‘Mukoma Brian’, latest song by Voltz JT real name Nkosilathi Sibiya addresses the usually ignored issues of mental health in men.
Voltz JT is a Zimbabwean Hip hop award winning artist with a recent accolade in Positive Social Impact awarded in 2023, continues to positively impact people through his well meaning music.
Zimbabweans are beginning to warm up to Hip hop music which was often regarded as secular and unpopular.
It is prudent that the writer gives a background of hip hop music so that the reader is informed of how the genre is becoming an integral part of the Zimbabwean population.
Hip hop is a form of cultural movement that attained widespread popularity in the 1980s and 90s.
It is characterised by backing music for rap, the musical style incorporating rhythmic and or rhyming speech that became the movement’s most lasting and influential art form.
Hip hop music in Zimbabwe now falls under popular culture or just ‘pop culture’ which generally refers to the traditions and material culture of a particular society.
Popular culture refers to the cultural traditions of the people in contrast to the ‘official culture’ of the state or governing classes.
Having explained the nexus of hip hop and popular culture then it is imperative to discuss the mental health issue in men, a rarely discussed topic.
Zimbabwe being dominantly a patriarchal society, men are not expected to reveal issues, problems or challenges they face in real life as they will be labelled weak.
As a result of such social constructions, men have been fighting mental health issues in isolation and resultantly many have taken away their lives after failing to cope up or finding no help.
Through music, Voltz JT bemoans mental health which he addresses through his perceived brother, ‘mukoma Brain’.
Mukoma Brian, respected as an elder brother, signifies the ideal societal success, good life and stable and happy marriage.
However, the song’s lyrics reveals the hidden truth, Mukoma Brian suffers in silence, he is a victim of domestic abuse in his seemingly perfect marriage.
Mukoma Brian does not express his pain nor does he seek help in a culture that views male vulnerability as weakness, thereafter he turns to alcohol as an escape to his emotional suffering.
“Ma problems avo ndo ma jet lag pama flights. So you think until wazonzwa nemakuhwa kuti zuro vakamarana. Nguva yareba havasi kutaudzana and then you start to notice kuti varikupfudzana and zvakaminama.
Of course zvonzi ma problems anosiyana but Mukoma Brian kubva mashushwa zvekupushwa zvekunokushita muri kunze makadhakwa zvekusvika pakuraradza,” sings Voltz JT.
The song resonates effectively with young and old listeners, fostering understanding and connection around societal issues which are often ignored.
Going back to mental health, people who are considering suicide are dealing with a combination of mental ill-health and difficult life events.
Symptoms such as very low mood, negative thinking, severe anxiety and psychosis cannlead to suicidal thoughts.
Researchers believe that some people who end their own lives do not actually want to die, but feel there is no other option to relieve them of their pain.
Dr Dixon Chibanda a Zimbabwean medical doctor has introduced The Friendship Bench (FB) which aims to enhance mental well-being and improve quality of life through the use of problem solving therapy delivered by trained lay health workers focusing on people who are suffering from common mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
The Friendship Bench was started in one of Harare’s townships called Mbare in 2007 and Dr Chibanda conceptualised the first Friendship Bench intervention that has now been refined and adapted considerably.
Education through music and campaigns through various mediums can conscientious people suffering from mental health and this can help save lives.