On a musical journey
Anita Zengeza Every Friday afternoon on El Punt Avui Televisió, Barney chats with an English-speaking expat. For this month's interview he had a chat with Anita Zengeza, a musician from Zimbabwe.
You were born in Botswana but you grew up in Zimbabwe.
Yes, my father was working in Botswana and I lived there until I was five, then we moved to Zimbabwe. It was a great place to grow up in: a lot of space, houses with big gardens, a more relaxed pace of life, which is quite different to how it works here in Europe.
How many languages do you speak?
My father speaks Shona, the official language in Zimbabwe, and my mother is Chinese, and so when I was young I learnt a bit of the two languages but not as much as I should have. At home we spoke English, which is one of the official languages there, as Zimbabwe used to be a British colony until 1980. I speak a bit if Catalan and Spanish and Italian, where I lived for two years before coming to Barcelona, and I've been here for five years. I am studying a degree in modern music and jazz.
At what age did you decide to be a musician?
I've studied music all my life, since I was eight, when I started piano classes. Then I continued with guitar and then at 18 I knew this is what I wanted to do all my life.
Did your parents have anything to say about that?
They were supportive, and I am really grateful for that. They are quite modern, they can see times are changing, and people are making professions out of things that previously it might have been harder to do.
So now you have your own band and you got yourself a record label.
Yes, that is very exciting because I can see this is really working now and these people are awesome. But it takes time, of course, after a few years, the last year or two have been the ones you can actually say: this is working. It wasn't easy to find the right musicians. I went to see lots of concerts and finally I found a drummer, a bass player and the guitarist, who I also met in the musical scene and is my partner as well. We need open-minded, versatile musicians, as our music is a fusion of very different styles, with influences from African and Latin music.
How many people are in the band now?
That's been changing over the year. There are six of us, but the core is the four of us: the drummer, bass player, myself and the guitarist. And we also have two very special musicians with us, a keyboard player and perscussionist, and they will join us especially for the concerts we will be doing now. They are all Catalan, and all discovering the African rhythms.
What do you call your music?
I usually call it Afro fusion. I find it difficult to define, so I usually prefer not to. But if I have to, I call it fusion, because it fuses many different styles, and Afro because there is a lot of African rhythms. But they are not like traditional African rhythms, they are more like modern Afro rhythms I would say, and there are more, other influences from Brazilian music, Latin music, the Caribbean...
Yes, there's also a little bit of jazz because I've been studying jazz here. But actually, before I came to Barcelona, I didn't know much about it, but now there is a little bit of modern jazz in our songs.
And what about upcoming concert dates?
So far we've been playing in central places in Barcelona, such as Marula or Harlem Jazz Club, Jamboreee. We have some quite exciting gigs coming up. My next one is in Zimbabwe, in two weeks time.
Are you taking your band?
I'm not taking the whole band, just the guitarist. We are going as a duo, and we are going to link up and collaborate with some other musicians in Zimbabwe. But my plan is to take the whole band next time, so I am just going to see how it goes economically, and hopefully we'll manage to do that. And back in Barcelona we have quite a few over the summer, the Sant Cugat festa major and others.
Your new album is called Natural Journey. Why this title?
Well, for many reasons, I really like the word “journey”, because it's such a versatile word; it can be like a physical journey, it can talk about your personal journey or about your musical journey, and for me those were the three important concepts that I felt in the CD. Also the themes on this album are quite different from the ones from the first one, which were quite sad and nostalgic, because it was after I had left home, but this CD is more upbeat. It's definitively happier and more positive. The songs are inspired by important moments in my life and experience.
Anita Zengeza's web is: www.anitazengeza.com
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