A few weeks ago, Hendrix Chagumuka, the son of the late legend, Robbie “Mwachewe” Chagumuka, launched his second album, Makorokoto, live on a local radio station from his base in Italy. NewsDay Features and Lifestyle Editor, Phillip Chidavaenzi (ND), tracked down Chagumuka (HC) and spoke about his music and other things. Here are the excerpts…
By Phillip Chidavaenzi
ND: Tell us about the discovery of your music muse. When and how did this happen?
HC: I’ve always been in love with music from childhood. I remember sneaking in to the houseand stealing my aunt’s acoustic guitar, although I didn’t know how to play, but it would give me satisfaction and seeing myself as a great musician in the future. As time went on, I started writing my own music, but never showed it to anyone. It was only in 2016, when I reconnected with my producer, Spencer Masango, who had worked with my father way back, and showed him what I had and he urged me to start recording and taking it a bit seriously. Today here we are, with the second album I guess it’s going to take us far.
ND: To what extent would you say your father’s music career has influenced yours?
HC: Mine is like the Bob and Ziggy Marley, Oliver and Sam Mtukudzi, Peter and Andrew Tosh, Zexie and Tendai Manatsa (father and son) scenario. I was influenced by my late father’s deep voice, his writing skills and of course the genre that has played a major role in my music as well as the influence that he had throughout the country. We had something in common, even when he was alive, it was natural love for traditional music.
ND: Was it a deliberate decision to ape your father?
HC: It was inevitable, since we both naturally loved traditional music. I remember way back, I think I wasn’t even yet 10, that I could tune in to ZBC’s Radio 2 (now Radio Zimbabwe) and listen to a programme that used to play pure mbira. I think it was called Dzavanagwenyambira. I loved it. I remember groups like Musha Waparara and Zata Zembe. Even some of my relatives aren’t surprised by what I’m doing right now. They knew that sooner or later, I would be like my father.
ND: Do you suppose your father would have wanted you to pursue music?
HC: Definitely! Definitely he would have wanted that because he had smiles all over whenever I danced. And I was a good dancer (laughs), or when I sang along to his favourite music. I’m sure he knew I could do this.
ND: So, is all this about reviving Robbie Chagumuka’s legacy?
HC: There are two things here. The first is about me expressing what I can do. The second is about me reviving the legacy. You know, when I said I met Spencer in 2016, he said: ’I think you have to do something about music, because I know you can do it and do it for the legacy and for those fans of his.‘
ND: How do you handle comparisons that are obviously made between you and your father?
HC: I’m a positive person and I am my own man. Comparing me with him makes me work harder and pushes me to achieve more. It’s like they are putting me in a competition, whatever project I embark on, I have to make sure I do my best. But above all, I am my own man.
ND: Do you suppose traditional music still holds sway with the younger generation of music listeners?
HC: I’m afraid not. There are a lot of factors, but I can only talk about only one. We are not being authentic. We tend to fall for some other cultures, imitating artistes from other countries. No matter who we are and where we go, let’s be proud of who we are and that’s the only way to keep our identity. Let mbira music be played in Europe, America and Asia and let it be known as Zimbabwean. I’m sure most youths consider it outdated. That’s sad.
ND: Would you say traditional music is still accorded its rightful place?
HC: It’s not. It’s sad how rapidly we are losing it. I think art schools and colleges, even universities that teach ethnomusicology, have to do more. The first thing is to educate young people about the importance of our culture, our traditional music, starting from basic Early Childhood Development level. We need more of these arts schools all over the country and especially in urban areas to help develop this genre. Let that be introduced in formal schools as well. It is at that tender age where they start appreciating their culture.
ND: The duet with Willis Wataffi. How did that come about?
HC: I am sure we all remember Willis from Afrika Revenge. Willis is my friend, Mukorekore mabiyangu (we are both from the Korekore tribe). When I went to meet up with Spencer at his Track Records Studios to talk about the Hupenyu/Life project, Willis was there. He heard the songs and was interested. I asked him to feature on the song, Kudakwashe, but then later on he ended featuring on Mwanasikana too. He is an experienced artiste and he was so easy to work with. His voice added great value to my first album.
ND: Do you have any plans to hold live shows anytime soon?
HC: This is a must. We are currently talking to a promoter who contacted me, so as soon as we finalise the deal, I will be in Zimbabwe for a number of shows.
ND: There are tracks such as Temba Nechako, in which you blend your vocals with your father’s. What was the idea behind that concept?
HC: I’ve always loved his song, Temba Nechako. I thought I should do some kind of remix and have his voice on the chorus and it worked. I’ve always imagined singing with him the way we used to sing when I was a kid. I have happy and sad feelings, whenever, I play it but in the end, I find myself smiling. I love it. I know he would have loved the idea of us singing together.
ND: Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
HC: Like they say, the sky is the limit. This album, Makorokoto, has given me more strength. It’s my fans who will determine where I am going to be, but I’m positive that we are going far and we are going to be big, big in Zimbabwe just like one of my father’s compositions.
ND: Your parting shot?
HC: Just so that you know, my name is Hendrix, and I was named after America’s greatest guitarist and my dad’s favourite, Jimi Hendrix. Finally, I have a lot in store for my fans.