His inadvertent switch to gospel music briefly brought an unheralded slump in his fan base but the Zora King, as Leonard Zhakata is widely known, has bared soul and insists all was a blessing in disguise.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
Songs like Hupenyu Mutoro and Mugove propelled Zhakata to the top and up to today, the prolific musician is synonymous with lyrical expertise, which like wine gets better with time.
Zhakata strongly believes that answering Prophet Makandiwa’s call to become a pastor at the United Family International Church (Ufic) exposed him to the ultimate followers of his music.
In an interview on Wednesday, the soft-spoken musician said the decline in followership has shown him his real audience.
“I do not take it as a plunge, but there was a shift of market, my audiences just changed so it is the quality of listeners,” Zhakata said.
“God has promoted me by changing to quality from quantity. I may have lesser audiences but those are the people that really love my music.”
He has received criticism since revealing his association with Ufic in 2012, but the accomplished musician maintains that he will use his talent to preach on different stages.
“Send a thief to catch a thief, so God has a reason to send me because I was once there singing for those people. I know the type of rhythm they want, but I have to twist the message so they can be God-fearing,” he said.
His last project Zvangu Zvaita in 2013 received divided attention, although some tracks gained traction with time. The Mugove hitmaker insists his recent songs are a fusion and contain positive lyrics.
“I do not need to change my message much. All that is there now is we have found a richer vein. We have been mining and now we have found a wealthier belt, which is the word of God that we are fusing with more than we used to,” Zhakata said.
Meanwhile, the musician will launch his yet-to-be-named 11-track album on Friday at the Harare International Conference Centre. The launch will be graced by various musicians, who include sungura king Alick Macheso, Sulumani Chimbetu and gospel artist Tinashe Magacha.
“We are not yet revealing the title of the album until the day of release. Some tracks on the new project include Moyo Wekutenda, Mutunga Dzese and Tsvimbo Dzehumambo,” he said.
Zhakata said piracy delayed them from completing the production.
“Nowadays if you complete the songs earlier, there is a risk that they might leak. We are busy working on the things that we should have finalised long back because of piracy,” he said.
Zhakata is convinced that the new album will bring back his old charm as he engaged fans on social platforms to fix misgivings from his last release.
“To all those who had problems with our music, we considered their advice and incorporated it in this album. The music contains inspiring messages as well,” the crooner said.
Although widely known for solo brilliance, Zhakata engaged some artists in what he termed “rare” collaborations.
“We also thought we could not reveal their names but they are ‘unusual’ collaborations. I collaborated with young artists, which I think will surprise a lot of people at the launch,” he said.
Zhakata rose to stardom in 1994 with his smash hit Mugove off the album Maruva Enyika. He broke new ground in the music industry by becoming the youngest and the first Zimbabwean solo musician to sell more than 120 000 copies of an album.