Jah Prayzah and Sulumani Chimbetu are regarded as the country’s top musicians at the moment. They are crowd pullers wherever they perform and their music is the most played on radio stations, in beer outlets, kombis and other public places.
However, the secret to success lies behind the man who does the production of their music.
Munya Viya was virtually unknown in the music scene until the day he met Sulumani Chimbetu.
“Although I produced Jah Prayzah’s song Tsviriyo in 2013, I remained unknown because no one gave me credit for producing such a hit,” said Viya in a recent interview with The Standard Style at his Vialy Studio in Avondale.
“I even went on to produce Jah Prayzah’s songs, Kumbura Mhute and Darli Wangu which he did with Botswana singer Chama Gal. Although the songs were hits, Munya Viya still remained unknown.”
Viya said his breakthrough came when he was introduced to Sulumani Chimbetu by former Oliver Mtukudzi band member Charles Chipanga.
“It happened one day when Chipanga came to my studio and introduced me to Sulu. Actually, Chipanga wanted to do a collaboration with Sulu, which I was producing. At first Sulu was not impressed with the studio setup, but Chipanga convinced him that it was one of the best in town,” he said.
“It was after I told Sulu that Jah Prayzah’s songs Kumbura Mhute, Karunyerekupe, Moyo Wakaoma and Tsviriyo were produced at the same studio that he gave me an appointment for a new project.”
Viya said three days later the dendera singer returned and that was the beginning of their relationship.
“Sulu returned and told me that he wanted to do his project with me. I had never done dendera music, but I told myself that this was an opportunity to make a name in the music industry,” said Viya, who also plays keyboard for Mtukudzi.
“We did his project Gunship, including Nyuchi. a song that features Soul Jah Love here and in some of his songs he calls out my name, which was a way of marketing me as a producer. It is very rare to get recognition when you are a producer, but Sulu helped me in a way.”
The Norton-bred artist said Jah Prayzah later used that marketing technique of calling out his name in the songs.
“I did five tracks on Jah Prayzah’s latest album Jerusarema. These included Eriza, Vanorudza Museve, Daira, Taura and the title track. In Eriza he calls out my name ‘Munya Viya’, which is also a marketing gimmick,” Viya said.
Besides the two top artistes, Viya has also worked with Energy Mutodi, Somandla Ndebele, Diana Samkange, Pah Chihera and Tocky Vibes, among others.
He has just completed Mathias Mhere’s forthcoming album, Double Double.
Viya was born at Belvedere Maternity Hospital, Harare in 1987. He grew up in Norton where he met the late Sam Mtukudzi.
“I loved music since I was a toddler. I even played the keyboard when I was in Grade 7. We used to go to Zioga and although I was not part of the choir, I loved hanging around with members of the church choir,” he said.
“I met Sam because we were living in the same neighbourhood in Norton. I would go to his father’s studio where I perfected my studio production skills.”
Viya, who also played keyboards for Sandra Ndebele, Decibel and Sebastian Magacha, before he left the country for Botswana, said he paid due respect to Oliver Mtukudzi who persuaded him to leave his job in Gaborone and join the Black Spirits.
“I met Mudhara Tuku in Botswana and he told me to return to Zimbabwe. I did not like the idea at first because I was doing very well in Botswana at Doug Digital Studio where I was attached,” he said
“However, I later came to Zimbabwe and informed Tuku that I was around. He asked me to come for rehearsals at Pakare Paye and that was the beginning of my journey with the Black Spirits.”
Viya said he was happy with the support he gets from Tuku and most artistes, especially those who were coming to his studio.
“The most important thing is to come up with a product that is second to none. In that way you will be able to work with a number of artistes, which I think is happening at Vialy Studios,” he said.
Viya roped in his young brother Tatenda to run things at the studio to allow him time to perform with Tuku.
“I am still a member of the Black Spirits. So I engaged my young brother to run the studio when I am away and it seems he is coping,” Viya said.
He said he was working with Jah Prayzah on his 2016 project.
Viya is married and the couple is blessed with two children.