Breaking New Ground: The rebirth of Willom Tight


To many people he is best remembered as a has-been, a yesteryear hit-maker who went underground. Some might have concluded that he is down and out. Considering the manner in which events were nose-diving in his life, even he was convinced that he might be due for retirement, but fate could not have any of that. The talented Wilbroad Muponda, affectionately known as Willom Tight, is still a force to reckon with as his star refuses to fade away. With his recent collaboration with the Malian crooner, Salif Keita ‘‘Mansa of Africa’’, Willom Tight’s musical career could be headed for a rebirth.

Willom Tight collaborated with Keita in the song “African Paradox”, which is set to feature on his 15-track album entitled “Manifesto”. The album will be his fifth. Willom Tight confessed that he still cannot believe the recent developments considering that he had been on the verge of retiring from music.

“Most people thought that I was done. The collaboration with Keita still seems like a clip from a movie, even I am finding it hard to believe,” explained Willom Tight. “I was concentrating on mentoring my son and seeing him grow in music. But it seems God had his way of reviving my career. Most musicians that I come across ask me how I did it (the collab with Keita) and I always tell them that it is the hand of the Lord working in my life.”

Willom Tight says working with Keita was a great experience and an eye-opener on how to deal with music professionally. “Sometimes we think that some things cannot happen, but believe you me, anything can happen. Working with Keita rejuvenated my spirits,” said Willom Tight. “ Keita is such a simple guy despite the international fame that he has. Above all, he made me feel proud to be a Zimbabwean because he praised our local vibe a lot (Chimurenga music) saying it is unique. “Keita is someone who is so much in love with his work and he showed me a high level of professionalism that I didn’t expect. I picked a few notes from him and I know they will also help me grow as a musician.”

Many would be wondering how Keita and Willom Tight met and worked on the collab.

Willom Tight said they met through his musical stable, Shamiso Music and Entertainment.

“Shamiso Music called me to go down to South Africa for about three weeks and when I got there they told me that they were working on a project themed ‘Africa’ and they wanted me to be a part of it,” he said.

“So, in three weeks of intensive work I had to come up with 15 songs, most of which were talking about Africa. My producer then sent my song ‘African Paradox’ to Keita. He listened to it and liked it.”

After listening to the track, Keita then requested to listen to the whole album and the afro-pop maestro was swept off his feet by Willom Tight’s musical prowess. That is when he agreed to work on the collaboration. The track was recorded in South Africa at Shamiso Music and Entertainment studio, which is owned by South African-based Zimbabwean, Gilbert Muvavarirwa.

The song was also adopted as a sound track for the movie ‘Road to Freedom Peak’ shot in Uganda and premièred in March.

“The song I did with Keita is likely to appear in two versions, one in English and French and the other one in French and Bambara (Keita’s mother language),” said Willom Tight.

Keita (born August 25, 1949) is an afro-pop singer and songwriter. He is unique not only because of his reputation as the ‘‘Golden Voice of Africa’’ but because he has proved that his albinism should not be a hindrance to being an international star and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Emperor Sundiata Keita. The collaboration with Keita is the final confirmation that Willom Tight has finally broken into the international music industry. The album “Manifesto” carries various genres like house, jazz, Afro-fusion and traditional music.

On the same album, Willom Tight also worked with a number of regional artistes — Hugh Masekela, Max Vidima, Erik Paliani (Malawi), Bongo Riot, Gang of Instrumentals and Speedy from Bongo Muffin, among many others.

“I had bought studio equipment as I was toying with the idea of retiring and starting to help the youths in my community set their feet in the musical industry,” he explained.

“Inasmuch as I’m thinking of retiring, the truth of the matter is that my musical career could be starting all over again. I’m now testing new markets, in fact, I’m breaking new ground.”

Willom Tight started his career with the group Bliss Combination that played museve in 1995. Since then he has worked and shared the stage with other talented Zimbabwean musicians such as the superstar Oliver Mtukudzi, Mateo, born Matthew Kaunda and Dino Mudondo, among others. He has also worked as a solo artiste and with his own group Willom and the Tight Family. He is married with three children. –

July 2014
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