The Central Story Of Our Time

Synik is a hip-hop artist from Zimbabwe, currently living in Portugal. He released this album earlier this year, and it is his first since the left his home country and made the arduous journey to Europe. In it, he discusses exile, alienation, the exploitation of migrants and the hostility they encounter.

His real name is Gerald Mugwheni, and there is an article1 about the political pressure that drives artists to leave Zimbabwe, including an appreciation of the album, in the much-mourned online paper, The Conversation.

I don’t listen to much hip-hop. A year or so back, Englistan, by RizMC2 caught my attention. I listened to it again this week, as I have just bought a pair of bone conduction earphones, and can start listening to music as I walk the dog or cycle. I had had to give that up because earphones set off tinnitus – another of the indignities of encroaching old age. Englistan is a theatrical, even cinematic experience. A Travel Guide For The Broken strikes me as a more lyrical (in the classic sense of the word) style of rap. I think you’d describe it as downbeat hip-hop: it has a rich, melodic jazz inventiveness that is immediately musically engaging.

What has kept me listening, though, is the way the raps catch you with narrative force: on ‘Underground’, Synik talks about working in the shadow economy; ‘Wega’ is a clear depiction of being in an alien environment, while your heart is focused on home. The title track is quite special. It seems to describe a response to an experience which might be the defining adventure of our times – the experience of being uprooted by economic terror and political victimisation.

We were fractured
The scattered fragments from broken homelands
Transient bodies,
Dislocated and displaced
With borderless imaginations we discarded the familiar for worlds unknown
Forced to become adept in contorting limbs to fit in confined spaces
Which constituted a further breaking
We traversed inhospitable lands in search of new homes
And the warmth of other suns


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