1 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Chaza, the Man to Watch Out for in 2013

This time, last year, Chaza's name had been dropped from music circles as he had quit the band he was with, Transit Crew. However, after a year's absence from the music industry, Chaza is back with a bang and he is the man to watch in 2013.

The release of his three-track album will certainly put him on the map. The first track titled "Hurema Hwe Mbavha" is already receiving massive airplay.

This song was written after Chaza's own personal experiences with robbers one night when he was coming from a Transit Crew gig in Westgate.

He was attacked and beaten up badly. They took his cellphone and cash and left him for dead.

He was hospitalised for three weeks.

This is what inspired Chaza to come out with a song cussing the robbers in which he sings about thieves who have a tendency of wanting to kill their victims.

He says: "They forget about tomorrow. If they choose to kill all of us, who then will they rob tomorrow?"

It is quite refreshing to see this young man deviating away from common social themes such as "love" to "theft", issues which are affecting people on a daily basis but are hardly talked about.

The second song, "Haupenge Asi Wakapenga" (loosely translated as "You Are Not Bonkers, But You are Beautiful") is another hit.

In this song, he describes a beautiful lady in a typical Shona metaphor using the same word to create two completely different meanings: Haupenge (You are Not Crazy), Wakapenga (You are Awesome).

The third track, "Muti", is an already popular hit among reggae fans as it was first released during his hey days with Transit Crew.

It talks about the ups and downs in relationships where lovers are encouraged to forgive each other when they have differences as two wrongs do not make a right.

But who is Chaza?

Chaza is actually his surname. He uses this as it is easier to remember. His first names are Zinyengere Rungano.

Chaza was born on July 15, 1983. He attended Widdecombe Primary School in Harare from 1990 until 1996 before proceeding to Chimowa Secondary School in Njanja. It was during his school holidays in Hatfield, Harare, that his uncle, Richard Kohola, took him to a friend of his, Noah Pashapa, at the Baptist Church in Hatfield so that Chaza could have piano lessons.

He became a good piano player to the extent that after his O-Levels he decided to continue with his passion for music.

His parents, who are very conservative, think nothing of music and were wondering why their son had decided to do music. As a matter of fact, in 2006 while still at school, Chaza was chased away from home for following his music passion and his parents decided not to pay his school fees.

Despite this setback, Chaza was determined to carry on with his school and musical ambitions. He moved in with his brother who was staying in Mbare and he would make ends meet by selling pit and river sand to builders which he collected from Mukuvisi River.

He went to enrol at the Zimbabwe College of Music and joined the two-year National Certificate in Music programme which he completed with a distinction.

During his period at the College of Music, he was involved in music ensembles which included Season of Love, Zimbabwe College Choir, The Duke Ellington Concert and a duo with Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana.

On leaving college in 2009, he was lucky to find a job as a music teacher at Greystone Park Primary School under the stewardship of Mr Kaseke.

He is now the head of the music department at that school.

In the same year, he joined Transit Crew where, together with Jeffery Sithole (J. Farai), Mannex Motsi and Solomon Tokwe (Rootsman Spice), he did stints with the band at Red Fox and Book Cafe on a weekly basis.

With Transit Crew, he bacame part of the collaborations and band which performed with Jamaican Yassus Afari, Sizzla Kalonji and King Sounds.

He says Transit Crew gave him a lot of experience which he treasures up to now. However, at Christmas in 2011, he decided to leave Transit Crew.

When I asked him why he came up with that decision, this is what Chaza had to say: "Well, it was a hard decision. I had been working with that band for three years, but was treated like an outsider.

"When a man has been working for at least six months in a job, he should be treated like an established member. When it came to distribution of funds, we never shared them equally with some members feeling more equal than others. In the end I had to leave."

In the first six months after leaving Transit Crew, Chaza remained musically idle, but he soon found his niche once again when he was called upon to join Mathias Julius in a collaboration known as "Paushamwari Hwedu" where J. Farai, Cello Culture, Mannex Motsi and Florence Motsi (sister to Mannex) also featured.

After this exhilarating experience, there was no stopping Chaza. He teamed up with Jairos Hambahamba, who had also left Transit Crew, Tatenda Uchena, Tatenda Chihwai and his brother, Victor Chaza, to record the Singles Collection album, part one of which I have exposed above.

Chaza is now a de facto solo artiste and he is certainly a name you can expect to hear in the New Year.

He is also a record label in his own right.

He pays for his own recordings, sleeve design, CD manufacturing and distribution, a job which musicians of yesteryear expected to be done by record companies such as Gramma and Zimbabwe Music Corporation.

The collapse of music sales due to piracy has changed the way today's artistes operate.

In the past, before the advent of home recording studios, executives at Gramma or ZMC who controlled the recording industry and the few recording studios which were in existence, had developed a reputation for ripping off artistes through giving them false promises and burdensome contracts and assorted skullduggery.

However, a decade of piracy has changed everything. Musicians are now doing their own thing by taking the business, including its risks, in their own hands. They now make sure that every penny coming from their sales comes directly to them without involving middle- men. This is a positive move for as long as they can curb piracy.

Chaza is no exception to this.

He is doing his own thing and is making a contribution in the shaping of the future of music in Zimbabwe. He is already in the middle of recording his second album.

Enjoy a prosperous New Year.

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