Musician Leonard Mapfumo, widely celebrated as a pioneer of the urban grooves movement at the turn of the millennium, is not the man-of-the-moment in music circles and neither are any of his songs enjoying high rotation on the airwaves, but he is in a better place.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
Mapfumo’s discography contains a collection of yesteryear love hits, including Two Chete, Kana Ndinewe and Maidei, among others that some still cannot rid from their playlists, but his conviction is to assist the next generation of artistes to not only reach his level, but surpass it.
He is currently the artistic director for Jacaranda Culture and Media Corporation (JCMC) where he is focusing on grooming young talent that has passed through the establishment’s flagship talent show Dream Star.
“I have been around, mainly in the background concentrating on this project [JCMC] which is a talent search programme that we have been doing for five years,” he told The Standard Style in a wide-ranging interview.
Most of his peers in the music fraternity have struggled to stay artistically relevant in the era succeeding the 75% local music government policy, which spurred most into the spotlight during the early 2000s.
After the policy’s revision, most careers have flopped pushing artistes into the abyss, but Mapfumo has remained in showbiz through the rising talent under his tutelage.
“I realised in 2005 that art tends to change and the demographic of people that makes music that is very popular remains the same,” he recalled the transition he made towards helping other singers achieve their dreams by establishing the Heshi Mfeshi stable along with late producer Joe Machingura.
“Our main thrust was to make sure that we help artistes that could not record their own music or afford studio time to have a place where they would come to record,” Mapfumo said.
This is where the likes of Shinsoman, Star FM’s DJ Mbale, Taurai Mandebvu and Yoz among others were first signed while the stable also went on to work with Sanni Makhalima, TBA and Junior Brown.
Looking back, long after Heshi Mfeshi, Mapfumo would not have dreamt of making it this far and, according to him, seeing emerging talents gain influence in the cut-throat music scene is an equally fulfilling experience.
“If I was asked if I would be here, my answer would probably have been a no because I didn’t think I would be taking such a big role where I would be mentoring a lot of potential artistes and working on productions that would be touring other countries,” he said equating the feeling to the first time he was played on radio.
“It is amazing when you see potential because a lot of people see the end product but when you take to new talent to the people and they accept, there isn’t a feeling that is as gratifying as that, it’s amazing like the first time I heard my song play on radio.”
Five artistes — Nyasha David, Fusion 5 Mangwiro, Soul Deep, Tafara Dondo and Pro Beatz — are JCMC’s first signees whom Mapfumo is mandated to give direction.
“Our main goal is to make sure that this is run like an industry and professionally so that we lobby the corporate world to come and support it, but they [artistes] need a structure so that is we are setting up as JCMC,” he said.
“We are looking at all the different genres because really you can never tell the trajectory at which the music industry is going so we have almost every single genre in our stable.”
The lyricist has, however, not completely hung the boots on his personal career as the urge to pursue music full-time persists every now and then although he is certainly taking it easy.
“As artistes, we are spotlight mongers who look for where the spotlight is so in a way it [the urge] does come back, but it is not as extensive as it used to be. My plan for the moment is not to release albums but singles as I record them, so I will not stop releasing music but it won’t be consistent,” he said.