Artistes are a mirror of society: Zhakata

HARARE - Zora music star Leonard “Karikoga” Zhakata believes an artiste is like a church institution that accommodates all members of society.

“You are like a hospital,” Zhakata says. “A hospital should take care of all persons regardless of political background, colour or creed. And that is what an artiste stands for.

“I stand for the people and my country. But because of political strife in Zimbabwe, you either belong to them or the other side. You know, and as an artiste I said to myself: ‘No, I have to be very neutral.’”

With some times politically charged lyrics, Zhakata says people were free to interpret it the way they feel.

“That is art, and I am not confirming or denying that my music is political,” he says.

“I say so because, you know, artistes sometimes do compose out of the memories of their backgrounds, the day-to-day experiences, their feelings, you know, all sorts of things.”

Born in 1968 Zhakata spent his early childhood in his rural village in Rusape. This was at the height of the liberation struggle to free Zimbabwe against white minority rule.

“It was a bitter and fierce war that taught me to be a man,” he recalls.

“I used to meet Zimbabwean freedom fighters and visited their bases. They would gather during the night for political open air meetings and everyone was to attend.

“There was no choice and it is from there that I learnt a lot from these freedom fighters, although I was still very young.”

He said the freedom fighters preached a message of hope, black freedom and all the good that an independent country can offer.

“Everyone embraced the messages. I admired the fighters, but years down the line today you find whatever was preached is being breached,” he says.

“So I look backwards, try to capture the message and promise of the past and compare it with what is happening. Some of the songs I wrote them then. And when I sing them, people think I am now a politician.”

He said the idea that he sings politics was started with the media.

“The media alerts people on what is released, like when I released Mubikira and Hodho which were said to be political, an independent newspaper reviewed my music but since they were also viewed as anti-government, receiving coverage from them meant that I was an enemy of the State.

“From the media, then ordinary people pick it up — the politicians, civic society and the generality of the populace spices my lyrics to suit their immediate problems. Others actually replace my lyrics.”

The musician is a devoted Christian who used to be a member of AFM, then went to Upper Room Ministries and now is a member of Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s UFIC.

Zhakata, who recently released Zvangu Zvaita, a seven-track gospel-induced album, rose to prominence with his 1994 hit album Maruva Enyika which contained the hit song Mugove.

“Maruva Enyika was actually my third album release,” he says. “But I agree, its release saw my music career reaching unexpected heights — in terms of sales and popularity. My live shows also witnessed an upsurge in attendance figures.

“I released my debut album Yarira Mhere in 1991 and it comprised songs we rerecorded on a later album, Kumera KweZora. Before the debut album, we had released several single records.”

The diminutive singer has released close to 20 music albums.

“I recorded two of them – Yarira Mhere and Shungu Dzemoyo together with Thomas Makion, my late cousin collectively known as Maungwe Brothers,” Zhakata says.

He said at first he played more of the sungura beat, then later infused rhumba elements.

“I recorded the first two albums under Gramma Records but due to some contractual misunderstandings, I moved to another record company Zimbabwe Music Corporation (ZMC) and in 1994 released the album Maruva Enyika.”

In 1995, he released Nhamo Dzenyika which critics sledged as an average release, but the 1996 album Nzombe Huru was to surpass Maruva Enyika. The doors then really opened for the star, as it sold a staggering 77 000 copies in two weeks.

“I also did an experimental traditional album Mandishorei — way far away from my usual beat. It was very successful, but that is the only traditional album I have done to-date.

“In 1997, I released Vagoni Vebasa which was followed by equally important releases Ndingaite Sei? and Kumera KweZora.”

The singer then decided to call his music Zora, short for ‘Zhakata’s Original Rhythms of Africa’.

“I was actually looking for a brand name for my music. I thought Zora music was a good name because I found that within my music, there was the influence of West African, East African and South African music beats. So when I released Kumera KweZora in 1999, I wanted to cement the brand name and it has stuck with my fans.

“In 2000, I released Pakuyambuka which looked at our entering into the next millennium. Pakuyambuka means crossing and it was like now we were getting out of the previous century into a new one.”

More albums were to follow in the next years including Zora 2000, Mubikira, Udza Vamwe and Tine Vimbo.

Comments (4)

well done homie. I have been following your music since you began up to now

mhondonge - 11 August 2014

You are my star man. Keep it up.

Kufakwejeyi - 11 August 2014

yergh, that's the man, zhakata you are trully an inspiration to the youth and the old, your lyrics are mature and educational I, salute yo hommie keep it up, Jah bless you

paradzai jande - 12 August 2014

yergh, that's the man, zhakata you are trully an inspiration to the youth and the old, your lyrics are mature and educational I, salute yo hommie keep it up, Jah bless you

paradzai jande - 12 August 2014

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.