Once-famed Afro-fusion musician and ex-member of Afrika Revenge, Willis Wataffi’s gradual rise and almost fall in typical hero to zero fashion left him exposed to the worst times in his life, The Standard Style has learnt.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
Since 2007 when he launched his solo career, Wataffi has faced rejection and sabotage from a huge section of music followers, especially fans of Afrika Revenge who were bitter about the group’s split.
Afrika Revenge, which Wataffi formed with Mehluli Moyo, had become a darling to many as it struck a balance between the north and south of the country with their lyrics in native languages.
From winning 10 awards within 18 months at the height of the group’s prominence, Wattaffi, who was the lead vocalist and songwriter, has helplessly watched as his solo musical efforts constantly hit a snag.
In an interview on Thursday, the father of one recalled the past, detailed his heart-wrenching experience after the split and how he is now going for the jugular to resuscitate his musical exploits.
“The glorious time of Afrika Revenge was not long. It was like a year and a half only, yet we made all that history, so you find that you miss it but you are not yet accustomed to it,” he said.
“Then, we [Afrika Revenge] were like a whirlwind because a lot of things were happening in our lives and you missed out on a lot of things because you are busy on the road and busy with fame.”
Having formed the group in 1998, differences in ideologies and influence from bad friends caused the two to split and although he does not regret it, he concedes it was the genesis of his troubles.
“Ever since the demise of Afrika Revenge there is a lot that happens in a man’s life where you are still the same musician who is still talented and you are trying to get out there to activate to the same audience that are pissed off about the break up,” he opened up.
“The rejection is something I anticipated and it came. The whole depression and trying to find a way to get back to the level you had reached, it has been a journey of many lessons.”
His immediate attempt to release an album titled Zhizha (A Time to Sow) soon after the separation did not attract the same attention he had started to appreciate and he believes it is because their fans were and are still angry over the decision.
“This is why every time I go on radio or on a public forum, I apologise so that people know that I know what they lost out on but because they lost out on something, it then does not mean I stop being the same guy that I am.”
Wataffi said he learnt to be independent and “not to force an audience to try and appreciate me when they are actually pissed off about something.”
“I am still writing the same music but it’s just a question whether people are in the receptive mode or are they still interested and would they want to embrace me now?”
The Qaya Roots architect appreciates that there is no shorter way to the top and has since shifted focus on achieving goals and not really impressing certain individuals.
Last year he penned a gospel album titled Songs of David which was mistakenly taken as him turning to gospel, but he says that affected his business as a musician, with some promoters not hiring him because they think he is now solely a gospel singer.
“I say this a lot but somehow it is left out, Willis has done a gospel album and that’s all, I have not turned to gospel, my Christian life is something that I was not exposing to people I had not shared that only but I have always had one gospel song in every album I wrote,” he said.
The project which he says has been a “healing process” and an adherence to suggestions by different clerics, has made waves in local gospel charts, with songs like Anochengeta becoming hits among local gospel lovers.
His next mission is to reposition himself in the industry through the release of a new album titled Uhuru/Independence in which he reclaims his personal conviction.
“Uhuru is the point where we are actually talking about the independence and the independence is my being freed,” he said.
The 11-track album set for release on May 1 was co-produced by Edgar Muza and Wataffi in Port Elizabeth.
“God has been dealing with me all this while and now because I have done a gospel album, the new album is a culmination of the whole experience — the rejection, the trial and tribulations,” he said.
“I am not pressured anymore to be relevant in Zimbabwe because the honest truth is people know who I am but you cannot force an audience that is angry to pay attention.
“I want to be the first Zimbabwean musician to win a Grammy award and this is why I am not stopping regardless of what is happening in my life.”
He added; “I am now beyond albums, I am now about legacy you know there is Qaya roots the record label that has mentored, written and produced for a lot of musicians now.”
Apart from the music, Wataffi is currently promoting his own clothing and foot wear along with a number of charity works.