AFTER winning the 2007 Chibuku Road to Fame’s top prize, sungura wonder kid, Romeo Gasa, was touted as a blossoming star. But it appears as if the Extra Valembe frontman — who was even touted as Alick Macheso’s fierce competitor because of his exceptional bass guitar strumming skills — has found his music career fledgling, even after four albums.
Despite the setback, Gasa (RG) has soldiered on and believes he still has what it takes to resuscitate his glory days.
NewsDay Life & Style Reporter, Winstone Antonio (ND), spoke with the musician about his career and below are the excerpts.
ND: How best can you describe the current state of sungura music in the country?
RG: It is not that other genres are not good. As much as it is good to have many genres on the showbiz scene for people to have variety, I believe sungura is still on top.
What is needed for sungura to maintain its flair is to reinvent it, to create an authentic, modern-day sound that appeals to people of different music tastes.
ND: With music promoters mainly opting for crowd-puller artistes, do you believe you still have the mojo to fight for space in showbiz?
RG: It was difficult at first, but I have come of age, as I used to underrate my potential. I have since realised that I am also a crowd puller.
Gone are the days when I used to look down upon myself, listening to words from haters, who underestimated my potential.
Fans love me wherever I go. I hear them saying Romeo is gifted. I used to play outside Harare, but I have since discovered that I am a crowd puller filling many venues out there.
I am fighting for my space to satisfy my fans, not competitors.
ND: There have been theories that some sungura musicians use juju (lucky charms) to woo fans to their shows and sell their music. Do you believe in such claims?
RG: As for lucky charms, I can safely say yes. People are using different things, but not that everyone who has made a breakthrough is using lucky charms.
Personally, I don’t use lucky charms, because it is very dangerous. I believe this is the reason why some musicians end up destitute.
ND: You have been repeatedly accused of lacking originality, with critics alleging that you mimic sungura maestro Alick Macheso and the late Tongai Moyo. How has this impacted your career?
RG: As for originality, it is now water under the bridge because I am now my own man and can give competition to anyone in sungura.
I have developed my own sound in a bid to escape that copycat tag. I have since introduced female dancers and backing vocalists and even my sound has now been modified to rhumba-sungura.
That copycat tag where people would say you are as good as mudhara Macheso or you are too smart like Tongai, helped me to gain ground in the industry.
ND: Does this also apply to your guitar antics, including strumming the strings with your forehead and other parts of the body, pioneered by Macheso?
RG: It is part of the job. One has to do that to add value to their performance. I can now play the guitar hanging upside down and doing many other antics.
ND: How far true are claims that you don’t see eye-to-eye with Macheso?
RG: That is a lie. Mudhara Macheso is like a father to me. Whenever we meet, I consult him and he advises me a lot that he sometimes asks why I would not be visiting him at his home.
I respect that man, as I have learnt and will continue to learn a lot from him. I have respect for his work. As for now, I am only taking over from where he is now.
ND: What is in store for your fans in 2018?
RG: I am not resting at all. This year I have adopted a different approach to my music. We are taking a serious approach.
In fact, a different one from the way we used to do things in previous years. I believe I still have what it takes for me to bring back my glory days on the local showbiz scene.
Extra Valembe is always on the road playing at sold-out shows across the country, especially in Chinhoyi, Guruve, Bindura, Mt Darwin and many other towns outside Harare.
ND: Thank you for your time.
RG: My pleasure