Zim music industry has long way to go: Audius

HARARE - Rhythm and blues (R & B) musician Audius Mtawarira has been a favourite of many in Zimbabwe since he rose to fame with the song If Only You Knew 11 years ago.

While based in Australia, the affable Mtawarira became an in-house producer for Sony Music headquarters in Australia a position which led him to write and produce music for several top musicians including Tramar Lacel Dillard popularly known as Flo Rida and Christopher Brian Bridges who is better known as Ludacris.

Mtawarira, a winner of many awards while based Down Under, produced 4 albums with hits that are Audius (2002), Ever After (2003), Music and Me (2005) and Day Like This (2008).

Ever since the death of his father Augustine Mtawarira last year, Audius has got more involved in cattle ranching at his late father's farm.

The Daily News on Sunday's Tarisai Machakaire (TM) recently spoke to Audius (AM) on his music career. Below are excerpts of the interview:

TN: Are you in Zimbabwe to release a new album?

AM: Yes, I am but I am also here to spend some time at home. I get a lot of puzzled looks when I tell people I am home on a semi-permanent basis.

I have been away since 1996! I felt like it was time to re-connect with who I truly am. No amount of success abroad was going to make me forget that I am Zimbabwean at heart.

The other reason why I am home is because I recognise the investment potential that exists in the re- emerging Zimbabwean economy. I would hate not to be a part of something so significant in the history of this country.

Our local industry needs well exposed participants so I am here to play my part.

I will be releasing an album titled House of Stones which will include tracks such as Chete and Maruva Enyika.

I will also be releasing a compilation album with a number of songs that people have enjoyed over the years such as If Only You Knew, Muchandiona and Amai.

TN: Are you still with Sony BMG?

AM: My contract with Sony BMG as a staff producer ended in 2007. I then worked for Sony ATV as a music director and artiste developer till 2011 when I ended my publishing contract with them. I am still signed to Universal Music Publishing (UMP) worldwide.

TN: What is your role at UMP?

AM: As a writer and producer my function is to continue writing songs for artistes both on and off the UMP roster so I still travel around the world and often find myself in the company of some great music icons. I recently returned from LA where I was in the studio with Mel B (Spice Girls)

TN:  Is it true that you have written songs for top artistes; who are they?

AM: In the years I spent in Australia I had the honour of working with several well respected and highly successful artistes such as Delta Goodrem, Jessica Mauboy, Iyaz, Flo Rida and even Ludacris. Behind the scenes I received several ARIA and APRA nominations and Awards. I was often referred to as Australia's best R&B/ pop writer and producer.

TN:  Are you married? If yes, how many kids do you have?

AM: Yes I am married and I have two children - Shona and Audius jnr.

TN:  What is your impression of the Zimbabwe music industry?

AM: I think our music industry has quite a distance to travel. It has flourished on a local level but the next step is to become more competitive on the continent and global scale.

I believe we need to become more refined in our selection process and be better at putting our best foot forward.

The future generation of musicians needs good grooming by good example.

We must also work on being more diverse because a population has different demographics and subcultures.

I believe our radio programming is often neglecting various genres that should have a lot more media space as they appeal to a more mature and dedicated listener- which equals a better platform for corporate interest and a solid fan base for artistes to flourish.

Playing a little of everything will not create a better industry - instead we need to be more musically selective and play a lot of the best material.

It increases the competition platform for artistes to better their musicality which will then involve production houses thus guaranteeing a working industry and better quality export of Zimbabwean talent. 

TN: Which new crop of artistes has impressed you the most?

AM: I am very impressed by the Hip-hop part of our local works. I think all are to be commended but the "Few Kings" collaboration is nothing short of impressive. Artistes like Junior Brown, Tehn Diamond, Yagi Dojo, Karizma, Simba Tags, Juan Take, and Ma are some of the artistes who have impressed me the most.

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