Zimbabwe: Xtra-Large, Nyaradzo Go Green

Listening to songs from Xtra-Large's album, Miti Hupenyu, one might be forgiven for thinking they are listening to the Nigerian dynamic duo, P-Square, chanting lyrics in Shona.

The Highfield-based urban grooves sensation of Jimmy Mangezi and Norman Manwere are a hit with many Zimbabweans, especially the youth because of their exciting lyrics and humour.

On Miti Hupenyu, they teamed up with the Nyaradzo Group and Friends of the Environment (Fote) to produce music that educates the public on environmental issues. This is a departure from their famous Maroja.

While Extra-Large have popularised their music on songs that have a bearing on matters that bring laughter, Miti Hupenyu calls for some serious introspection on the part of every listener .

As title track, Miti Hupenyu, loosely translated to "Trees are Life", says it all. Xtra-Large are in for some serious business of conserving the environment. On Miti Hupenyu, a parent is heard encouraging their child to plant trees as an investment for the future.

All the six songs on the album have something to do with flora and fauna. To make sure the songs on the album are palatable to the youth or anyone who enjoys their music, Xtra-Large included on the project all the ingredients they are known for, including sleek humour.

Other songs to look out for are Miririra, Toida, a beautiful love song that reminds one of nature and sunrise and Open Your Eyes, (...and see the beauty of our land), a hip-hop/ragga tune that most youths can find joy in dancing to.

The two songs, Pfuurira and Uchakunda Chete have a bearing not just on the environment, but also on education and all things good for the future. The album was produced in 2010, courtesy of Fote and the Nyaradzo Group.

Nyaradzo Group CEO, Philip Mataranyika, whose love for nature and the environment has not gone unnoticed, played an instrumental role in the production of the album as he composed all the six songs.

While Mangezi and Manwere sing most of the lyrics, Mataranyika's voice is heard during an interlude of the track, Inspiration.

So, how did the two comedians get involved in a project of this nature, one might ask?

"The whole project started as an idea first as we have always wanted to do something on the environment. When Mataranyika approached us with an idea to record an album for Friends of the Environment in 2010, we were more than willing to assist. In fact, it was Mataranyika who co-wrote some of the songs on the album," said Mangezi.

In turn, the Nyaradzo Group funded the production of the album and then a while later, Xtra-Large became part of Fote's walkathons.

During the walkathons, the group has been involved with the rest of the walkers in staging awareness concerts. This year, Xtra-Large is part of the Harare to Mutoko walkathon, expected to take place from November 28 to December 1.

"This is our contribution to Zimbabwe's fight to preserve the environment. As artists, we have an upper hand because we can catch the attention of the younger ones through edutainment [education and entertainment] and in the process pass on messages that have anything to do with the environment," said Manwere.

Currently, Extra-Large are putting final touches to their sixth album, Large and in Charge, expected to be released by the end of the month -- just in time for the festive season and the walkathon. The group says it will stick to its urban grooves genre, although they now insist on recording and playing with a live band.

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