A producer is a lot of things; initially they function as a creative consultant aiding artists in achieving a certain sound / vibe or aesthetic. Most times they are known as the beat makers who supply ready-made instrumentals that musicians add melodies and lyrics to.
By Alex Gwaze (Curator)
Simba Tagz is a producer / artist and the founder of Showtime Records Africa. “The line between producer and artist was blurred in the early ’90s” and since then, artists like Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Q-Tip, Pharell, J Dilla, Travis Scott, RZA, and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, have become household titans in both fields.
Whilst Tagz may be an accomplished artist having released 2 solo albums, it is his work as a producer that has made him one of the leading voices of the Zimbabwean contemporary scene and on “The Continent”. What sets Tagz apart from other producers is that his production focuses on the artist rather than “branding” himself – this is evident in his reciprocal relationships with other artists. Over the years he has worked with Mr Eazi, Ice Prince, Lady Zamar, Bey T, Skwatta Kamp, EX-Q, Tehn Diamond, Reason, TeamBho, Young Nations, Junior Brown and Kabomo, just to name a few.
Simba’s work as a producer has given him access to local and regional artists’ varying styles and musical ideals. His ability to fuse trending ‘stylistic ‘preferences’, while adding a Zimbabwean ‘feel’ to the myriad of trending rhythms spawning from Africa – has made him one of the driving forces spearheading the new African beat. Music is, after all, a form of communication. However, if it’s not released into the world, it is only a monologue. So, once it is out there, the conversation begins: not just with fans but other artists, musicians, writers etc. At this point, it is all too easy for the ego to take over and use music as a tool to unearth hidden desires – this is not Simba’s goal.
Tagz isn’t flashy or ‘preachy’ – he is a ‘bridge’ whose collaborations create a dialogue between the listeners and the artists. In his own words – “My involvement with Mr Eazi’s emPawa team is really not to do with my own career: what we are trying to do is spotlight all these upcoming artistes”. Simba’s extensive collaborations show that he is a man ready to cope with any contingency and whose behavior is always suited to the occasion – he is a man for all seasons. So, when I got the chance to chat with him, I was curious to know what drew him to behind-the-scenes work.
What initially drew you to music, specifically producing?
“It was always something I could just sense. I remember, if people around me sang a song wrongly, I’d try to correct them. So when I started making music it felt very natural for me to try to bring the best out of those around me”.
You are known as a producer / artist? Which do you prefer – to produce or to perform?
“For me, there isn’t any aspect of music that comes before the other, because its all my expression. I’m linked to the music I produced and to the music I sang – in the same way”.
You collaborate often. Can you describe the process?
“That really depends on time. Some collaborations take minutes in the studio while others, well … For example, ‘My Lover’ took months, due to touring schedules. I didn’t mind because I understand artists and how we work”.
With so many great artists out there, how do you choose who to collaborate with?
“At this stage in my musical career I choose artists that I feel will push me beyond my boundaries. I just try to be better than before. We can do it for new markets (money), but for me it’s about pushing Africa further along the way to international recognition”.
How do you think Zimbabwean music is fairing in the international market?
“I feel our musical expression – due to globalization – is just as important as any other country’s expression right now. Zimbabweans are listening to Zimbabwean music just as much as they do to international artists these days”.
Is there a “Zimbabwean sound” or musical vibe?
“That’s very subjective. I do agree that it exists and in some ways we’ve left it out. But also in some ways, we’ve incorporated it into our music. We should just let it carry out its natural course into the mainstream. Don’t force the vibe”.
You work with Nigerians and South Africans, how do you overcome some of the language and cultural barriers?
“Music is the first universal language. We speak in melodies and harmonies before all else. So I just let the music do the talking”.
As a well-traveled artist, how do you rate African producers?
“African producers are representing. Not just in Africa but in the whole world, I would say. We are moving forward and we have people in every aspect of the industry. Plus, we have what it takes to break onto the world stage”.
In your opinion, what are best African songs or albums ever made?
“This one for me changes every year. Because I’m a music lover”.
Finally are there any lessons, tips or concepts you have learnt from your travels that you would like to share?
“Call me, DM me, work with me – I’ll tell you personally”.
Editor’s Notes, Further Reading and Tips:
“A producer is someone who is actively involved in the writing and recording of the music. Calvin Harris, for instance, makes millions building the beats for songs like his Rihanna collaboration “This Is What You Came For” (as a producer), and then he makes millions upon millions pressing play on that song at nightclubs and festivals (as a DJ)”. However, due to digital technologies, it has become easier to distribute your music to the public and garner a fan base. This has also made it easier for anyone to ‘pirate’ your work; therefore when starting out, in an unpredictable economy, it is important to develop several strategic revenue streams. Firstly, start by charging clients an hourly fee for studio sessions and consultation. Secondly, advertise yourself and your beats on social media. Create and sell “type-beats” for a fixed price range with a non-exclusive lease or exclusive tiers from $50 and up, depending on the quality of the beat. Thirdly, create exclusive sample kits, customized drum kits and synth samples to sell to other producers. Then – don’t just make beats – offer mixing and mastering services. And lastly, conduct music lessons.
DOWNLOAD the full ISSUE No.1 = Save Power, Save Power here.
Listen to Simba Tagz on iTunes: https://music.apple.com/zw/album/natural-selection/1181004430
Preview Simba Tagz’s music on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4NdyzyWZREwfd991qOTTUf
Stream Simba Tagz’s music on Deezer: https://www.deezer.com/us/artist/5844052?autoplay=true