Inspired by continental music heavyweights — Oliver Mutukudzi, Salif Keita and Richard Bona, among others — Masvingo musician Blessing Tendai Maramba says his music is influenced by Afrocentrism.
Maramba, whose music is a blend of modern and traditional beats, is viewed as the next Mtukudzi because of his alignment to social values, among other things.
WekwaMaramba, as he is known in music circles, says he is not in a hurry to sign with any record label, but is taking his time to put his stuff in place.
The Standard Style’s correspondent Sukuoluhle Ndlovu (SN) caught up with Maramba (BM), who spoke about his career and future.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
SN: Who is Blessing Maramba?
BM: Blessing Tendai Maramba, aka WekwaMaramba, is an Afro-centred artiste. I have received many descriptions of my music because of the beat I sing and make. As a singer and a songwriter, I do not limit myself much to sing this and sound like that. Due to socialisation and the way I was brought up, it gave me an alignment along traditional eyes and the oratory WekwaMaramba that many have described as Afro-jazz. Some people view my music as traditional although I came to define it as Katekwe, a mbira-fused beat aligned to Chimurenga Music, Tuku Music, Marshall Munhumumwe and Chiwoniso Maraire, among others.
I am married and a father. I am a technologist, student and an artiste, all in one. I play the accoustic guitar quite well and some bit of mbira [nyunga-nyunga]. I have three permanent band members whom I blend with session musicians. Although I have a band, I am quite popular with solo acts. I am a bit shy off stage and, basically, that is WekwaMaramba.
SN: When did you start your music career?
BM: If something really comes from deep within, I am sure one cannot put a timeline to its beginnings. You do not have to think about it, but you find yourself in the midst of it. For me, music is like that, so I cannot put a timeline to it. It is my life, it is who I am.
SN: What made you choose music over other arts forms?
BM: As I said before, I did not choose to write and sing, but music chose me. I do not recall when music chose me and I think it happened automatically. I am also into chemical engineering — that is another part of me that keeps me going when the going gets tough.
SN: How many albums have you released?
BM: I have probably not less than 50 good marketable and excellent songs, but if we are talking about recorded songs, I have recorded eight songs, which is one album, in 2013. I have been concentrating on live performances to keep our fans going and well entertained. It has been satisfactory so far. The album that I have released is titled The Birth [Rukuvhute].
SN: Do you have a hit song?
BM: I would not know what you call a hit song, but if that refers to a song that people like and appreciate, then, yes, I have had lots of those. For example, the song titled Tinerudo, which I am seeing on several local dramas and movies with some people even not communicating with me. However, for me, that is success and I have actually been riding high on writing soundtracks for movies as this has availed itself as an opportunity.
Many people call and send complimentary messages about my music, which I believe is a strong message, considering that my last release was five years ago.
SN: How popular is your music on national radio and television?
BM: I have not as yet thought of making videos, but I have seen lots of my music in dramas and movies on television. You will get the unmistaken voice if you keep glued to your television sets. A couple of radio stations have opened up to my music with some as far as Victoria Falls. I have been given airplay on some radio stations although it has not been that rosy with others for reasons that I cannot share on this platform..
SN: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
BM: I see myself as a more mature and well-established musician. I want to raise our cultural emblem as a people and stand for our values, morals and identity.
SN: Do you have any collaborations or have you had any opportunity to share the stage with “big” artistes?
BM: I have collaborated with several organisations in social and corporate projects and events. As a band, we have also opened up for joint shows with some of the country’s big names.
SN: Have you ever had foreign shows or tours as a group?
BM: If all goes well, we are going to South Africa for a couple of festivals before the end of the year. At the moment, we are negotiating with our promoters in South Africa and we are excited as this would be our first foreign tour.
SN: What are your achievements so far as a musician or your proudest moments?
BM: I am very proud of who I am and I do not regret being me. I do not wish to be anybody else.
SN: Most artistes in Zimbabwe face a plethora of challenges. Do you also face such in your music career?
BM: I support a full band and we have these challenges of finances as well as equipment. I feel it is essentially good to have enough equipment if we are to come up with quality products.
Normally, it is an uphill task for someone who is new to be accepted, especially at the early stages. We have had successes working with the corporate world, but at social spots, it takes time for people to get to know you.
SN: Have you ever received any awards?
BM: Art is abstract. I feel it is a bit tricky to compare art and I have never submitted my stuff for any awards. I am sure since the same music we did with our voice and instruments has scooped awards, so you could say we have some in a way.