HARARE – Zimbabwe-born singer Eska Mtungwazi’s label as British Music’s best kept secret has fallen away at long last.
Eska, who relocated to the United Kingdom (UK) as a three-year-old from Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo, has won the admiration of leading British musicians despite the fact that she did not have, until now, a solo release of her own.
Her talent, showcased through collaborations with international stars like Grace Jones, Cinematic Orchestra, Zero 7 and Bobby McFerrin, prompted popular UK saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch to describe Eska “as an incredible singer. I think Britain’s best kept secret. Her stage presence, her musicality…”
With expectations exceptionally high, it is not surprising that Eska took long to release her highly anticipated debut EP.
The Bulawayo-born musician who says “chimurenga music carries a deep emotional resonance for me,” has finally plucked up courage to release her debut offering called Gatekeeper on November 20.
The five-track EP, which the Daily News has listened to, has five tracks which are Gatekeeper the title track, Red, Arrogant Heart (part 1), She is in the flowers and Arrogant Heart (part 2).
Even before its official release, Eska’s music has already created a buzz across the United Kingdom.
British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Gilles Peterson recently made Gatekeeper his track of the week on his BBC 6 Music show.
BBC Radio 2’s Jamie Cullum has described Gatekeeper as “an unbelievable track that will be hard to beat in 2013”.
BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms recently featured a sensational live performance of Eska’s track She is in the Flowers.
Praise for Eska’s debut EP has been sprouting everywhere. Spiral Earth, a respected UK music website had this to say of the musician’s first EP: “She weaves elements of folk, psych, soul and electronica into something fresh and original. She has picked up strong radio support from the likes of Lauren Laverne and Jamie Cullum.”
Arts commentator Anu Rana has weighed in with her own views on the Indie Shuffle website: “Eska’s voice cascades like a gun whose bullet has been replaced by the cinematic free flow of psychedelia, soul, and folk,” writes Rana.
“There’s a team of talent promoting the watery mirage — a piano, a glockenspiel, a tambourine, a saw, a cello, an acoustic and electric guitar, drums, a glasto harp, a radiator, and a vocal instrument; they could together, and alone, saturate your mind and soul, but the lyrics call for air.”
Eska, who is widely recognised by her musical peers as one of the most talented neo-soul artistes of her generation, hopes to perform in Zimbabwe soon.
“There isn’t a date set yet but I would gladly accept an invitation! It’s exciting to be connected to Zimbabwean readers and I hope it leads to a musical trip there some time soon. I am looking for opportunities to release the music in Zimbabwe,” Eska told the Daily News recently.
The talented vocalist, performer, songwriter, musician and producer who has toured the world on behalf of the British Council, is determined to convince the UK Culture arm to facilitate shows for her in Zimbabwe.
“I will be going to Malaysia in December on behalf of the British Council — will definitively contact them about the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) as they have sent me to many destinations but there’s not yet been an opportunity to revisit my birth country as a musician — that would be a very special trip, indeed,” said Eska whose only visit to Zimbabwe was when she was an 18-year-old.