Bulawayo-based hip-hop artiste Tafadzwa Tarukwana, popularly known as Asaph, says his mission is to inspire young Africans to believe that they can be a force for change.
Tarukwana (TT) told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that his recent nomination for the MTV Africa Awards 2021 was a sign that the bar had been raised for him.
The popular rapper also spoke about his music journey and aspirations. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Tafadzwa Tarukwana, otherwise known as Asaph, welcome to in conversation with Trevor.
TT: Thank you for having me, Mr Trevor.
TN: Let me start off by saying congratulations for having been nominated for the MTV Africa Awards 2021. How does that feel like?
TT: Thank you so much. It really feels like a huge honour. I was just joking around with a friend saying it’s kinda like what Kirsty Coventry felt when she was swimming at the Olympics representing Zimbabwe.
It’s such an honour to represent the country on such a continental stage as an artiste, as a hip-hop artiste.
You know hip-hop is not one of the biggest genres in the country, but then this opportunity hopefully can shine a light on this genre that is growing in the country right now, especially as an artiste coming from Bulawayo.
I feel like it’s a real opportunity to uplift a lot of people who feel because of where they come from, they can’t do much and they can’t really achieve a lot.
But I am really hoping that this is just an inspiration to everyone watching to say where they come from, whether you are from Mutare, Masvingo, Victoria Falls or Bulawayo, you can really stand out and shine for the country.
TN: Try and describe what hip-hop is to my generation, you know the oldies. What is hip-hop?
TT: Hip-hop is basically, first and foremost, it’s a lifestyle where young people express themselves through dancing, through graffiti and through rapping, which is the most popular aspect of that genre.
When it comes to that aspect, that’s now the music part of it where we rap over instrumentals that are really drum-driven beats basically and most of it is taken from samples of old music.
There’s one of the songs, which is a sample of a Mbira Dzenharira track.
So we took that mbira sample and we just added drums, added weights to it to give it a more modern feel, a more youthful element to it and then I come and perform rap all over it and that’s what hip-hop is — rhythm and poetry.
TN: I listened to three of your songs. I want us to get into what inspired you to do the pieces, but for now, is it true that for the MTV Africa Awards nomination, you came ahead of Winky D, Gemma Griffiths and Shasha, is it true?
TT: Yes, it’s very true.
TN: Wow, this is very huge, hey.
TT: Yes, I mean especially for the genre. Like I mentioned hip-hop was that genre that wasn’t looked at as a serious genre because it’s mainly done by young guys.
The majority view the hip-hop look or feel as a rebellious genre of guys who are not really serious about what they are doing.
So now getting this nomination, I’m really hoping I can shine a light on the fact that there are guys who are out here really putting thought into their music, really wanting to be serious and take it all the wa. And the fact that a lot of people came to support me when we were short-listed,it means a lot to me because the voting was on Twitter and all people had to do was to tweet the hashtag to be actually short-listed.
So a lot of people came out tweeting my hashtag, #AsaphforMama, to the point that it even trended in Zimbabwe.
I think three times, if I’m not mistaken, and it also trended in South Africa on a Tuesday.
So the support was really overwhelming.
TN: Are they still taking votes for #AsaphforMama or the voting is closed now?
TT: Yes, the show itself was postponed.
It was meant to be on the 20th of February, but they pushed it to another date that is yet to be advised.
The website where the voting is being place is still up and running.
People can still go on to the website and cast their vote.
TN: How do they vote, how do they cast a vote?
TT: They head over to www.mtvmama.com and then you go to the voting segment and all the categories will be listed and mine is the one right at the end — the listener’s choice category.
Once you on the listener’s choice category, it will show all the artistes that are there and my name Asaph.
You just click on my handsome face Asaph and that’s how to do it as many times as you can.
TN: That’s amazing. So what does it mean for you? You are fresh on the scene, but in this competition you are ahead of Winky D, Gemma Griffiths and Shasha. What does that mean, in terms of your bursting into the scene?
TT: For me, it’s a kind of stamp of approval, it’s kind of maturing.
You know being opened to a new level of music, being now mentioned in a conversation about Jah Prayzah or Winky D.
It really shows me the level that I have grown to and shows me the level of work that is now expected of me because this is where the work starts.
Even if I win the award, that’s not the finishing line.
This is now where the work comes in to show people that voted for me, to show people that believed and even those that didn’t believe, that yes I am worth it. I am worth the Mama.
I am worth the fact that everyone is trailing behind me.
So this just means that more work is needed. I am now no longer a Bulawayo artiste. I am now no longer just a hip-hop artiste, but I am now a Zimbabwean musician.
TN: Are you now ready for it?
TT: Yes, sir! I was born ready for it. This is what I was made for.
TN: That’s good. So the 2021 MTV awards in Uganda were cancelled because of an online campaign around human rights abuses just before the election and particularly the way, which your fellow musician Bobi Wine was treated, the abuse, the beatings of his supporters and so forth and so forth. Do you take a stand on those kind of issues?
TT: I do. You know we will always try to be as careful as we can, but I am someone, who will stand for those who would listen to my music.
In 2019 I released an album called the people’s rapper because I really believe that I have been given a voice or an opportunity or platform to speak for the people and speak to the people.
So no matter what issues are going on, I need to find a way to communicate hope, to communicate so that people can feel like they are being spoken to.
There is a song that I did called Real Ones, which was basically a prayer for the nation saying ‘My Lord I hope you make a way for the real ones.’
Last year in 2020 when there was the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter movement going on there is a song that I released called Aspheli Moya, which basically means we never give up, we never tire.
So I really feel my music can be a tool to just keep people motivated, to keep people inspired to say no matter how tough things are, here is a three-minute song that can lift your spirit a bit, that can encourage you, that you might be able to make it to the next day.
I am someone, who really has that heart for the people.
So when the announcement came out that the awards may not be happening anymore and it was kind of this situation, the artiste in me was a bit disappointed because I was so excited and wanted to hear the results, but the human inside me, the African inside me was like wait, if this was a situation happening here in Zimbabwe I would want the same courtesy from my fellow Africans.
So it is what it is. I feel like we just need to stand with them and send our love their way.
TN: I would assume that now Bobi Wine would appreciate a message coming from a young African like you. Would you have a message for him?
TT: My message for him would be, he should remain inspiring the people because you never know what life can bring about even if you feel like you have lost it or you feel like everything else is against you.
Your resilience, your courage, your strength can inspire someone.
It can inspire a whole generation. It can even inspire people in another country, who are going through their own situations.
So no matter what it feels like, even if you feel like you are losing, even if it feels like you know your life could be in danger, you never know what your resilience means to someone who is watching you and that could be the person who brings up a turnaround.
That could be the person who changes the whole way Africa is.
So that would be my encouragement to him, to say remember that it is far bigger than just who you are, bigger than Uganda because I really feel Africa as a whole needs more young leaders who are not afraid to stand for what they believe in.