Guest Album Review: ‘Sonder’
by Kachepa Mtumbi
With impeccably curated songwriting, wordplay, production, mixing and down to the minute detail of picking the best backing vocals, the release of Tim’s hugely anticipated album is a local music milestone. It’s easy to throw around complimentary words about the songs on the album but this is simply an artist effortlessly moving in stride with his enormous talent.
You may not even be a hip-hop head, heck you could be a country music fan, but you’ll agree that this is an artist pouring his soul into your sound system. With TikTok’s biased algorithm and the fast social media churn of modern music, it’s often you listen to an artist that’s simply ticking a box, giving in to fan pressure for a record or keeping up with the pace of their contemporaries. Tim’s craft as a musician alone is worth the wait – this is an artist that has taken their gift and taken it to the furthest peak they can.
The 21-track album ‘Sonder’ is as a good a Sunday sermon and testimonial you’re likely to hear on the other side of your favourite papa.
With a rap delivery style that’s never self-indulgent, the album opens with ‘Little Me, Big God’ featuring Sam Sakala (Dope G) and moves seamlessly through a personal and shared story of faith, tribulations, loss, joy and quite simply, the flight mode in the peaks and turbulence of valleys in the human experience.
It’s hard to pick the standout songs on the album because it’s littered with gems throughout. As you settle into the album though, you’re suddenly sitting up when the laid-back delivery on ‘Heaven’ segues into a glorious, infectious chorus. Produced by the talented Mag 44, the saxophone by Mutemwa Cymbala is a classy touch for one of the album’s finest songs.
Further on, a motley crew of Jae Cash, Young Verbal and Tiwah Hillz deliver an industry-standard collaboration on ‘Amen’. It’s a call on God for a nudge in navigating the loss of loved ones to resisting the temptation of money and riches. If you’re looking for a contemporary gospel song that goes in hard on millennial and Gen Z spirituality, put this on repeat.
When ‘Power’ kicks in with a triumphant intro, it’s easy to question how Chef 187 and Esther Chungu will fit into a song that is unlike anything the two have ever laid vocals on, but oh it works. Esther Chungu delivers a rallying hook with seamless ease in that beautiful baby blue voice of hers. And Chef? He who co-wrote the song and is mercurial with his familiar, streetwise stye. Light work.
Tim is a gracious host on the album, giving his featured artists room to shine, experiment even and ultimately remind us of our diverse Zambian musical talent. With rap albums, it’s easy to kill the messenger but still get the message. ‘Sonder’ delivers a gospel message so subtly clever and contemporary you’ll probably playlist it for your happiest and sad moments in equal measure. And that’s modern-day ministry, with its seamless resonance in the dark times of your boarding house kitchen or your relaxed drive to a Saturday afternoon birthday party with family and friends.
Even with an eclectic lineup including MC Wabwino, Pompi, Scarlet, James Sakala and Izrael delivering memorable cameos, Tim is arguably at the peak of powers as a writer. He has a hand in all 21 songs on the album and it speaks to his vivid and personal storytelling abilities that by the time you’re listening to ‘Ride’ further into the album, you’re no longer with Tim from Zone Fam but Tim, a rapper scaling new heights in his craft.
During his time with Zone Fam, Tim’s diminutive stature may not have seen him center stage in the music videos, promotional photos or on stage jointly accepting a Channel O award but with this triumphant album, Tim can stand tall as a giant in not only in the local hip-hop scene but as a Zambian musician we can all be proud of.