Most Zimbabwean music lovers have, at one point or another, felt some level of disappointment with Rockford “Roki” Josphat.
Few men or women have in their lifetimes shown the uncanny ability to impress and disappoint in equal measure. This is the man who, at the height of his powers, was the driving force behind urban grooves, a youthful movement music that exploded onto screens and stereos at the turn of the millennium that threatened to alter the Zimbabwean music industry. Or perhaps it did, if the word of those that say that golden era led to the birth of Zimdancehall frenzy under a decade later is anything to go by.
The birth of urban grooves was a moment in time, an unforgettable era in Zimbabwe’s continuing musical evolution when young musicians in the country, through sheer talent, dared to wrestle the ears of their peers from the foreign artistes that had until that point dominated local music.
If urban grooves was the soundtrack of a generation, Harare-based Roki was its Piped Piper. Indeed, at the height of his powers, he seemed to be the Midas of melody – a man with a young, golden voice, a crooner that could lead a generation. When he was on the microphone, it seemed as if he could do no wrong. The only problem was that he often did.
An unforgettable hit like Chidzoka would be followed hot on its heels by a scandal that seemed to shake the very foundations of the world of showbiz.
Details of His love life has been the fodder for newspapers for the best part of two decades and today a perusal of stories from the time of his emergence would be like reading the diary of an out-of-control rock star.
Countless times, the whole country has watched him falter in love and barrels of ink have been dedicated to his missteps and failures in love.
He has fallen only to rise again and again but over the last few years, as his star nosedived again and new ones rose, some questioned whether a seemingly undying cat had exhausted its nine lives.
Over the last month or so Roki has provided his answer and done so emphatically. With the release of Uchandifunga, he announced his return to the industry but with Zviriko, he has silenced all doubters.
Two decades after he introduced himself to Zimbabweans, few would have expected that he still commands enough of their attention to break records.
In four days, a video for the song, released under Java Records, had breached the one million mark, a feat beyond most artistes in Southern Africa. A record on its own Zimbabwe for being the fastest to breach the million mark, the love tune is a guessing game of sorts, as one wonders which of the various women he has linked to over the years is the subject of such a heartfelt vocal performance.
‘What is a king without a queen?’ He asks on the song. One wonders perhaps if Roki is using the recording booth as his confessional, pouring his heart on the mic about what could have been and perhaps, if he had a queen sitting next to him on his throne, his life and career could have been different.
“My brother here, Passion Java has lifted me out of a whole different mess,” said in an interview alongside his label on Zimpapers Television Network. “He doesn’t like it when I do that (thank him) he says take it easy but I am happy with where I am. I can’t disclose my current location but I’m just glad I can speak to you today.”
According to the crooner, the self-styled Man of God has unlocked a love for music that he thought he had lost when he had seemingly lost the affection of the public after countless scandals.
“The prophet was like let’s return to the mode that you were in during the Chamhembe era when you used to sleep next to your microphone. I actually used to sleep under it…so for the past couple of years we’ve gone back to sleeping in the studio,” he said.
The last few years have been a period of rediscovery for Roki, who not only lost his mother, but had to confront the countless heartbreaks he had over the years. Those heartbreaks, had given him content for the two songs that have once again put him on the map.
“These years when I wasn’t around, we buried my mum, Rest in Peace Cde Shungu. I became a member of the house kwaSeke and then I became a believer in God…So, people ask where I was, but the truth is I have five children that I have been taking care of since I was 19. So, whatever they might think I was doing is only their wishes. I have kids and stuff and ordinary problems. What you thought in the past is not true. The prophet knows me better. He saw me when I was heartbroken. When I said I want to go to South Africa I was tired of the music industry this side. I wanted to sing with the likes of Cassper (Nyovest).
“Nothing makes as much sense as my love for this thing I was born to do. It’s like my real calling. Singing is the real thing that makes me feel like I have to wake up in the morning and see Itai (Mutinhiri, interviewer). So, thanks to this man because he made rediscover my love for my music,’ he said.
While some fans may express dismay at his habit of disappearing from the spotlight when he seems to be back on the right track, the urban grooves pioneer said sometimes he was also by their negative views. He also said he was at peace with his children and any woman who did not understand that aspect of his life should not expect to be accommodated.
“I want to say if you were the one driving and you were in a car, I would not question your every turn and every time you step on the brake because I trust you. As a friend and personally I invest in the person and not in the driving skills. I went through that over the years but I don’t have feelings anymore I’m just taking care of kids. I have my kids and stuff and that’s what I wake up to. That’s what I feel is love. If a woman doesn’t fit into the space of my children or anything to do with my children then it’s a problem,” he said.