Collaborations healthy for African musicians

Harare – WHEN music superstars from the Southern African region mooted the idea of morphing their talents and cultures together to form the regional music ensemble Mahube, the result was nothing short of being electric, eclectic and enriching to the world of African music. 

It proved that African musicians together as one can bring their diverse music talents on one stage and use it as a vehicle of sharing their experiences, relating their stories and chart the course that Africa can take if it is to emerge from the doldrums of poverty, war, disease and plunder. 

Mahube formed in the late 1990s encompasses African rhythms in the southern Africa and founder and director of the project 

Steve Dyer, said in an interview then: “Mahube means ‘new dawn’ in Sotho and it’s a collaboration of 12 musicians from different groups from four countries.” 

Dyer, a South African saxophonist, has worked with top local musicians including Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela and Philip Tabane. 

While living in Zimbabwe, he formed his own band, the Southern Freeway, and started interacting with other musicians, including Oliver Mtukudzi, the renowned Zimbabwean musician. 

“Mtukudzi is an amazing vocalist; his powerful voice is one of the most distinctive. Working with him was a great experience and it was then that I started to work on the idea of collaborating with other artists to interpret Southern African sounds,” says Dyer. 

Other band members of Mahube are Suthukazi Arosi (vocals), a local award-winning singer and actress, South African Scorpion Madondo (saxophone, f lute), Malawian George Phiri (vocals, guitar), Bheki Khoza (guitar), Phinda Mtya (vocals), Barry van Zyl (drums), Feya Faku (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andile Yenana (piano, keyboard), Herbie Tsoaeli (bass guitar, double bass) and Tlale Makhene from Swaziland (percussion). 

It was a good thing to see gospel musicians from Zimbabwe collaborating with their South African counterparts for the Nguva Yakwana Gospel Music Festival which was held in Zimbabwe more than a decade ago and this saw the likes of Rebecca Malope, Sipho Makhabane, Lundi, Buhle, collaborating with their brothers and sisters like Elias Musakwa, Mercy Mutsvene, Kudzi Nyakudya, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave for concerts and studio projects. 

That was the time when Zimbabwe was going through a rough patch economically and with the help of their South African compatriots, they used gospel music as an antidote to the travails that Zimbabweans and South Africans were going through. 

“Nguva Yakwana”, translated from the Shona language, means “the time has come” and the artistes from the two countries used this phrase as a rallying call against economic poverty and the numerous other challenges that that the two countries were facing. 

In a similar vein, Malian mega-star Salif Keita did the same with Zimbabwe’s Wilbrod Muponda whose stage name is Willom Tight and knowing how the “Mansa of Mali” is passionate about issues to do with human rights, so as Willom, the combination by the duo is a sure-fire collaborative effort laden with gems that speak about Ubuntu, Pan-Africanism, universal suffrage, love and peace. 

Last year, the song “Y-tjukutja” was voted as one of the best at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards and deservedly so owing to the enormous work that went into it by South African and Nigerian artistes. 

In this song, the artistes proved that boundaries can be broken, languages can be harnessed, cultures can be shared and exchanged and music can be projected to speak to the world in one common voice, vibe and beat ultimately marrying people in dance. 

Artistes Uhuru, Oskido, Professor, Yuri Da Cunha and DJ Buckz threw their all into this African song that was to captivate the world with its irresistible and infectious beat. In a way, collaborations help to mend relations that might have thawed between nations, and also serve as a bridge that links different nationalities together. Collaborations are also windows of business opportunities for the artistes themselves performance-wise. 

It is hoped that more and more collaborations are done and at one point in time, involve as many artistes from the continent as possible to do what can be an anthem song for the mother continent.

July 2015
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