COVID-19 presents a unique musical experience for Mapanda

SAXOPHONIST Tawanda Mapanda says the global COVID-19 pandemic has presented him with a unique musical experience and led him to launch a solo career.

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

After the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, public performances were restricted and this gave way to an upsurge in digital and online artistic productions.

Mapanda, a multi-talented instrumentalist, is one of the artistes who carved out a niche with his online offerings in the form of marimba and saxophone fusions that saw him entertaining audiences both locally and internationally.

From renditions of the late music icon Oliver Mtukudzi, American singer Chris Brown and dancehall star, Jah Master’s hit track Hello Mwari, Mapanda has presented a unique musical experience.

In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style yesterday, Mapanda, a mbira player, percussionist, and composer, said working with different artistes as a session musician helped him to build his own brand.

“I have a lot of creative ideas to express. I want to share my artistic voice within Zimbabwe and beyond borders.

“I have stories to tell through music. I am being propelled by the invaluable experience I have gained thus far,” he said.

“Due to COVID-19, a lot of shows have been cancelled which led me to one source which is online performing and I managed to perform at an online festival, Afro Festival which happens in Canada.

“Apart from that it led me to make some creative videos on my social media platforms playing marimba, mbira and saxophone.”

Mapanda’s artistic prowess has taken him international. In early January this year he took part in an artistic residency at Battersea Arts Centre in the United Kingdom (UK) where he developed a project called Meet My Ancestors.

His project, aimed at researching and developing a Zimbabwean performance work exploring themes of identity and assimilation strictly using mbira, marimba and percussion for the music soundscape, was funded by the Arts Council of England.

“It felt awesome to represent my country in the United Kingdom, showing our Zimbabwean culture and heritage for the first time ever.

“I am more than excited to showcase my talent once again and share what Zimbabwe has to offer in the UK,” he said.

Led by UK-based Zimbabwean artiste, John Pfumojena, Mapanda’s project has been granted more funding.

“Working with John Pfumojena has been an amazing journey and experience with the MMA (Meet My Ancestors) production which a lot of people loved in the UK. The project helped me to link up with different artistes here in Zimbabwe and abroad also showcasing creativity and talent,” he said.

In his career, Mapanda, who is also a music teacher, has worked with a number of bands as a session musician and performed at big stages such as Jacaranda Festival, Harare International Festival of the Arts, Zimbabwe Jazz Festival, numerous gigs for the British Embassy in Zimbabwe and at the birthday celebration gig for the late former President Robert Mugabe.

Mapanda has also recorded the soundtrack for Volpone, a theatre show in the UK for Tangle Theatre Company.

Off the stage, Mapanda has a Black Belt in Judo (First Dan) and has received national colours in Judo (2012) received a certificate in Life Saving — Bronze Medallion, represented Zimbabwe at the Judo youth games in 2012 and 2014 and won bronze medals.

He also represented Zimbabwe at the 15th All Africa KURASH championships in 2017.

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