Monday 25 June 2012

Brilliantly dumb Roki

Roki in BBA Stargame

There is something of a death wish in Roki - a swing that hangs around him at his most glamorous moments; some recklessness that pulls him down.
At his brightest moment, Roki can be intelligent, brilliant and mature. Those moments are clearly evident in the fact that he scooped the 2003 Nama Best Urban Grooves Artiste award; the
Zima Song of the Year award with Chidzoka and capped it all with Zima Best Video of the Year – again with Chidzoka.
This is the brilliance which earned him a place in Big Brother Africa Stargame where he was a favourite for the money.
But at his lowest moment, Roki can be downright idiotic, immature and a roving boomerang that can exact untold damages.
This too is the idiocy which had him sacked from BBA House thereby blowing chances of taking home US$300 000. 
It does not take one long to feel it. I felt it the first time I met him. It was not for an interview because I was never drawn to interviewing him although I value his talent and has always argued that if he gets a manager, he can be a big star.
I have, however, done two stories about Roki. The first was when he beat up his ex-wife, the mother of his daughter – Sky – Paulina at the East Gate in Harare.
I was passing by when I saw people rushing inside. I also dashed and there was Roki struggling with Paulina. He was shouting at her that their love was over.
The second time was in 2008 when he was arrested in the Avenues in possession of mbanje. Roki was arrested after police raided a flat in the Avenues area following media reports that he had confessed to abusing hard drugs.
At the time, Roki said abusing drugs was his way of life and that he took hard drugs regularly especially before live shows.
Since I loved Roki’s music and believed that if he got a good manager, he would realise his talents fully, I never wanted to interview him.
I have, however, put together various interviews from other sources to show how Roki has this death wish which could also be what led him to act recklessly and get expelled from the Big Brother Africa House Stargame after pushing Maneta too far.
In this 2003 interview below, Roki talks about urban grooves music, his friends, children, love life and background.
When and how did you get into music?
I was born into music. My uncle Kenny of the legendary Bhundu Boys taught me a lot from an early age. When I was eight I started to learn how to produce music. Basically, I can say I have always been in music before I got into the limelight that is in 2002 courtesy of [Delani Makhalima] Galaxy Records.
Who is your best friend?
I have few best friends; these are Leonard, Discord, 23 and Tendai in Australia.
Who is your greatest musician in Zimbabwe and why?
Thomas Mapfumo. No doubt the man is the best in this country because he is a revolutionary musician. His music has the power to change the way people think and that is real music.
Who is your greatest international musician and why?
Michael Jackson because he is the greatest musician of our time.
 Is there any future for urban grooves in Zimbabwe?
My question to that person is: 'Is there any future outside urban grooves? If so, what is it?' Urban grooves is the only future I see.
Do urban grooves make money from sales (CD/tape)?
Some do. I sell some CDs at live shows. The distribution of urban grooves CDs is not organised and a worrying issue. The music is not accessible anywhere and that is why people turn to burning CDs which in turn disadvantages the musicians, At the moment we are working on something to reduce the piracy.
 Is Roki into any other business other than music?
I am into entertainment business. I am a trained stage manager and apart from the business of entertainment, no I am not into any other business.
 Why do you dress like a girl?
 I was born in a family with girls only. If my style is a bit feminine it is because of my upbringing. I don't think I dress like a girl but I think girls are pretty and so am I.
Why did you dump Pauline? Do you think you will ever settle down?
First things first. People should know that Pauline is my first love. We broke up because Pauline and me are opposites. We are like terms and like terms repel, they do not attract. Both of us are musicians; we perform at shows some finish late. I wouldn't want that for a wife. I love and respect Pauline because she is a strong, independent and beautiful woman. I have now settled down and I am married (showing off his ring) to Amanda Enude. She lives here but because she is expecting my baby she has gone kunosungirwa kumusha kwake kuChipinge. She is a simple country girl who is a real African girl with a white skin. Wekumaruzeva chaiye ndowandinoda.
 Is it true that you have a beef with ExQ?
Baba Tray (ExQ) is my boy (hommie). There are people I will never throw away.
How many children do you have in Zimbabwe and abroad?
Sky is my first child and she is one year eight months. I am told of the existence of a Herbert, who is one year and four months old. He is named after my father you know and stays with his mother in South Africa. This is just speculation and I wonder if he is really my child because since he was born I have never seen him. Asi kana zvikawoneka kuti ndewangu handirambi. I intend to make a band filled with my children in 10 years' time. It has always been my dream to have a family like the Jackson family who were into music. There is also a boy named Rockford Josphat who is around and is only three months old and then the one I am expecting with Amanda whom I want to give a name that's like a surname like Josphat Josphat.
 Sei every time uchingoti masongs ako abiwa? Anobiwa sei evamwe asingabiwe?
I am a producer and I have a profession. Sometimes an artist can give an idea but fails to acknowledge it, Ndofefeterwa was mastered by Delani who is a good friend of mine but probably he gave Sunny and it later featured on his album. But I do not care anymore. Masongs aya ndeaMwari kubiwa kana kusabiwa I will always write another one. This industry is one with people with big knives waiting to cut other people's throats. It is survival of the fittest. The best survive.
Who is your source of inspiration?
God, my mother, Zimbabwe, Africa. I am very patriotic; my intentions are to make on 12 million people in my country rather than trying to do that outside like in South Africa where even the resident musicians are struggling.
How do you feel about you being mentioned in the song by Labash -'Kukonzeresa'?
Ko ndiri honzero ka! It's very flattering to have any man sing a song about you. I am thankful that I inspire a lot of people who write a lot of stuff about me.
Confirm that the baby who appears on your video Chidzoka is Sky your baby?
Yes it is Sky. The mother (Pauline) was there.
What advice would you give Sky if any guy breaks her heart?
Be strong like your mother (Pauline).
On the song Chidzoka were you singing for your former wife Pauline to come back?
 I was not singing for Pauline. I worked on that album way before we had broken up. The media blew my relationship with Pauline out of proportion. Pauline and I love each other. In as much as I am a public figure, the press, the world and my relatives need to stay the hell out of my life as well as Pauline's. That is my private life, People should stop giving advice because they don't know what really happened, Pauline and me talk all the time and we have never stopped talking. I have helped her produce some of her songs and we have worked together on some of Mafriq's songs.
Is it true that you wrote the song Ndokutevera by ExQ? 
No, ExQ wrote that song. It's Chucky who wrote that, he does not like urban grooves.
 Tell us about the feud with Nitready Studios?
There is no feud. Nitready and me we talk, tiri tight. Hazvina mari zvamafeud izvi.
What is your recipe to your well-polished videos, especially Chidzoka?
It is hard work, creativity and crew. Most importantly I offer my thanks to Bingo.
What is your comment that there is a dark side to urban grooves that is shown when they perform at shows? Do they live a wild and dirty life?
In this industry of entertainment a lot of what people see is make-believe. It is poli-tricks. At live shows topefomera vanhu vakadhakwa. They will be wild so we give them what they want. I am wild and it's nice. What do you expect, I went to a boys' school.

