Blessing chimanga and the rhythm divine
Deccan Chronicle| ayushee chaudhary
All of six, Chimanga had already begun to show a great talent for percussion.
An unstoppable force on stage, Chimanga is known too for his high-energy performances.
What: Blessing Chimanga & Dreams Band (Zimbabwe) - LIVE!
When: Saturday, June 16, 9 pm
Price: Rs 499
Where: bFlat, Indiranagar
Zimbabwe in the 1970s was a land of racial divide, with people living together in close-knit communities. Blessing 'Bled' Chimanga and his family would join the other devout church-goers every Sunday. One fateful morning, six-year-old Chimanga arrived at the church with his mother, where they found that the drummer who was supposed to play for the service hadn't turned up. When he was asked to volunteer, he leapt at the chance, tearing up onto the stage and positing himself behind the kit. All of six, Chimanga had already begun to show a great talent for percussion. "I would play on a lot of things, water bottles, the table - anything that I got hold of, really." He remembers thinking, as he ran to the stage, where this sudden burst of energy came from - "Seeing the faces of my audience that morning as I played for them, it was the best moment of my life." There was no stopping after that. Every Sunday, as kids went to Sunday school, CHimanga would stay behind with the musicians, immersing himself in his great love.
Today, the internationally acclaimed musician has established himself as a marimba player, singer, songwriter and percussionists. Despite the strength of his calling, his journey was a rough one, with Chimanga choosing to walk away from his friends, his family and everything he held dear to find his dreams. "The whole journey has been bittersweet but for me, it's been about my music and how I can make it speak to people," says Chimanga, who draws much inspiration from pop star Michael Jackson's work ethic. At home, things were far from problem-free. His family refused to accept his ambitions to be a musician, leading to Chimanga breaking away from them to focus on his career. They saw him perform many years later, at the biggest venue in Zimbabwe. "My sister, who has been my greatest pillar of strength, brought my parents to the venue. At the time, only the white people could afford to attend shows there and that's where they saw their son's talent for the first time." That day, he broke down on stage.
Rooted in tradition, his music is also a response to the world around him and the situations he experiences - "My songs come to me organically," he says. Althouh he started out as a drummer and tried his hand at a number of different instruments, it was the marimba that finally stole his heart. The xylophone-like instrument, he says, "allows for greater expression and leaves room for experiment." The band, which is touring India, comprises Blessing Muparutsa as drummer and backin gvocalist, Tulani Kuwani, the saxophone player and guitarist and Igiel Njolomah on bass. Dreams, as the band is called, is touring to promote its latest album, Tose, which means 'together' in Shona (Zimbabwe's native language). The band is known for its afro-jazz music, its groovy rhythms and the rich variety of its music, a given, considering the spectrum of instruments they use. "For me, traditional music was not created just for traditional ceremonies," he Chimanga explains. "It allows me to bring my home to you and the contemporary styles help keep me relevant."
An unstoppable force on stage, Chimanga is known too for his high-energy performances. During these, he interacts with people and prances across the stage, just as much as he plays and sings. "If I don't interact with the audience, I am dead. I want people to actually be part of the show and see Zimbabwe through my music. The advantage here is that African music is naturally energetic and happy. Our music gets you going, it's all about having a good time." Chimanga wants to spread positivity through his art as well - 'Fare 'n' fine, you have gone through what you have gone through, now get up and going'