By Chief K.Masimba
Mashasha revealed that much of the sound on his debut album is informed by his childhood, especially folklore songs.
Overally, the instrumentation on the album is immaculate and unusual, producing a sound that is cosmopolitan yet still carrying a distinct African identity.
The music which is lyrically rich is very easy to the ear, with a laid back but danceable essence. Mashasha’s intensity, charm and passion is evident throughout his songs which are delivered with sophistication and grace. The singer, songwriter, bassist and acoustic guitarist said he joined his first band, Sisonke, in 2001, working with the late legendary musician, Jonah Mutumwa.
He also worked with some of the leading artists in Zimbabwe’s music industry, including Tanga wekwa Sando, Andy Brown, Edwin Hama, Rute Mbangwa and Chiwoniso among others.
“It’s been amazing and inspiring working with great musicians in Zimbabwe. I have learned a lot from their experience,” said Mashasha in an exclusive interview. “All the musicians that I’ve worked with have influenced me – I picked up good things from them and developed everything I learned to develop my own thing.”
Mashasha said that every artist has both weak and strong points, and that by working with major artists he had managed to polish himself.
“Working with the greats has given me a good reference point for my own creativity. For example, if I played some good bass lines for Andy Brown, and people loved them, that was an opportunity for me to figure out what works and what doesn’t.. I am still learning though ,” he said.
In 2006, Mashasha joined thousands of Zimbabwean seeking greener pastures and emigrated to UK where, he pursued studies in music theory at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. “I wanted to pursue my music; I wanted to learn music theory so that when I come back I can teach my fellow Zimbabweans,” he said.
“It helps to know music theory when you want to work with musicians from around the world. It helps you understand how something works when you have the instruction manual,” said Mashasha, adding that studying theory has also helped him to appreciate different genres of music at a deeper level.
Besides learning music, Mashasha has also taught music workshops around many schools in the UK which helped to polish his musical approach. Partnering with fellow UK-based Zimbabwean, Sam Chagumachinyi on drums, Mashasha has performed all over the UK but mainly London.
Their act is known as “Mashasha and Sam.” Mashasha said making his debut album had its challenges.
“As a musician you want it everything to be perfect and if it’s not you get frustrated – they were moments, for example, when I would disagree with one of the sound engineer. Other times everything would be smooth,” he said.
On the album, Mashasha worked with several renowned musicians from around the world.
“It was good working with different musicians from around the globe; it made me understand that music is universal. They contributed a lot, and I would have to pick what worked. There are some musicians, no matter how great they are, who struggle to play African music, so we tried a lot of musicians and found amazing ones,” said Mashasha.
“I didn’t even have to tell them what to play, my sound isn’t fixed, I don’t always know what it will turn into, I’m open to anything that’s good.” Mashasha emphasized that he’s not necessarily going for one type of sound, adding that he disliked being labeled as an African musician.
“I am a musician, period. I don’t have to play African sounds or genres, but of course I’m an African, so that part is bound to come out dominant. I want to produce universal music that can be accepted everywhere,” he said. “I’m inspired by all kinds of good music especially if it has a good bass line.”