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Mzee: Interview

2007-11-20 06:09
You are a journalist by profession. What inspired you to go into music? What do music and journalism have in common?
First of all, let me say that music found me. I didn't find it. I am addicted to music. I have been writing songs and dreaming of being a musician and a producer long before I thought of becoming a journalist. I wrote my first song titled “Holy Spirit” for our church choir when I was only 11. Since then I never looked back. I kept writing more and more songs.

Dance or Die features highly respected African musicians such as Jeff Maluleke, Pops Mohammed and Oliver Mtukudzi just to name a few. Why them?
I grew up listening to African music and it is still one of my favourites. Jeff Maluleke is my friend and homeboy. We all come from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga and I have been his fan for years. I worked with him on his previous albums, Kilimanjaro and Mambo. As for the Minister of Music Pops Mohamed, he is my friend and mentor. He has been in my studios, working there and showing me a trick or two. So are my other friends, George and Joseph Mothiba better known as Revolution. Oliver Mtukudzi is a cool guy. I gave him a call one day and he drove all the way from Zimbabwe to come and see me. We discussed the song and that's how I remixed his classic song Neria. We are talking about doing more songs together in future.

Any other African stars you hope to collaborate with in future?
I am dying to work with Salif Keita from Mali, Youssou N’ Dour from Senegal, world renowned guitarist Carlos Santana, Richard Bona from Cameroon, Busi Mhlongo, Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe and the gurus of house music, Masters At Work.

It’s been three months since the release of Dance or Die. How has it been received? Will we hear more of you in years to come?
The album was well received. I didn't expect such a reception. I can safely state that I am here to stay, this is just an introduction, more is still to come from me. At the moment I am busy working on my next project. I have a song with DJ Oskido. I am also still trying to build and brand my record label, Good Times Records and will be releasing more artists next year. Read the review of Dance or Die and Check out Mzee’s record label, Good Times Records

Your album incorporates both maskandi and mbaqanga. Are these styles you grew up listening to?
As a young kid, I listened to country music because it was my mother's favourite. As I grew older I started listening to all sorts of music but African/world music is my favourite. I got a scholarship to go and study in America where I was exposed to a lot of hip-hop. And I started following maskandi and mbaqanga - one of my friends is Moses Ngwenya of Soul Brothers and each time I visit him we listen to mbaqanga music.

How would you define your music?
My music is authentic progressive African house meant to re-educate and entertain music lovers across the globe about Africa.
House music seems to be growing in popularity in the last three years. What do you think changed?
Kwaito music lost its icons and people started looking for an alternative, so they found house music. Over the past years we have not heard a massive Kwaito album until Elvovo came to the rescue last year. Brothers of Peace project B has taken Kwaito music to another level but nobody took the music forward. Mandoza, Bricks and many others tried but people seem not to be feeling it.

What are your thoughts on South African music?
We have talented musicians in this country but they aren’t taken seriously until they pass away. Our national broadcaster, SABC, is to be blamed for playing more international songs and ignoring local stuff.

What is your favourite song in your own set?
I love all the songs in my album. They would not be there if I didn't love them all. I had more 50 songs to choose from. But my all time favourite song is “Africa Remembers” by Youssour Ndour from his album Eyes Open which was co-produced by Spike Lee.

What's playing on your iPod?
“African Remembers” by Youssour Ndour, In the Ghetto by Kutu, Fusion by Revolution, Graduation by Kanye West, Y Lens Vol 2 by DJ Sbu, Dankie by Arthur, Es'khaleni Extension 4 by DJ Cleo, Oskido Church Groove 6, Curtis by 50 Cent and my album!

If you were president who would you chose as vice president?
I would elect Zakhele Shiba, my business partner and colleague. We have been to hell and back together. He knows what I stand for and he understands my philosophy of life.

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve done?
Ooooops, to be honest it was to sign a record deal with one of the major record companies after all my friends advised me against it. Major record companies will never help you grow as a musician or independent record company but they will milk you and leave you dry.

If you weren't answering these questions, what would you be doing?
I would be on the phone speaking to my sources trying to get this week scoop for our newspaper, Sunday World.

-Tiisetso Tlelima

When he’s not behind the decks, he’s looking for a scoop for Sunday World or working on his upcoming record label, Good Times Records. This versatile muso is ready to take Mzansi by storm. Check out our interview on Mzilikazi wa Afrika aka Mzee, Mzansi’s next best thing in house. Ayeye!

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