And in this interview, Roki is his other self

An hour with Rockford Josphat is like a day or even more. At the first instance he seems a rogue and appears spoilt, yet he is an intelligent young man. 
He takes your mind onto a psychological journey that leaves you hating him, but he has this charming ability that cannot be matched by many of his peers. When this reporter called Roki, he was first quizzed on his mission and given examples of the types of journalists he did not entertain, something that he later apologised for.
We met Roki at his house along Washington Avenue, Waterfalls, where he was relaxing with five friends. He stays with his new wife Melody “Chocolate” Musekiwa and their baby —this should be child number six for Roki, or at least. The house incorporates the studio where he has been doing his studio work and assisting other upcoming musicians. When we met he made sure he made it clear that our photographer knew he would receive a thorough hiding if he took any pictures.
“Chimbomirai kuita dzungu mudhara. Tinokuchayai mukangodaro. (Do not rush. We will beat you up if you do that),” he threatened. But he eventually opened up. “This is where I stay with my wife and child. Most of these youths hang around here doing music and other things that have to do with music, not street kids like what you guys report. “All along when I have been off the limelight this is where I have been. By the time I wake up there would be at least one artiste waiting for me so that we can start making music. That is my lifestyle.
“You know, I have come a long way and I have worked so hard on numerous projects with my friends but I have achieved nothing. That is why I decided to do my own thing now. Very soon you will be hearing bombshells from here.” In his speech he portrays a great degree of bitterness and he says it is because people do not appreciate the kind of person he is. He says even his friends forsake him after he would have done a lot for them.
Roki gave an example of a scenario where he was forcibly made to release his shareholding in a studio project that he had done with Edie “Nitredy” Dhliwayo. “Some guy just came and all of a sudden things changed and I had to sell my shares,” said Roki. Nitredy confirmed they had part ways with Roki but said the development was mainly because the young musician lacked discipline. But Roki believes people fail to understand him.
“I know sometimes I am insensitive and most people do not like that side of me but that is who I am. “Most of the people in this industry are double-faced so we have to be careful. You will even see one of them lying on my bed pretending to be my friend but as soon as they leave this place all that changes.” As confused and misdirected as he might appear, Roki or Baba Sky as he likes to be called is arguably one of the best artists to emerge from the urban grooves revolution.
He has written and produced a number of hits over the years and says he is soon going to release something even bigger. He also is bitter about the reluctance by various stakeholders in the music industry to embrace technological advancements. “CDs are damn expensive to make and they carry just a few tracks which are all going to be uploaded onto iTunes for free. You can imagine the huge sums of money we fork out to come up with these projects.
“I am working on creating a website where I can sell my music. If I can get US$0.10 for each download that’s better,” said Roki. He said he has lost faith in CDs and said he does not see reason for people to get into the streets with batons chasing after CD vendors who are just a small part of the problem.
“Downloading music onto a computer and uploading it onto iTunes and other sites for free is where the problem is. This is about syndicates of information technology experts and till we stop relying on CDs that cannot be encrypted we will remain poor.” - The Standard

