Lure of pound fails to sway music star

BULAWAYO - Some have said it is the land of honey and gold but others such as legendary musician Oliver Mtukudzi, simply warn: “there is nothing to talk home about, inhava izere mhepo”.

It is the Diaspora.

Yet, despite the mixed fortunes accompanying people’s experiences in the diaspora, many still view it as a better place than home.

And rarely do you hear someone claiming to have left the much-sought after Diaspora to return home and pursue a musical career.

Bulawayo-based Mandla Gama has gone against the trend.

Gama who left the country at the peak of economic woes and stayed in the United Kingdom for six years, chose to return home to pursue a career in music.

Gama who now leads a musical group called One Step Ahead, seems determined into making his career flourish.

With two albums under his belt, Gama has vowed to give a new lease of life to the face of the Bulawayo jazz music industry which for years has been on the slide.

Gama, who recently released his second album, said he is not stopping at anything considering his resolve to augment his visibility by performing in public and posh venues dotted around the city.

The album recorded with Gramma Records in the capital follows his debut piece titled Funa Sizwe Ngawe released last year.

About four months ago Gama teamed up with Derrick, the son of self-exiled Lovemore Majaivana, to conduct live shows in and around the city.

As a team, they have performed at Jabula Inn in Esigodini, Cape to Cairo and the Horizon Pub in the city.

Though the two could not get along due to some differences Gama has remained steadfast.
 
He is one of the few jazz musicians who have been conducting solo shows at community halls dotted around the high density suburbs despite reluctance by local promoters to sign him.

He is also one of the musicians who were chosen by Amakhosi Cultural Centre director Cont Mhlanga to be part of the inaugural Jazz Festival which is set to be launched before year end.

Daily News on Sunday visited the upcoming musician at his home in Mzilikazi suburb where he bared his soul about his emerging career.

“My first album released last year was recorded here in Bulawayo. Some of the songs on the album have been played on Radio Zimbabwe and National FM but generally it was not that much of a success,” he said.

“I then realised that on my second project I needed to work with well-established companies such as Gramma and that’s how I decided to come up with something new, Groovy Town which is already in the market,” he said.

Gama’s interest in the music fraternity started some time back when he was in the United Kingdom, where he wrote a number of tracks but could not record them in that country for some reasons.

“I then felt that I needed to go back home to pursue a career in music,” he said.

When he returned in 2007, the first thing he did was buying his own set of musical equipment and formed a band. “During that period the economic conditions were just tight so I stopped a little bit until last year when I finally managed to put things together and came up with my debut album.”

In the new album Gama fused Shona, Ndebele and English as part of his endeavour to cast the message across different tribes.

“As an artiste you need to preach your gospel to everyone in the country, so actually I was trying as much as I could to reach out to every Zimbabwean citizen in the languages that I understand,” said Gama.

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