HARARE – Austrian-based Zimbabwe music star Vusa Mkhaya will this month release a new album, Vocalism through international music label ARC Music.
The album was recorded both in Austria and Zimbabwe.
“The voice is my favourite instrument,” says Vusa Mkhaya.
“Voices are, for me, the best and the first instrument. When I think of music I think voice. When I listen to a song, when I listen to any other music, I listen first to the voices before anything else. So this album is full of voices because I think I am a vocalist first and then a musician.”
Vusa’s career began in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where he started singing in Sunday school and singing in local groups.
In 2004, a move to Vienna, Austria with his group Insingizi introduced Vusa to the many musical avenues that city has to offer.
“Vienna is the city of classical music, and the jazz scene is big as well. These styles have influenced me and taught me a lot, so I try to fuse bits and pieces of those styles in my music,” he says.
As a truly embracing project, Vocalism uses elements of Zimbabwean and European tradition, at points even drawing on Hungarian folk music, all tied together with a Western pop sensibility.
The album was recorded mostly in Vusa’s native Bulawayo, and partly in Vienna.
Vusa chose to return to Bulawayo to record with local musicians, and also to turn full circle to where his career began.
Originally intending to record the album with a just a small core band, Vusa’s plan soon changed when he entered the recording studio: “The studio was like a meeting place for long-lost friends, because many people came by to say “Hi” and some people ended up singing. In Zimbabwe we have a saying, ‘a child belongs to everyone in the village’.
“This is how I felt working on Vocalism in Bulawayo. When friends came in and contributed some ideas, they did not see the album as Vusa’s ‘child’, but as theirs too.
“My success is their success and my struggle is their struggle. In Zimbabwe this philosophy is called ubuntu. This is how we were raised, and it influenced the album a lot, because these people helped me by challenging me during the recording.”
Vusa collaborated with people like Silethemba Magonya, Nomathamsanqa Mkhwananzi, and Brian “Soulfamilya” Bangura who sings on two songs.
“He did a great job because he comes from the soul world and I come from Imbube and a cappella, so merging those two different singing styles was something that I really enjoyed. I am happy that by recording here I met a lot of musicians… and I made new friends.”
Vusa is a member of the successful vocal trio Insingizi, whose album Voices of Southern Africa / Spirit of Africa was released to critical and commercial acclaim in 2004, going on to sell well in excess of 250 000 copies (ARC/Somerset).
Vocalism features Vusa’s Insingizi band mates Blessings Nqo and Dumisani “Ramadu” Moyo, with both men contributing backing vocals to songs.
The Bulawayo recording sessions were done at Ramadu’s 10th District Studios.
Vusa says: “Bulawayo has all these great voices which have not been heard outside the city. I hope that the people who sing on the album will now be heard beyond the city of Bulawayo and Zimbabwe.”
“I am really happy doing this here, and I will always come back to Bulawayo because this is the city that I love the most; I’ve been to so many cities around the world and, no offence to the other great cities that I’ve been to, but Bulawayo ‘does it’ for me, and I’m happy that, finally, we’ve come home.”