Around 2016/17, one Chifuniro Steven Magalasi was at the verge of an identity crisis. He was caught between being a fine composer and having to choose the genre of music he could thrive in.
Well, Njuchi Zitatu is a Reggae Dancehall group which was assembled by the veteran Conel Chycoon. It was him, Chycoon, who gave Chizmo, Coctiz and Eli a platform through his Njuchi Records in Dubai, Area 49. Right from the very early stage, Chycoon was proud of the product he was mentoring. He even appeared in the video of the song ‘Far Weh Mi Come From’. But there was one thing I noted in that video: Eli, clad in a Red Gold Green vest, looked like a teenage innocent boy doing the ‘Badman Ting!’.
I had been staying in Gulliver then. On most Saturdays, me and my young brother used to trek down to Mtandile to buy some raw consumables in bulk for the week ahead. It was during these errands that I became friends with some Phone Repairer at the market, a man I came to know as Jack. So on one Saturday, I spent some time at his Shop for a chat. A few yards down the street was a Game Zone where some music was blaring. And that’s how I met Njuchi Zitatu, for the first time.
The song playing was ‘Sabwelera’ in which Njuchi Zitatu jumped on a DJ Langie produced Red Heart Riddim. The voice on the first verse and hook sounded young but it was hard to ignore the witty lyrical composition. The following week I looked up for the group’s material online. Among the few videos I came across on YouTube, it was ‘Girlfriend’s Friend’ which impressed me most. It was already a hit in the local Dancehall circles. In that video, Chizmo seemed to be the natural leader of the group thanks to his good command of Patois and his militant statue; Coctiz delivered hardcore; and it was clear Eli was that singer with clarity and wits.
Fast forward to 2019, Eli Njuchi established himself as a fully fledged solo artist breaking himself away from what Reggae Dancehall enthusiasts thought of him. But it’s not a strange story; we can talk of Chris Martin and Kranium as artists who emerged from a solid Reggae Dancehall background but went on to become successful Singjays. There was a lot of talk when Eli took this path. But contrary to what many started to assume, Eli reaffirmed his allegiance to Njuchi Zitatu through his song ‘Zithe’ off the Book of Z.
What has become of Eli Njuchi in recent days has been all over the media; the masterpiece that is The Book of Z, the hit Singles he has been putting out, the TNM Ambassadorial deal and the early impressive reviews of The Book of Eli being launched today. What we have here is no ordinary musician. What we have here is a man who has proven that talent knows no age.