Unpacking Enzo Ishall’s ‘Magate’

Leroy Dzenga Lifestyle Writer
Rising dancehall artiste Enzo Ishall released a dance song titled “Magate” which has triggered an internet challenge under the tag #MagateChallenge. The song sounds like a conversation between a prophet and a troubled woman who is possessed by a twerking spirit. The contents of the song are almost clear except the “magate” part.

Friends who don’t speak Shona and others who do have been struggling to get the actual meaning of magate.

In Zimbabwe there is an indigenous apostolic sect known as Johanne Masowe Yenguwo Tsvuku, their name denotes the red robes they wear

They are an African spiritual sect which lives detached from most of the world’s conventions.

Purist Nguwo Tsvuku members live in shacks in a squatter-like manner.

In Harare, they are found in Epworth, Kuwadzana, near Mbudzi Round-about and other places with open areas fit for makeshift dwellings.

Purist Nguwo Tsvuku followers are generally unkempt, some of them walk barefoot and keep dreadlocks but the dreadlocks are not for fashion as they are worn under specific instruction from the Holy Spirit.

Among other apostolic sects Johanne Masowe Yenguwo Tsvuku is feared because they are said to be able to summon bad angels (but this is not to say they do not conduct an equal number of well meaning prayers).

This means they can be consulted when one has intent to harm a relative or friend who may have crossed their path, as a result the sect is isolated.

At Nguwo Tsvuku they have a shrine system where people go for consultations known as “kushandirwa”.

For consultations you go to the shrine and they perform invocations usually characterised by prayer in incomprehensible languages, almost like pentecostal church tongues, but the tone is a bit harsh.

They exorcise demons, sending them to regions without water and life and this is where the magate element comes in.

The cleansing process involves being poured copious amounts of water. The vessels in which the water is stored in are called “magate” (In proper Shona, it would be “makate” but to maintain the texture of the song, we will go on with magate).

Gate (pronounced gar-teh) is a large clay pot and the sect adopted these to be their vessels for their holy water during cleansing ceremonies.

The sessions are usually done in the morning when it’s chilly, to shock out evil spirits. If the spirit is stubborn the body carrying it can endure 20 to 30 full clay pots, they won’t stop until it accepts defeat and leaves.

When Enzo said “50, 60 Magate, 60 zvikaramba 70 (pr)” the idea was to say, the lady in question has immense twerking talent (or a spirit).

His metaphor was rooted in a concept known to work.

In real life magate are believed to be effective to the extent that getting to 10 is rarely necessary.

The numbers he picked in the song were appreciating how generously talented the lady is when it comes to gyrating.

One gate is plus or minus 25 litres. So one can imagine the strength of a demon that needs a dose of 70 to be exorcised.

I once interviewed a prophet who said if you get to 20, you may need a few days of bed rest. Enzo’s song was an allegory rooted in a deeper religious culture.

It is impressive when artistes bring to the fore social practises which usually would not be part of the mainstream discourse through their work.

Zimbabwean dancehall soon will be a subject of scholarly probing if they continue diversifying their content, Enzo’s “Magate” is a good example.

Source : The Herald

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