Founding member of Bulawayo-based Afro-fusion band, Ditswi, Raymond Millagre Langa, has opened a new chapter of his artistic journey by establishing a new outfit, the Ethnic Feeling band (pictured), as he seeks to push for transformative art in a developmental approach. NewsDay Life & Style reporter, Winstone Antonio (ND), spoke with the musician (RL) about his career and below are the excerpts.
ND: How was Ethnic Feeling band formed and who are the members?
RL: The band was formed this year in January, and it is composed of four members. The founder of the group being myself, on acoustic guitar and vocals, Simphiwe Masuku on lead vocals, Madodana Ndebele on keys, Gilbert Mugariswana on mbira. The group was formed with the aim of promoting cultural diversity and acceptance, especially through the fusion of traditional and modern instruments and lingual variance.
ND: Are you still a member of Ditswi?
RL: Yes, I am still part of the band Ditswi. Ethnic Feeling is more of a different feel, where I was experimenting with an acoustic feel and a fusion of traditional instruments like mbira. It is a solo project, I just orchestrated on the sidelines with a new and dynamic team. My aim was to experiment with the mbira sound on a Ndebele song and it worked well.
ND: You have produced a new album. Tell us more about the new release?
RL: Our new album is titled Rooted. I composed the songs on the album. The inspiration of the name is based on deep cultural sounds and the experience of nature. The rootedness is in the way we embrace our “Africanese” and mixing it with modern elements.
It is an exodus back to the innate nature of our traditional acoustic sound as Africans. The songs on the album are reflective of the different day-to-day social realities we live in. They address in a special way the need for the development in society, which can be instigated through peace, harmony and love. In our songs, we use metaphorical language in order to stimulate the listener to be the creator of their own story to our songs.
ND: Which are some of the songs in the album and if you can explain their multi-lingual aspect?
RL: The songs on the album include Batsimbili, which is a Chopi term that means travellers or nomads. The song tackles the issue of xenophobia and tribalism and we included the fusion of mbira sounds in the song.
The track Harea Thusaneng is in Sotho and it addresses the issue of peace building as a stepping stone to development. The song Lerato is also in Sotho and fuses an element of Ndebele, and is a love song or a lyrical ode to a loved one.
Moyo Wangu is a Shona love song, which expresses the emotive nature of love. Ndebo is in Nambya and it pushes on the need for information on various issues.
Sumu is in Dombe and it’s a song of joy and happiness while Topela Tikabona is in Kalanga and is a cautionary statement to those involved in high risk behaviour, such as drugs, gangsterism, violence and corruption.
The multi-lingual aspect is reflective of the need to promote the 16 languages as enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe. The songs are reflective of Zimbabwe’s vast cultural diversity.
ND: What are the main challenges that you have faced as a new artiste?
RL: As a new artiste, the main challenge is that of finance to push for the growth of the project. The production of mass CDs and videos needs a lot of finance, which is a serious challenge to new bands. Another challenge is lack of equipment where we use hired instruments to rehearse.
Most music promoters also tend to neglect new artistes’ products, but prefer copyrights or cover songs by established artistes. This impedes the growth of young and new artistes.
ND: Are you planning to produce videos from your songs?
RL: Yes, we are working on recording and releasing videos of most of our songs. We expect that some of the videos will be produced early in May. This will also coincide with the launch of our album.
ND: In terms of airplay, are you satisfied?
RL: So far, the local stations like Skyz Metro, Khulumani FM have sampled and played our music. We hope to make inroads into all other radio stations in Zimbabwe, as we feel that our music appeals to a diverse audience. We are yet to see if our songs will receive adequate air play.
ND: Any plans of collaborations?
RL: The quest for collaboration is with the great legends like Oliver Mtukudzi, Victor Kunonga, Mukoomba and international artistes from West Africa.
ND: Your parting shot?
RL: Running a music band in Zimbabwe is not easy, but as a band we are very confident that we are going to make it as our music is the kind that attracts a diverse audience.
We have a great passion for music, and we have very powerful projects lined up as we grow as a band.