AFRO-FUSION vocalist Willis Wataffi has remained a dominant force in the local music industry from the early 2000s, during which time he was part of the exciting trio — including Mehluli Moyo and songbird Chengetai, then popularly known as Chichi — that made headlines with their music.
SOUNDTRACK with Freeman Makopa
Nearly 20 years later, Wataffi has remained standing having ventured into a fruitful solo career that has seen him scoop seven music awards.
The highlight of his long music career was probably in 2004 as part of Afrika Revenge when they bagged four awards in one night at the Zimbabwe Music Awards — Best Jazz Album, Song of the Year for Wanga, Best Male Artiste and Best Newcomer. The following year they clinched Outstanding Album Award for their album, Afrika Revenge Presents Qaya Musik.
The group went on to win a total of eight awards.
For Wataffi, however, his fate was not sealed with the collapse of Afrika Revenge and, in his own words, “God is in the business of restoring lost careers and legacies”.
Having emerged from the ashes of Afrika Revenge as a glowing ember, winning another Nama this year was ample proof that he is a man with staying power and still in the game.
His latest work is more like retracing his footsteps back to the source, immersed in the deep spiritualism of his Korekore people in the northern parts of Zimbabwe.
With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the world, Wataffi, through his audio and visual companies Qaya Rootz Musik and Qaya Rootz pictures Africa together with his Foundation and UnitedArtists.org has worn his artistic and anthropologist hats through a series of awareness campaigns.
With many musicians who rely on live shows and performances having fallen on hard times following the presidential embargo on public gatherings, Wataffi has a fall-back plan courtesy of his income-generating projects.
The musician owns Qaya Rootz Musik record label as well as a film and television Studio, Qaya Rootz pictures Africa.
Qaya music fans have a lot to look forward to as their man has a lot in store, with follow-up releases after his 2020 Zima and Nama gongs — a repeat experience of 2004 — currently in the works.
The musician was this year a surprise winner of the Outstanding Album of the Year award at Nama.
Wataffi has opened his doors to other emerging artistes and his Qaya Rootz Musik currently has a number of such musicians on its books, but tragically lost one of them — Nandi — to heart failure a week ago. Wataffi is set to release the late songbird’s two songs — Nzira Tande and Woman of Rock — posthumously while his own album will follow later.
Nandi was under the Qaya Rootz mentorship programme which records and mentors new artistes.
Wataffi writes and produces his own music although he has worked with several local and international artistes.
His latest offering, Uhuru/Independence, was co-produced with South Africa-based Zimbabwean producer Edgar Muzah in Port Elizabeth and Elija Madiba at the Library of African Music in Grahamstown.
In many ways, the album can be dubbed a “back to the roots” project given its Afro-centric and ethnic feel as well as its subject matter, which is close to the Korekore people from whom he hails with what he calls the Mashayamombe rainmakers and hunters tribe.
Of his music in that respect, Wataffi said: “My music is for the African agenda, the much-needed formation of a United States of Africa and the celebration of the footprints of those who came before us and those whose footprints helped shape the future we live in today.”
The album is his only collaborative effort, fusing the sounds of fellow artistes such as Mbuya Stella Chiweshe on Mashayamombe, Ti Gonzi on Ring on a Finger and Willom Tight on Udaliwe.
Wattafi has been pushing through his current music for the repatriation of the artefacts stolen from Zimbabwe during the colonial era and are currently housed in various European museums.
His clarion call includes the repatriation of the remains of his ancestor, Chief Mashayamombe Chinengundu from the United Kingdom. He calls this the restoration of Africa’s stolen legacy.