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a decade of authenticity | Blessing Chimanga

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Tell us about Blessing Chimanga and the group he plays with, how was the group formed?

Blessing Chimanga is a leader of a 6 piece band called Dreams. I started my solo project in 2008 and recorded my first live dvd in 2013 before releasing my first album titled Dreams In 2015 and the second one titled Tose in 2018.

How many instruments can you play?

I play 6 instruments and major in 4 among other percussion instruments to make it 10 instruments in total:

  1. Drums
  2. Marimba
  3. Keyboard
  4. Percussion
  5. Mbira
  6. Bass Guitar

Wow, that is impressive! Please tell our readers, having travelled so much because of your craft and represented Zimbabwe and Africa on grander stages, what sound do you think they want to hear from Zimbabwe?

They want to hear the rich Zimbabwean Cultural sound, something original and solid from Zimbabwe. Personally, my selling point is the use of MARIMBA in the band, that is also what I play as the leading instrument and already it gives the audience a true feel of the Zimbabwean music. Our drummer also uses the calabash which is a West African instrument that we have decided to use in our setup to keep the true authentic African sound. These instruments and the use of singing in Shona have brought the audience to Zimbabwe during our 90min shows internationally.

Are we currently exporting that?  

To be honest I think we are not exporting enough of that out there. The major challenge is a lot of people do not know their identity or those who do know it aren’t as proud of it. I feel  once our artists know and embrace their identity, we will start seeing some progress. Another challenge is our musicians are no longer interested in having Zimbabwean elements in their music but more interested in what sells locally, which may not be the case internationally. So the only way to export our sound is being proud of our culture, instruments, languages, and dances.

Every song has a sound and tone unique to its author. How do you describe your music to people? What image/sound do you think your music conveys?

My music is best described with the energy, message and the string melodies (especially the marimba that we use). In terms of image or sound I think our music just gives life, energy and hope to people. It has a very strong Casablanca and Afro Jazz influence blended with a very strong touch of marimba. Our focus is not only on making the music or the instrumentation sound good but I always make sure there is a good balance in terms of the message in the song and accompanying instruments. The music should speak to the soul of the listener and not just be a song that one can dance to, we need people to sit and listen and be inspired to become better in life. The music totally carries a lot of energy and hope. It is also well arranged and suitable for all ages.

There have been many arguments about the national attire as far as fashion goes, and the Zimbabwean sound regarding music. What do you think is the Zimbabwean sound that can be tied to our identity?

I think the Zimbabwean Sound is the true use of the Zimbabwean traditional rhythms, dances and instruments. For example the use of the Mhande rhythm  from Masvingo, that is a true identification of the Zimbabwean sound, or a good example rather. The use of these rhythms, dances and instruments gives a uniqueness of our own sound as Zimbabwe.

You also do Team building sessions, workshops, and leadership training, are all these linked to Blessing the artist or they are separate entities?

The team building and leadership sessions etc are all tied up to Blessing the artist. My dream is to use my influence as an artist to bring positive change in all sectors. I am passionate about raising leaders as I am a leader myself. Building teams is also a big passion for me. Once I train a team its easy for me to introduce them to my music, invite them to my next shows etc etc.

Haha, that’s clever! Next time we are reading about Blessing in the papers or tabloids, what will be the story about?

The next time you reading bout me in the papers it is going to be for my 10 year music anniversary to be celebrated on the 18th and 19th of October in 2 concerts at Reps theater in belgravia harare. The concerts will feature most of my local and international musicians that I have worked with over the 10+ years. I am excited to host the international acclaimed, my sister and mentor Zolani Mahola from South Africa to be on stage with me. We have a long history together of me opening up shows a lot for her around the world and I’m excited that this time I get to host her and have her come for these big nights of my life. I am also excited to have Dudu Manhenga, Hope Masike, Masa Caroleen, and many more on stage with me to celebrate this music journey. Tickets are selling fast from Reps theater for only 70zwl for each show so people should rush and get their ticket as this is going to be a real experience.

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