21 June 2012

Zimbabwe: 'Music Runs in My Blood'

FOR many people, living in the United Kingdom means cutting ties with home. But not for Zimbabwean gospel musician Fulton Rupapa, who, despite settling in the United Kingdom since 2003, has never forgotten home.

Everything about the artiste is without doubt a reflection of his passion for his motherland Zimbabwe and the African continent.

Those who witnessed the launch of his album "Breaking Ground" held in Harare recently will testify that he is an unassuming man who doesn't let the success get to his head.

"Breaking Ground is an album that is largely based on my personal experiences.

"We went to the UK as a young couple and faced a lot of challenges to adapt into the new environment.

"As an artiste, these experiences inspired most of my songs.

"People back home never knew what we were going through. At one time we were evicted from our rented accommodation and this was further worsened by the fact that my wife Tredah was pregnant," recalls Fulton.

Despite the challenges he faced in the foreign land, the artiste -- who is currently in his third and final year of a degree in music production at the University Campus Suffolk -- pursued his music career diligently.

But Fulton did not let the challenges he faced deter him, as he built ties with various artistes around the world, including South African gospel music icon Sipho Makhabane and gifted diva Buhle, who featured on his album.

But how did he manage to work with these two prominent artistes?

"Sipho is a friend to my brother-in-law Thulani Mazengwe married to my sister, Talent, who comes after me. They have been friends for 15 years and he (Thulani) linked me to Sipho.

"Sipho in turn introduced me to Buhle and that is how I ended up working with them on my album 'Breaking Ground'.

"Sipho is a very professional guy and it has been a pleasure working with him.

"So interested in my music was Sipho that he even suggested that we work on another album which will have songs with a fast beat like sungura which he said people in South Africa liked a lot," Fulton said.

To show his support, Sipho came for Thulani and Talent's wedding in August last year.

Interestingly, three songs on Fulton's album were produced at Big Fish Music in South Africa, which Sipho owns.

"The album was co-produced by myself and DHP, which is Dube & Hambahamba Productions based in Zimbabwe, who have produced artistes like Alexio Kawara and Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana.

"The album is called 'Breaking Ground' which is a figurative speech for something that paves the way for bigger things to come. I have been working on this album since 2006, and there have been a few challenges, and so I am saying, after all that, the ground is finally broken," Fulton said.

The artiste said he was grateful for the enormous support he has been getting from University Campus Suffolk that appreciated his music.

"Zimbabwean artistes have potential of making it out there because the people in the UK like our music very much.

"I recorded part of this album in the UK, some university students assisted in the production mainly in recording the vocals.

"A 16-year-old student from the West Suffolk College also shot the video to the single 'Makanaka'," said the 32-year-old musician.

Fulton remembers how the music bug bit him while he was still young.

Like most artistes in their formative years, Fulton started off by penning love songs, which were mainly outpourings of the bitter-sweet feelings he experienced in youthful romantic affairs.

"I have always loved music from as far back as my days in high school. I wrote my first song in 1995, which was a love song, but I was so scared of my dad that if he heard me singing about girls, he would go ballistic.

"I remember in 1996 after finishing my 'O' Levels, I saw an advert in the paper from High Density Records (owned by the late musician Prince Tendai).

"They were calling for young artistes to come to their studios if they had any music and they would listen to it and see if they could work with you.

"Their studio was along Robert Mugabe Road and I got lost the whole day looking for the place. At the back of my mind I was just wondering if my dad found out, I would be dead meat," he said.

Fulton later on changed to gospel music while doing his A- Levels owing to his Christian background.

He says music runs in the family.

"I think music is in my blood. My mom is a singer in church, as well as my young brother. My sisters do sing too and I always feel like having our own version of the Family Singers someday. It is only distance is hindering our progression."

"I have an aunt (sister to my father), who is also a singer. She is also a pastor in Forward in Faith.

"She has recorded a couple of albums, too, but her focus is mainly on church praise and worship music," he said.

Fulton, who is a member of the Forward In Faith Ministries which he attends at the Ipswich Assembly in the East Anglia Region, plays the keyboards and has been the leader of his regional praise and worship team for about two years. Being a musician has not affected his appreciation of local music.

Pastor Charles Charamba and his wife Olivia, Sabastian Magacha, Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana, Joyous Celebration and Sipho Makhabane are among his favourite artistes.

"One of my favourite albums at the moment is the album 'Inspiration', by Pastor G with the song 'Tura Mitoro' which featured Gorden Taurayi Nzira.

"On that same album, the song 'Crossroads' by Prince Mafukidze, to me, is also one of the best gospel songs I have ever listened to by a Zimbabwean musician.

"I also love the group Excel that did some good gospel music back in 2003. I walked into the church on my wedding day to their song, 'I Decrease, You Increase'. It saddened me that they broke up," he said

Internationally he is inspired by the music from a woman called Chevelle Franklyn from Kingston, Jamaica, who does beautiful gospel reggae.

"I love the song 'Kill My Flesh' from her album called 'His Way'," he said.

Fulton has set his eyes on establishing his own recording label.

"My goal is to be a world renowned producer. I am working on setting up a business that will sell music from African artistes internationally.

"I have a passion for the African arts, but I have also seen how we are getting ripped off. This is why I chose to study in the area of music production and will start on a Masters in Music Business Management once I finish my degree, at which point I will then relocate back home," he said.

Fulton is married to Tredah and the couple has three three children -- Sharon (7), Fulton Jnr (5) and Samantha (3).

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