Monday 4 June 2012

Rute Mbangwa jazz' new face

I met Rute Mbangwa when I was writing for the Southern Times way back in 2004. She had just released an album and being a jazz beat, I considered her very brave. Jazz, I had learnt over the years, is not for the faint-hearted or those who are out to make a quick buck.

When an instructor with the Children’s Playing Arts Workshop picked on the short stout girl to lead in the opera, Christmas in Africa way back in 1994, little did he know that he was setting her on a career that would see the girl emerging as Zimbabwe’s own Mama Africa.
Nine years later, Rute Mbangwa who never had any interests in jazz and never been involved in any musical ventures during her childhood, is today Zimbabwe’s most promising young jazz artist.
“I have a powerful voice,” Rute said. “And besides being soulful, it soothes.”
Explaining how she became interested in jazz music, Rute who is just 19 innocently said: “It just came. I real do not know. I had never had anything to do with it. I did not know the like of Louis Armstrong before.”
Admittedly Rute’s venturing onto the music scene was an accident but a harmless one.
After the experience with Christmas in Africa, Rute was fortunate to meet her cousin, Rockford ‘Rocqui’ Josphat, one of Zimbabwe’s leading urban groove artists during one holiday.
At the time, Rocqui was a member of his school choir and was very much into music.
“I remember that we wrote love songs together and then practiced singing them as Acapella,” recalled Rute. In 2000, their friends who were pupils at a Harare girls’ school invited the duo to perform during the Miss Valentine at Queen Elizabeth School in Harare where they sang their compositions much to the pleasure of those who had attended the function.
In 2001, they went to participate at the Spotlight Talent Identification Show in Harare as a duo but when they met three other aspiring musicians, Ngoni Kambarami, and the duo of one Jimmy and Newell who made up the group Anther Tribe.
“Once at the show, we teamed up with these guys and sang as Anther Tribe. We did copyrights of a song called Danna and Mafaro that I had co-wrote with Jimmy,” Rute said.
They were voted the best Afro-jazz group and the best overall group. For their efforts, they received Z$25 000.
One of the judges during the talent shows the renowned township jazz musician, Tanga Wekwa Sando, fell in love with Rute’s powerful and soulful voice.
“Tanga asked me to join him as a vocalist and dancer.
Together we did the album Shungu from which came the hit song Paida Mwoyo,” explained Rute.
Because she lives on music, Rute had to hold solo shows with the backing of jazz-fusion groups such as Summer Breeze with which she appeared during the 2003 Summer Jazz festival held at the Zimbabwe’s jazz joint, Jazz 105.
“I had an opportunity of trying my music on the people during these shows and it worked.”
She also worked with groups such as the youthful Afrika Revenge when they recorded their blistering second album, Qaya Musik whose plug song is Wanga. 
“Besides recording, we did a lot of shows with the guys.”
There was also Fungai Malianga who is now playing in pubs in the United Kingdom. “I backed him n live shows.”
“I also had a stint with Betty Makaya. In fact, I wrote one song for her and we co-wrote another,” she revealed.
She was drifting from Tanga at this stage.
And she started looking for a band that would back her. Too Open was a group that she had met during shows and somehow, they just clicked.
“They play the type of music I like. And it was natural that I had to work with them,” Rute who launched her debut album, If Only My Heart Had a Voice, in Harare said.
The album is a brilliant product, which with favourable airplay could propel the teenage artist to unprecedented stardom.
“It’s not all that easy,” she confessed. “Sometimes I wish I had not ventured into this (music). The radio stations are not supportive of us who play jazz. And with such attitude, our music is dying.”
Besides unsupportive radio stations, Rute bemoaned the footloose nature of band members who leave to join other bands thereby disrupting progress.
“There is so much exploitation in the local music sector. If you wish to perform as a curtain raiser for an established group, you will be told that provided it’s for free, you can come,” she said adding that sometimes she finds it better to just keep her cool.
She also said that if she chose to perform for free, she would still pay her backing group as well as many other sundries.
“If you show that you are desperate, then you are easy prey,” she said innocently.
What makes things more difficult for Rute is that she is doing her own marketing and promotion and that needs a lot of money.
Whatever the case, the fact that she dared venture alone into a zone that other older women had feared to go it alone, must be enough encouragement for Rute.
In fact at 19, she has a whole world ahead of her and enough time to correct whatever has gone wrong today.

