AGONY OF A YOUNG MUSIC PRODUCER!
… Maselo talks about bullying, exploitation
…regrets years spent as session artiste
MUSIC production is one area where those with the Midas touch are hard to ignore.
It’s also a sector where quality and brilliance remain engraved in the minds of many for a while if the final product maintains its supremacy.
So demanding is the sector since those with the creative edge have managed to remain on top.
There are however some producers who have remained underground despite being talented while others do lack modern equipment to be counted among the elite.
With the advent of new technology, it now requires one to be on their toes and embrace new challenges.
However, there are some top music producers on home turf who despite being household names still bemoan lack of professionalism among service providers.
In this case, musicians – both seasoned and upcoming ones – remain the key service providers needed to ‘oil’ the movement.
And one such producer who started off as a session musician before setting his own production house is Tapiwa Jera.
Simply known as Maselo, the 28-year-old honed his skills working under the tutelage of seasoned producers who came before him.
H-M-Metro Assistant News Editor Entertainment TRUST KHOSA (TK) had a chat with the Mufakose bred entertainer (TJ) who opened up on the path he has trudged on since his childhood in Mufakose, exploitation rife in the industry while working under some artistes as a session artist, personal achievements, love life and bullying of young producers. Read on…
TK: Briefly tell us about yourself?
TJ: My name is Tapiwa Jera born 28 years ago.
Many people refer to me as Maselo and I am comfortable with the moniker.
I was raised in Mufakose Harare where I attended Mutiunokura Primary School.
After my primary school, I enrolled at Mufakose High 3 where I completed my Ordinary Levels.
I’m a music producer who started off as a session artistes and that’s all I can say in brief.
TK: Take us through your early days in the game as a session artist and music producer?
TJ: Firstly, I was largely self-taught as a guitarist and producer.
I later honed my skills working under great artistes and other producers who saw my potential, which further boosted my confidence.
As a guitarist, I was taught by one Ambuje who still stays in Mufakose.
I also mastered my skills as a session artist working for various music groups I worked under.
I joined Assegai Crew while doing Form 3 in Mufakose.
Afterwards, I worked with the likes of Dino Mudondo, Zimpraise, Jean Masters and Summer Breeze as a session group.
I also worked with Diana “Mangwenya” Samkange and Andy Muridzo with whom I recorded the album Ngarizhambe which had many hits, which propelled him to stardom.
As a producer, I honed my skills working under the likes of Jabulani Ndlovu, Clive “Mono” Mukundu and Blessing Muchenga who used to run a backyard studio.
I look up to Mono as my mentor and source of inspiration in the game when it comes to both music production and playing instruments.
TK: As a producer, what are some of the major highlights of your career?
TJ: Between the year 2011 and 2019 that I have been in the game, I have managed to produce a number of hits with various artistes that I recorded with?
These include Jah Signal with whom I helped to record the song Kupinda Mubako, Baba Harare’s Heti Dzemurara and of course Andy Muridzo’s numerous hits.
I have also recorded Alick Macheso and Princo at Maselo Production studios.
Currently, I am working with a number of top artists in the mainstream industry like Suluman Chimbetu, Romeo Gasa, Howard Pinjisi, Progress Chipfumo, Mathias Mhere, Australia based crooner Cozzy Dube, Sweden based artiste Manluckerz, Kenyan Afro-fusion artiste Gbenga Emmanuel, UK based Zimbabwean crooner Lamont Chitepo among others.
TK: How is life in Zimbabwe as a music producer?
TJ: To be honest, we are not spared from the economic challenges but the main problem we face as young producers in bullying and exploitation.
There are some big artistes that I would not mention names for professional reasons who bully us (young producers) in the studio.
There are some who claim to know everything and at times we end up being defiant to safeguard our reputation.
For instance, there are some artists who do not want to take our orders just because they are older than us.
However, we don’t give in easily as we stamp our authority in order to come up with a polished product.
It’s never easy in the studio; there are also ‘fights’ and exchange of harsh words when dealing with hotheads in most cases.
Secondly, there are some artists who do not want to pay for services rendered and he is a serious challenge we still face as young producers as we also look up to some of the people we record.
For instance, there are some who promise to pay us after launching their albums but the majority never come back to us when they launch their products.
However, I won’t name and shame them but they know what I mean by this statement.
Lastly, there are some artists who do not make follow-ups with us when we record them.
I don’t understand why they are not making follow-ups with us when they would have paid for studio time.
TK: During recording sessions, what special help do you give to both seasoned and upcoming artists in the studio?
TJ: As a versatile instrumentalist, I can play all the instruments during recording sessions when the artiste agrees.
I am also a songwriter by the way and I can help them when they need my hand.
However, I prefer that the artistes themselves in the studio so that I can help them.
If they have serious challenges, I step in and help them from the arrangement, mixing and even backing vocals.
TK: So what do you regret most in your career so far?
TJ: I regret the time I spent as a session musician because I worked for peanuts for a long time being given false hopes and promises.
If I had continued as a session artiste, I don’t think I could been driving and taking good care of my family.
If I have continued getting peanuts, I don’t think I could have managed to assemble my studio as well as developing my own residential stand.
I am also looking after my children because of the gamble I took to quit as a session artiste to become a producer.
However, I can still play as a session artiste for fun and not to be paid for my services as was in the past.
TK: What’s your vision now?
TJ: Establishing myself as a top producer both locally home and abroad is every producer’s wish list.
To ensure that I realise my potential, I have now decided to work with upcoming artistes and those who are level-headed and professionals.
I have noted that some of the producers in the country die in silence when they are producing top artistes yet they don’t get financial rewards.
TK: What do you need to achieve these goals?
TJ: Firstly, we need to acquire modern equipment and of course a permanent place where to operate from.
I have been hopping from place to place in search of a place to operate from and this has affected my work.
At times we are given notices by our landlords when many people are frequenting their premises where we are renting.
With proper marketing, sound management and of course hard work, I think I can achieve all this.
TK: How do you handle females who literally throw themselves at you?
TJ: Well, this problem is everywhere and even at your workplace I guess.
However, I respect my wife and I wouldn’t want to cheat on her with other ladies.
I treat all female artistes who come for my services as sisters and that way I have managed to survive to this day.
Q: On that note, tell us about your love life?
TK: I am married to Sithabile Dube.
I’m a father of three – two girls and a boy.
I love my family and kids and I will do my best for them to ensure they enjoy the fruits of my sweat.
On the 25th of June, we welcomed a new member of the family when my daughter Shantel Makatendeka was born.
TK: On a parting shot, what your piece of advice to would-be producers?
TJ: Well, as young producers we need to work hard, improvise and be creative to change the game.
Unity among producers is also important but it take a lot of courage and balls of steel maintain that feat.
To upcoming artistes who believe in their talent, we are there to serve them and make them superstars.
All in all we need to be professional and know our value to be up there?
TK: Thanks hey?
TJ: You are welcome.