Sharky Soko Matemai

Soko Matemai and Take Back The Land were released under the name Sharky; and, afterwards, the metamorphosis towards using the name 'Soko Matemai' as his stage name is now the reality we now know. Which we absolutely love

Religious Connotations in Totems 

Totems are an integral part of many indigenous religions. 

They are natural objects, such as animals, plants, or inanimate objects, that are believed to have a spiritual connection with a particular group of people. 

Totems are important in society because they are the basis for solidarity and unity. 

People of the same totem are basically relatives who share a common ancestry. 

Totems represent a particular group’s ancestry, cultural heritage, history, genealogy, or spiritual/political beliefs. 

Soko Matemai, the title track is a touching, emotional and spiritual appeal to revered ancestral spirits to provide guidance and protection for the living. 

Ancestors can offer advice and bestow good fortune if the stories are to be believed, but they can also make demands in the process 

Totems are a supremely important part of indigenous culture and spirituality. 

They provide a connection to the natural world, to the ancestors, and to the spiritual realm. Totems can offer guidance, protection, and inspiration; primarily because they offer a sense of community and belonging. 

People are born into an unkind world that is out to get them with an 18-year dependency period at the very least. Life is just unbearably harder without your kin to guide you. 

There is a need for shared and personal sense of self-affirmation, identity and unfettered belonging.

Meaning, Range of Expression & Interpretation 

When Soko Matemai (the track) comes on, one is likely to sing in perfect harmony to the uplifting yet powerfully evocative hook,

Vari Kumhepo, ndiratidzei nzira

Soko Matemai, then Sharky, delivered this hip-hop gem back in 2016. No, it’s not the most spiritually inspiring song on the album nor is it the best. 

It depends, but it’s definitely the catchiest, with verses we can all relate to seven years later. Whether it’s family members, friends, or actual guardian angels he’s rapping about, it’s an uplifting track, regardless of what religion/faith you subscribe to. 

It has that immense potential of cutting across societal fault lines such as class, race, gender, and religion.

Soko Matemai Album Review

The natural meaning of the album combines the elements of not only Southern African sounds, but also traditional hip hop with spiritual and philosophical themes. 

The lyrics undoubtedly focus on self-reflection, personal growth, and the inner search for meaning and purpose in life as well as better fulfilling existence. In a wholesale sense, the album is an existential exercise drawing inspiration from the perspective of African cosmology. 

The impeccably glorious music production is characterized by a potpourri of soulful melodies, ambient sounds, and really atmospheric upbeat beats. Soko Matemai embody thought-provoking and introspective lyrics that encourage audiences to explore their devoutness and cohere with their inner selves with songs like Rusununguko, Vakadzi and Freedom

However, the album can be interpreted in its non-natural, not very discernable meaning. 

Songs like Soko Matemai can be a manifestation of giving oneself a responsibility to be useful and available in this bizarre yet blissful condition called human existence. Not beyond the scope of the living but in actual day-to-day life by showing up and being responsible. The mundane. It is all that matters. 

Describing the album Soko Matemai as spiritual does not necessarily mean it is  classified as a worship project, especially with a few socioeconomic verses slipped into the lyrics. But, at the periphery, it carries powerful messages . 

Shungu is a timely reminder that you will have to compete to get what you want out of our limited time existence. 

Mushando is about working hard at whatever it is that you do and Killin is five powerful minutes of really a feel good song. 

Soko Matemai Zim hip hop award winning artist
Zim Hip Hop rapper Soko Matemai, once known as Sharky. 

Soko Matemai sounds predominantly traditional. This is not to say that it represents African spirituality as a form of  religious totalitarianism — or any religion at all. 

It simply acknowledges that beliefs  inform every facet of human life, and therefore humans cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. 


Listen to the album Soko Matemai by Sharky (now called Soko Matemai) here:

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