Music has been with him since he was in his mother’s womb. He started playing drums in church when he was eight, turned professional at 15 and formed his own band at 23. At 26, he cut a record with a second on the way and has toured 20 countries. And yet, there are miles to go with a possible Grammy on the way, says Blessing Chimanga, lead vocalist of a Zimbabwean Afro-Jazz quartet bearing his name that will be performing in Mumbai on Friday.
“The music bug bit me when I was still in my mother’s womb. From the early stages of my life, it was already very clear that I would become a musician for life. The kind of childhood toys I had were all musical, I used to play with tins and pots… and all this has a clear sting of the music bug,” Chimanga told IANS in an email interview ahead of his second visit to India, during which the quartet will also perform in Chennai and Bengaluru.
“When I was eight years old, I started playing drums at church and at 15, I turned professional and started playing with some of the big artistes in the country,” he added.
After seven years as a drummer, during which he toured the world with various artistes, he decided to branch out on his own in 2012 and co-founded with two Italian musicians a group called ZIMBOITA — Zimbabwe and Italy Music Collaboration.
“Our aim was to spread music in both Europe and Africa showcasing the combination and collaboration,” Chimanga explained.
He launched the Blessing Chimanga Quartet in 2014 and started working on his first album, “Dreams”, which came out a year later.
“The eight-track album had a great impact on the Zimbabwean and international market affording me the opportunity to travel and play at big festivals and concerts. Two of the songs became very big hits and received great airplay from all national radio stations,” Chimanga said. His second album is expected towards the end of the year.
How would he describe the quarter’s style of music?
“My style of music is Afro-Jazz with a Casablanca feel and is highly characterised by the use of the marimba (akin to a xylophone) as the leading instrument of the band. The music is full of inspiration, motivation, passion and a lot of energy. I mainly compose in Shona (Zimbabwean language) and English. The music is unique,” Chimanga said.
What adds to the overall effect is the fact that he writes his own music and lyrics.
“The music is based on my life journey, the issues happening in our world, the future and the hopes and dreams we have to make this world a better place. The music is also influenced by the mixture of culture and the exposure I have received from travelling around the world,” Chimanga explained.
How did the Mumbai visit come about?
“In 2016, we had the privilege to be invited to a special festival in Chennai called Global Isai Festival. It was at this festival that we started the partnership with the Eddie and Exodus team who are now my official Asian booking agents. Through this company, we have been connected to many venues, many cities and this is how Mumbai came to happen… in this trip we will also tour Chennai, Bangalore and Kerala.
The quartet — which also includes Elisha Zimbeva (keyboards/music director), Blessing Muparutsa (drums) and Carmen Hwarari (backing vocalist/mbira [thumb piano]/recorder), will be performing at The Stables eatery in suburban Marol.
The journey as a musician and leading a band, Chimanga said, “has been very interesting with a lot of up and downs. A lot of good days and also bad days. A lot of lessons learnt and a lot of contacts. Myself and the band we have created a unique sound that is special and very new”.
And yet, a lot remains to be done.
“I see the road ahead very clear, very open for me and a big highway for me to run with my dreams until they become a reality. I see the road with a lot of more opportunities to visit many more countries, perform on even bigger stages, be on demand for booking and be able to deliver world class performances.”
(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at [email protected])