Mono’s musical journey

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Since leaving Oliver Mtukudzi’s Black Spirits about three years ago, lead guitarist and music producer Mono Mukundu has made great inroads through his recording stable, Monolio Studios.

NewsDay reporter Pride Gonde (ND) spoke to Mukundu (MM) about his many years in the music industry.

ND: Who inspired you to pursue music?

MM: Fortune Mparutsa was of great influence. Although he produced a different type of music I enjoyed his perfect fusions. I also enjoy the works of Andrew Baird as well as Bothwell Nyamhondera. I also admired guitarist Jonah Sithole.

ND: What do you miss about your days as a full-time performing musician?

MM: I am still a full-time artist so nothing has really changed. I just spend more time in the studio than on stage now.

ND: When did you first realise you wanted to be a producer?

MM: I always wanted to be a musician. When I was five years old, I was already focused on music. Producing music came with my experience in the music industry.

ND: What are the best and worst things about being a producer?

MM: The best thing about being a producer is watching your artists prosper on the ideas you put on their music and the worst is when you work with untalented people.

ND: What kind of training did you have to go through to become a producer?

MM: Mainly I am a guitarist, but I also play bass, keyboards, two types of mbira, marimba, flute, drums and also arrange music. My experience in the music industry was enough to teach me the basics of producing music.

ND: Could you tell us about your studio? On the technical side of things, what type of equipment do you use?

MM: In terms of equipment, my studio is not the best in town, I have what I could afford, but I know how to produce much from the little I have, I have a good 16-track mixer, good small monitors, good computer, drums, guitars, keyboards and my favourite instrument is the guitar.

ND: Do you have any fun or crazy stories that you can tell about your experience in the studio?

MM: I always meet people who think they can sing, they think anybody who can speak can sing, which is wrong, singing music is a gift for a small selected group of people, so I turn them away with their money, to protect my name.

ND: What do you like to do for fun besides working on music?

MM: I love spending time with my wife Jean and our kids. I would be with them whenever I am free.

ND: Do you have a single greatest accomplishment so far as a producer?

MM: There are many, Hope Masike’s debut album, Transit Crew’s Unity album, G56, Alexio Kawara and others.

ND: Who is the craziest artist you have worked with and who is the most serious?

MM: One crazy group is G56, who come to the studio with a cooler box full of beer, the studio session ends just when there is no more beer. But they are serious though. Transit Crew is also a no nonsense and serious band

ND: Since you have such a solid grasp of the music industry, who are some up-and-coming bands you recommend our readers check out?

MM: Groups like G56, Faith December, Taku Mafika, Tina Watyoka, Mcintosh and Qude.

ND: Is it possible to make someone who is a terrible singer with no vocal training sound like a professional singer on recording?

MM: Teaching someone to sing will not put the gift into that person, it depends, but there are some who are totally hopeless, who must use microphones for announcements and preaching only.

ND: How long does it normally take you to record an album?

MM: Each project has its own style, sometimes I spend three days, three months, or at times a full year, or two, so there is no fixed time, but styles like sungura don’t consume much time because they don’t demand too many arrangements, so sungura guys at times record a full album in a day.

ND: What advice would you offer to aspiring music producers?

MM: To be a producer you need serious knowledge on how music works, deeper knowledge of the styles you want to major in, good ear to be able to tell when someone has gone off key and you also need to play an instrument so it will be easy to structure music for the artists

ND: Any final comments?

MM: I just want to urge artists to be original, be proud to be Zimbabweans and work hard to be recognised internationally.