Below is a one-on-one she did in March 2011 with Ruth Butaumocho, Herald entertainment editor

Jazz music in Zimbabwe is still regarded as a genre for the mature and still remains an exclusive ‘boy's club, looking at the number of male musicians who have done extremely well in this sector.
However, in the midst of all this, there are female artists who continue to make a mark in this sphere. Rute Mbangwa is one of the country's gifted jazz artistes who is not only a talented composer, but also possesses a powerful voice. Entertainment Editor Ruth Butaumocho (RB) had a chat with Rute (RM) on her career.
RB: Can you tell us about yourself?RM: I am a 26-year-old single mother. I was born and bred in Harare, and I did both my primary and secondary education in Marlborough.
RB: How did you venture into music?RM: I started when I was still very young, at the age of nine, which is when my talent for singing was discovered. Then I had joined Chipawo.
Because of my ability to sing, I would get roles in music in most theatre acts. In 2001, I participated in a talent show that was organised by ZBC called "Spotlight". Our group, which included the likes of Sebede, Roki Josphat, Newel and Ngoni Kambarami, came first in the jazz category.
It was at that event that I was spotted by Tanga (Wekwa Sando) and eventually got into jazz. In fact it was Tanga who nurtured my talent to be where I am today.
Having realised my capabilities as a musician, I then released my first album called "If Only My Heart Had a Voice", in 2004.
RB: That to me sounds like a passionate appeal to be heard. What was going on in your life at that time Rute?
RM: Well, personally there was nothing going on in my life at that time, but I was reaching out to hundreds of women who had just got married and only to realise that their husbands were cheating on them. In fact, it was a way of sharing their pain and also encouraging them to be strong and look at life in a different perspective.
RB: Being a female musician, do you think the landscape is conducive for women in arts?RM: The landscape is still far from being conducive for women artists because of a number of reasons and the majority of them are deeply entrenched in our socialisation. There is a lot of stereotyping in the arts, where female musicians are perceived to be women of loose morals, and go on stage specifically to hunt for men. You realise that female fans who attend shows with their husbands, also consider you as a threat when they see you on stage, dancing in a certain way which is part of the business anyway.
But of course you cannot rule out that there is another segment of women in the arts sector, who use sex symbols to attract men, by either using lurid language or going on stage semi-naked. In all fairness, you can still have a good show, even when you are fully clothed on stage. I am calling out on women to preserve our dignity as female artists.
RB: Do you feel as female artists you need some form of assistance, either from the Government or from other stakeholders?RM: Government should set up a cultural fund that should not only benefit women in the arts sector, but everyone who wants to kick-start his or her project in the arts.
RB: At one time you were touted as the next Miriam Makeba, but your fans have noticed that you have not been consistent in music. What has been keeping you busy?RM: I just felt that I needed a bit of sprucing up. I needed to edify myself and to improve my brand as Rute Mbangwa. So I went back to school and joined the Zimbabwe College of Music, where I was studying Ethnomusicology for two years.
I have also been taking private voice lessons to improve on my brand. I noticed that when I got into music, I didn't brand myself properly and I needed to do that. I just wanted to tell my fans that when I got into jazz, it wasn't my choice, but I guess my fans took me there, because they constantly referred to me as a jazz musician.
RB: Now that you are back, whither my sista?RM: I am working on my third album to be released soon. I will also be holding shows not only in Harare but also throughout the country.
RB: What has been some of the highlights of your career?TM: I had an opportunity to attend the Grahamston Festival a few years ago, and I also managed to represent the country in Algeria at the Pan African Festival, courtesy of the Ministry of Education. Namibia is one of the places that I have carried forward in my artworks.
RB: You are a cousin of Roki; does his controversial life bother you?RM: That is the way he is. People are different.
RB: Are you in a relationship?RM: Yes I am. Very much attached. We are still getting to know each other, and we have big plans.

