Extra Large plots comeback

HARARE - Not so long ago Extra Large-a musical duo made of Jimmy Mangezi and Norman Manwere really loomed large.

Then, their witty lyrics almost always propelled them onto music charts and into major concerts at home and abroad.

But the emergence of Zimdancehall as a serious musical force saw Extra Large and many other urban grooves stars being knocked off their perch.

The duo, bred in Highfield, Harare, has increasingly become less visible over the last few years prompting music fans and critics alike to question if they still have what it takes to slug it out with Zimdancehall hard hitters like Winky D, Killer T and Soul Jah Love.

Extra Large, also known as Maroja, thanks to their hit Uri Roja, concede that their relevance is increasingly being questioned.

Stung hard by the criticism, the group has come up with a new album, fittingly titled “The Truth” which they hope will bring them back in the limelight.

“Most people think we are quiet but that is not the truth. We are still very relevant on the local music scene. We have titled the new album “The Truth” because it will remind people that we will always be the real deal,” Manwere told the Daily News on Sunday.

He added that on the new album, their 14th to date, they adopted “a more contemporary sound.”

“On the album “The Truth” we roped in different top music producers such as Oskid, T Man, and Levels so as to capture the most appealing sound which will appeal to our restless fans,” Manwere said.

The dreadlocked Mangezi is confident their new video for the song “Papi Pacho” will also play a part in revitalising the waning Maroja brand.

“The Papi Pacho video, which has been released ahead our new album, also shows that we are still very much around and relevant. The new album will be released next month,” he said.

Mangezi, though, admitted that the bulk of their 14 albums have failed to make an impact.

“We used to release studio projects on yearly basis but the majority of them failed to make an impact on the market due to a number of reasons. One of the factors was that we were affected by “cheap music” products that flooded the market.

“While we sold our music, which we recorded with reputable studios, other artistes, who recorded with some bush studios, were funnily giving away their music for free,” he said.

The dreadlocked artiste also believes Zimdancehall is getting preferential treatment at most radio stations.

“Uneven airplay at most radio stations have negatively affected us as well. Zimdancehall is getting overwhelming radio airplay compared to the other genres like urban grooves, sungura and Zimhiphop and that’s the truth,” he said.

Despite the fact that most Zimdancehall artistes are doling out their music for free, Extra Large insists that they won’t follow suit.

“The economic situation is very bad but that will not make us give away our music for free because we value our music.

“We once survived on the sale of our music. It’s a pity the current crop of artistes, especially the Zimdancehall ones, are not realising how much are they losing by giving fans music for free.

“Unlike the current crop of artistes, we were groomed by music legends such as Oliver Mtukudzi and the late Andy Brown among others who made us appreciate the value of being an artiste and the value of what we create.

“Platforms such as state galas contributed enabled us to interact with legends. I still remember when Brown gave us advice as we were doing the song Muti Wemusango .Sadly, the new crop of artistes have not got all this exposure and it is not surprising that they are not attaching value to the music they create,” Mangezi said forcefully.

According to Manwere, Extra Large is determined to help upcoming artistes take their craft more seriously.

“We set up a recording studio in Gazaland, Highfield in Harare. The studio is called SPM and its thrust is on promoting talented upcoming artistes. It is our way to plough back into the community.

“Though, the studio established early this year, seeks to promote mostly upcoming artistes, it has recorded established artistes like Pah Chihera, Guspy Warrior, Tocky Vibes and Shiga Shiga,” he said.

But how are they surviving without any meaningful local shows?

“We are focusing on concerts outside Harare and in other countries because Harare has become saturated with entertainment. We are still very good as a live band. Remember we were among the first urban grooves musicians to play with a live band even though we mostly relied on session instrumentalists,” Manwere said.

The two, who are now both married, are convinced that matrimony won’t affect the strong bond they have maintained since they were in Primary school.

“Hopefully I will wed this year as I recently got married (in December last year) just a week after Norman’s wedding but that won’t weaken the bond I have with my ‘twin brother’ Norman.

“We did not meet through music but we grew up in the same neighbourhood of Highfield (kwaGazaland).We went to same primary school(Rusvingo) and secondary school (Kwayedza) and at one point we were employed by the same company so you see, there is more between us than music. Music came later in our lives.

“Most bands split mainly because they meet later in life through music… Even our spouses now get along because of us. The only thing which will separate us is death, not women or money,” Mangezi boldly declared.

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