Every once in a while, a drummer of exceptional quality emerges on the music scene and makes such an impact that it becomes hard not to notice his unique artistry.
Jethro Shasha, Jonnie Papas and Marshal Munhumumwe come to mind when discussing the best drummers to have come out of Zimbabwe’s townships so far.
Sadly, these great drummers have since passed on. However, Zimbabwe’s music industry is endowed with unlimited talent and Blessing Muparutsa has established himself as an outstanding drummer with a truly unique style.
Even though he has a strong jazz background, Muparutsa has a broad musical vocabulary and is at home with any genre from sungura, to jazz, gospel and even rock.
His style is subtle and not boisterous, even though he exhibits sudden bursts of energy when the particular song requires it.
Muparutsa is equally comfortable with the sticks and the brushes. He expertly times the music and makes the groove solid, ensuring that all the musicians in the band keep to the pace of the song.
He is one drummer who has this special way of teasing the snare drum with a light touch while keeping the beat tight in tandem with the bass, giving texture to the music.
Now playing for Oliver Mtukudzi, Muparutsa was born in a musical family in Mutare. His family members made up the core of the band the Real Unique Natural Notion (RUNN) Family.
Growing up, Muparutsa was always surrounded by musicians and at age eight, he asked his uncle to make him a set of drums out of cardboard.
“At age 12 I was stealing the keys to RUNN Family’s rehearsal room at St Joseph’s Mission and would spend hours banging away. I learned mostly from watching my brothers Tendai and Chamu on the drums,” said Blessing recently.
“My being in music was not a foregone conclusion because of the family background. Family members including my grandparents and brother Peter actually cautioned me on the pitfalls of the business. They advised me to focus on school so that I could pursue other careers. I had to formally apply to become a member of the RUNN Family,” he said.
The versatile drummer has recorded with over 30 artists to date.
He has also played for some of the region’s top artists including Thomas Mapfumo, Andy Brown, Ivy Kombo, Carol Munjoro, Dumi Ngulube, Busi Ncube, Leonard Zhakata, Mingas, Vuyo Mokoena, Lundi and Langa Dube.
Blessing is married to Zimbabwean jazz songstress Dudu Manhenga with whom he formed the band Colour Blu in 2000.
Dudu and Colour Blu have released five albums to date and Blessing has shown his depth by composing some of the songs on the albums.