WASHINGTON DC — Talented musician and actress Ammara Brown, who is riding high with the song Mukoko, a collaboration with Tytan, real name Njabulo Nkomo, says she is now working on a video of the same song which will be released in a few weeks.
By Blessing Zulu
In an exclusive interview with Voice of America, Ammara says when it comes to her music, she sets excessively high standards for herself. VOA Studio 7 asked her how long it takes to produce a music video.
“To be honest with you, it really just depends on how much work you would like to put in it,” she said.
“I am a bit of a perfectionist and sometimes perfectionists get in the way of progress … but I am obsessive and I am very labour intensive, everybody who has worked with me knows that and so if I am going to do a music video, I am heavily involved in every part of the production.”
Ammara also recently scooped her first music award, a joint venture with Jah Prayzah for Best Collaboration for the song, Kure Kure at the 2016 Zimbabwe Music Awards.
But on being asked about musical awards, she chose to invoke the memory of her late father, the highly-talented musician Andy Brown. “The thing about awards is that, a while ago, I realised that my father had not won an award in his lifetime and it didn’t take away how amazing he was as an artist,” she said.
Brown, also famed for hits such as Tichangoshaina, Zindoga, Tomato Sauce, Tigere, Daisy, Fiona and Mawere Kongonya, began his music career with the hugely successful band, Ilanga, in 1986. Its members included the late Don Gumbo, Busi Ncube and Comrade Chinx.
After leaving Ilanga, Brown pursued a solo career. He formed Andy Brown and the Storm with whom he went on to release more than 10 albums. Brown achieved legendary status in Zimbabwe, bolstered by a discography that includes many approaches to ensemble sound.
Ammara’s talent has also impressed the legendary Jazz star Hugh Masekela, the celebrated South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer who will also feature on her next song.
The song is called Next Lifetime. Ammara’s young sister, Chiedza Brown who tragically died at the age of 15 in Texas, United States was the initial composer of the song.
Ammara speaks highly of Masekela, calling him a reservoir of wisdom, “He is the greatest sekuru [grandpa] in the world,” she said.
The songstress also has great praise for Zimbabwean music icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, and his wife, Daisy, who she referred to as uncle and aunt respectively. She said they have been giving her valuable advice.
Most musicians in Zimbabwe have for years complained about piracy saying it has ruined careers and is killing the industry. But Ammara urged artists to think outside the box. “Piracy is one of those things that used to bother me. I am really just past the point of caring about it simply because there are parts of our industry that are underdeveloped … We do not have proper distribution channels,” Ammara said.
She said Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from fellow African countries that have managed to counter piracy. “Nigeria had the same problem once upon a time but the piracy became legit, they actually became registered distributors who could actually pay you for your master.”
Music Magazine writer Lavender Mahanda says over the past decade, music piracy has transformed from a small, part-time activity enjoyed by a few music enthusiasts into a booming business and a source of income for many Zimbabweans.
In almost every city there are hundreds of vendors selling illegally-produced CDs and DVDs, usually at very low prices. Zimbabwe lacks a dedicated anti-piracy organisation, following the closure of the Anti-Piracy Organization of Zimbabwe (Apoz).
Apoz was granted a licence to operate as a copyright watchdog in 2008 but was shut down by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs on September 26 2012, for allegedly supporting pirates.
Top record companies such as Gramma Records, Ngaavongwe Records, Metro and the Zimbabwe Music Corporation no longer print as many copies as they used to 10 years ago. This has created a permanent shortage in the formal CD market, which is easily filled by the pirates. Record companies are being blamed for making a few copies when an album is released, creating a shortage that will be filled by music pirates.
Ammara is the daughter of Andy Brown and Soraya Khan. She was thrust into the music field when she was three years old. Her first taste of fame came in the form of an Olivine cooking oil TV commercial in 1997, in which Mtukudzi would sing the jingle for the advert that would be remembered many years later.
At the age of nine, Ammara learnt how to play mbira and has experience in playing the piano as well.
She became a member of the Martin Luther King Choir when she was 13 years old and later went on to produce her first demo song and gave it to her parents, to which her father broke down in tears. She would later be allowed to join her father’s musical band, The Storm when she was 14 years old.
In 2004, Ammara won the regional Music Crossroads, while later going on to study music at the Campus of Performing Arts (Copa) and attaining honours with distinctions.
Last year she debuted at the iconic Joburg Theatre in South Africa in the musical Colour Me Human, a wide and undefinable soundscape composed by Steve Dyer, including a stirring arrangement of Makubenjalo (Let it be).
The choreography is by the creative duo of Sonia Radebe and Nhlanhla Mahlangu, who trace various rituals around key stages of life. Director, Makhaola Ndebele likens the ebb and flow of Colour Me Human to a pulsing heartbeat.