The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: A New Reggae Star Rises

Zimbabwe in the last two years experienced a flood of reggae and dancehall artistes as promoters rushed to cash in on the popularity of some of these artistes. With the introduction of the United States dollar in Zimbabwe, the foreign artistes found this country an attractive destination to do business.

Foreign artistes who have cashed in on performances in Zimbabwe from the beginning of 2010 include Sizzla Kalonje, Yassus Afari, Sean Paul, Akon, Lutan Fyah, Brick and Lace, Beenie Man, King Sounds, Capleton, Elephant Man, Mavado and lately Zahara to mention only a few.

However, there seems to be a lull in the reggae business of late as the number of foreign artistes coming from Jamaica seems to have been reduced to a trickle.

C & A Entertainment, the promoters who recently brought several of these artistes into the country, have suddenly gone quiet, which makes one wonder whether this business was profitable at all for them.

The Zimbabwe reggae scene has, however, not stopped operating as more and more reggae and dancehall bands inspired by the Jamaican artistes, continue to spring up.

Formed early this year is a new reggae band on the scene although the musicians are not new to reggae.

Mannex Motsi, who was lead singer with Transit Crew until late last year, has now formed his own reggae outfit.

The talented vocalist spent most of his prime days in music with urban grooves outfit Boot Kin Klan where they performed using backtracks and produced the hit song "Tsamba". But the musician says since moving to Transit Crew in 2008, he has gained a lot of experience in reggae music and in live show performance.

He now boasts having totally graduated from the use of CDs as backtracks for live shows and encouraged other young musicians to consider using instruments. His experience in live shows includes performing in local gigs featuring Jamaican artistes like Sizzla Kalonji, King Sounds, Yasus Afari and Capleton.

"I have been given an opportunity to stage with the Jamaican artistes who tour this country and it has been great exposure for me because I am still growing in the music industry," said Mannex.

He said since joining Transit Crew they released one album titled "Unity".

Mannex in now working on an album on his own with a new outfit and is hoping to become the leading artiste in reggae circles after the vast experience and exposure he gained when working with Transit Crew.

Another talented singer who is not new to reggae music but has also sprung up this year is Mathias Julius. When I first heard of this name I thought I was going to see a white man on stage.

Much to my surprise, it was a Shona-speaking black man and I wondered how he had acquired that European surname. I only consoled myself later when I remembered that I used to work with a lad called Emmanuel Thomas in the Frontline Kids band, who got his name from Mozambique. Mathias is a multi-talented singer, dancer, choreographer, and composer. His artistic career began in the 1990s, when he joined Zimbabwe's renowned Tumbuka Dance Company.

In addition to his numerous international appearances with Tumbuka, he was featured as a dancer in the music video "Perekedza Mwana", released by Zimbabwean musical superstar Oliver Mtukudzi.

Mathias is one of the hottest musical acts to appear in Zimbabwe in recent years.

Local multi-talented singer, dancer, choreographer and composer, Mathias "Matty" has released his second album titled "Don't Look Back". The album features Mtukudzi together with Danish pop queen Dea Berthelsen and speaks about life and the experiences that people face everyday.

This is not the first time Matthias has worked with Tuku. Back in 2001 Matthias featured in Tuku's video "Perekedza Mwana", as a dancer.

On this project Tuku is featured on the song, "Twenty Ten", a dedication to Tuku's late son Sam, who passed away in the year 2010.

"Twenty Ten" is one song that begs for listenership over and over again.

It is a duet with Tuku, a classical reggae baseline tune complemented by the magical touch of two great artistes behind the vocals.

According to Matthias: "Collaborating with a Zimbabwean superstar is one of the longtime dreams I ever had. Tuku in actual fact didn't know we could do collaboration since he knew me as a dancer.

"We have toured together a few times before and we even did a show at the 7 Arts Theatre together. He listened to my first album and we decided to do a duet.

"At first I thought it was going to be a dance duet but he told me that he had been impressed and willing to make it a song.

"First I had the idea to compose it as a love song but when I went back to him, he said that song reflected on his son's death hence he made it richer and dedicated it to his late son Sam Mtukudzi," said Matthias.

Other songs on the album are "Hallo", which features urban grooves artiste Pauline on the vocals and "Don't Worry" featuring Dizzy Don, one of the upcoming hip-hop artistes in the country.

Matthias' music draws on a variety of influences ranging from traditional and popular Zimbabwean reggae, but this album is strictly reggae. Some of the songs on this album include "Dem Gone", "Don't Look Back", "Ndiwe Wega", "Freedom" and "Mama".

Matthias's artistic career began in the 1990s, when he joined Zimbabwe's renowned Tumbuka Dance Company and made numerous international appearances with this outfit.

Reggae music is truly growing in Zimbabwe considering the support that is being given to our own local artistes on radio and when they appear at local venues.

I recently attended a concert featuring both Mannex and Mathias at the Basement in Harare and one could tell from the enthusiastic crowds that reggae is here to stay.

Meanwhile, as venues such as The New Book Cafe also spring up in Harare, there is a Jazz Club that was recently established for true jazz fans.

It is situated at Sapes Trust, 4 Deary Avenue, Belgravia, opposite the Parirenyatwa Hospital entrance. Every Saturday afternoon from 2pm there are a variety of jazz groups performing there. This week, it is Bob Nyabinde, Pablo and Friends and Mbare Trio.

Talking to Dr Ibbo Mandaza recently, he told me that the venue is strictly for those who love jazz and nothing else. So all those reggae groups who aspire to play at this venue, forget it!

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