Friday 1 June 2012

Betty Makaya sang about love - lots of it and loss of it

Betty and Jamal

If ever urban grooves will have heroes and heroins, Betty Makaya, one of the pioneers will be one of them. Unlike the recent outbursts inaptly referred to as urban grooves, Betty's duets and solos are about love - lots of it and loss of it - as well that elusive paradise every hopeful lover longs for.

Betty Makaya is one musician who is forever on a rebound. Every time she goes underground and is sought out by the media, she will say I am working on an album and will be back.
In 2007, she was trekked down to Victoria Falls just before giving birth and she revealed that she had written quite a number of songs and would be back on the scene soon.
That came back, if it ever happened, did not cause quitea stir. Of course, there have been some collaborations after that but not as big as the Kurwizi collabo with Jamal.
I believe she made her time and history as the first urban groove female musician of note. There is no doubt that her music still stands as pioneering urban grooves classics.
Although a great many others came when urban grooves is well defined, but Betty’s contribution will stand as fine examples of how good and inspiring urban grooves can be.
While the majority of urban grooves artists thrive on controversy, Betty never sought out such fame but made clean music which any parent can nod whenever their kids play it.
It was not fluke that Betty bagged the Zimbabwe Music Awards best urban grooves’ female (2004) and the best overall female musician (2004).
But that was a long time ago and I recall meeting Betty at the Harare International Conference Centre at the Sheraton Hotel on the night of the awards.
In a pre-awards announcement on the day, Betty made the audience gasp when she performed Kurwizi alongside Jamal.  Kurwizi is off Jamal’s album Ghetto.
Her album Ndichange Ndiripo cannot be squared up to any other because it defined urban grooves then. Betty came when there was no vulgarity in urban grooves. Singing about love – lots of it and loss of it – Betty had duets with Alexio Kawara and Langton Deo on Ngemheni.

Below she gives tit-bits of her life to Zimvibes
  Zimvibes: who inspired you to sing? Betty: i was inspired by a lot of people and things- firstly- i was inspired by my mother she meant a lot to me- god rest her soul, i was also inspired by people around me and the world as a whole.
  Zimvibes: Which artists have you done collaborations with?Betty: I have done collaborations with a lot of artistes which started on Kurwizi with Jamal on his debut album Ghetto which was released almost the same time with mine. Alexio Kawara on my latest album, i also collabod with Langton Deo on the song Ngemheni and many more.
   Zimvibes: Every big name has up and downs, what can u say was the greatest peak in your career?Betty: people believe my greatest peak was on my debut album but i think that is because that is when i started singing and people loved my music- 1st impression
is everything you know. but i believe my second album is even better and i felt I had matured musically.
   Zimvibes: Which song would you say on your albums is your favorite?Betty: I love the song 'Usipo' because it put me on the map- if u know what I mean, 'For You' wasn't too bad.
   Zimvibes: Can u tell us a brief breakdown of all your songs that were on the charts and summary of their Nominations and to date how many albums do you hold? Betty: Basically all the songs from my 1st album entered the Power FM charts and that album earned me The 2004 Zimbabwe Music Awards (ZIMA) Best Urban Grooves
Female and Best Overall Female Musician
 Zimvibes: Do u have any videos?Betty: I have a video for the song Usipo which i did when i was still at T.M.C, I also featured on Jamal's video for Kurwizi but i want to do a DVD album for all my songs very soon.
Zimvibes: Are there Any projects you working on at present, you would love to share to your fans? Betty: a whole new level in Zimbabwean music coming this year- its a promise. I will not talk much about it for i will spoil it for you- just wait and see.
 Zimvibes: Any Inspirational Words to some people who were influenced with you and other Upcoming Singers? Betty: keep moving forward, no matter how hard it may seem, just keep going and I guarantee you that you will make it, at least it worked for me.
Ndichange ndiripo Album
Betty Self Titled Album