Music played a huge role in my development over the years, and there were points in my life where I could say its influence was a bit too much. Underground rap was my choice, I totally refused to listen to any other music, totally loathed local music. Despite my deep involvement with hip hop music, it did not really shape my character as I only appreciated it as an art form, and with my art background I was quick to realise that this is just an expression of someones imagination and not a guide to how one should live or behave. I also listened to Bob Marley and Micheal Jackson.
During college after we got our grants from the government we would go to Sand Rocks and Archipelagos aka Archies just to listen to new beats. Our first Vinyl record was Boney M, Brown Girl in the Ring single and we also had Bob Marleys, Buffalo Soldier.
We rapped quite a bit and I remember going to Delanis’ studio just to hear how much it was to record and he said you guys want to rap take a listen to this track I am producing and it hadn’t been released yet and he played King Pins I salute you! The standard had been set and we went off to rewrite our rhymes! We would have freestyle jams using two radios, one to play the soundtrack and the other to record. I used the mic name Bzaah, which was basically taken from Rza, Gza and the Old Dirty Bza from the Wu Tang Clan! I enjoyed writing rap rhymes and still have a collection of my favourite which I may post up here one day.
We used to playback and rewind so we could write lyrics. Recording songs from radio was an exercise in timing, just after DJ introduced track to just before the DJ came back again at the end of the song. You always hoped he would start early and come back in as late as possible. We rated DJs based on the songs they played and how much of that song they played without interjecting. Dealing with cassettes and repairing a chewed ribbon was an art form itself.
My favourite show on radio was the Raptivity Jam which was on wednesday nights on Radio 3 (Power FM) and another show on Saturday between 5 & 6 with Kimble Rogers, which was conveniently followed by WWF wrestling! A highlight of the radio calendar was the top 100 countdown. For the whole day we would listen. each day after school we would look forward to the Top 20 countdown. While working at Danes Design the studio music was beamed via World Space. The two main stations were KISS FM and Radio Caroline. These stations introduced me to Alternative Rock and what would be considered ‘white music’, music I would not have been caught dead listing to during my hip hop days.
I stopped listening to all forms of radio because of Highveld radio and the negative news they used to broadcast early in the morning in dampening the rest of the day. Radio was also a good way to hear new songs. Then I was concerned about what was new and always needed to have the latest beats. Now I only listen to playlists I create on iTunes and listen to songs that I like the whole day.
Jonathan Moyo’s 100% local brought me full circle musically and I am grateful for it despite how others may feel about this. I enjoyed the urban grooves so much and they made me take some time out to listen to local artists who I had never given the time of day. I got a new found appreciation of local artists and I started to search for all the classics. The only local artists I listened to were those played by my father in our car which were Mechanic Manyeruke and James Chimombe. But now I was following and being amazed by all the other greats and realised just how much I had missed out. I still applaud Jonathan Moyo for the 100% because it was an awakening of sorts.
The Hip Hop Beef
Of the Tupac vs Biggie beef, I was in the Biggie camp, and still maintain that Biggie was streets ahead of Pac. That was just for arguments sake cos I really didn’t care about the whole east coast west coast beef, I couldn’t relate to it. I enjoyed beats from both and enjoyed all the dis tracks judging them on their merit on lyrical quality and production.
In college I was a major supplier of beats not only to my class mates but our hostel as well so my friends felt I had betrayed them when I just came to college one morning with all my cassettes and gave them away and said I ain’t listening to rap anymore. In all I had over 50 cassettes of full albums and compilations of underground rap which took me years to collect, all of which had custom designed cassette covers! I would spend hours designing and hand painting cassette covers, especially during holidays. Not a single one was commercial rap.I was tired of mainly having to censor songs when I was rapping for my peeps, though I was quite creative at replacing profanity!
Reggae & ragga
Now I just could not get myself to listen to reggae, ragga and lovers! Just couldn’t! But one friday afternoon a classmate came over with a 90 minute TDK and asked me to record two songs one on each side. Easy enough I thought. But no, he wanted me to repeat one song on the one side of the cassette! 45 minutes of the same song! Thats how I ended up listening to Buju Banton. One sone was Destiny and the other was Not an Easy Road! To this day those two songs including Make My Day are the only two songs I have from Buju!
Make ups to Break Ups
After a break up I vowed not marry and told my father while on holiday that I would never marry so long as I have a radio and my beats i would be fine! But in his wisdom my father just said tichaona (We will see)! This was during my first year in college. That break up inspired me to excel in college.
Music in School
I was a member of the school choir in high school, and my part was a tenor. Half of the First Fifteen Rugby players were also members and there would be tough auditions as being part of the choir was prestigious. In my last two years in High school I was part of a quartet who would sing wherever the choir sang. I was awarded full colours for choir because of that quartet and the improvisations we did which kept the people jumping! In Primary and secondary school we had music as a lesson once a week. We would sing songs and that is where I got an appreciation for songs from the musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Les Miserables.
I also have a set ritual, at the beginning of a month I create a playlist and add songs to it then I play it through and add songs to it as I remember them. Each morning I make sure the ones I have played I take out of that playlist and start where I left off.
Music and the design process
Over the years I have used music at various stages of the design process. No music when I am thinking of concepts, then once i have started working I would use fast paced music especially on long documents and while burning the midnight oil. Usually at this stage I don’t want to be disturbed, I have head phones and would normally be singing along! Then would slow it down when I am going over documents and fixing finer details of layout and proofing.
Sourcing music used to be a mission, friends who had cousins as DJs or who were DJs or had cousins in the diaspora, always provided music. Some needed some serious cosying up to before they gave you the tape or agreed to give you. Sometimes you would buy your blank cassette then they would dub it for you. Sometimes the most random person you didn’t expect would have the latest music! Today most of my music comes from adverts, movie soundtracks, and movie trailers. I am no longer concerned about keeping up to date with the latest music, nor am I confined to a specific genre. I don’t collect albums only songs that I enjoy. Top of the list for new songs is Youtube suggestions!
50 of my Most Played tracks of 2013