Put It In Reverse: Mawiza Q & A

What are your memories worth to you?

Words by Alex Gwaze (Researcher)
Questions by Alex Gwaze and Nonsi Tshabangu (Dance Instructor / Vlogger)

In the 90s Kwaito crossed the Limpopo river, border-jumping into the hearts and mind of many Bulawayo residents, and it never really went back home. For many Ndebele, Sotho, Tswana, and Xhosa Zimbos, the ‘sound’ of a Mdu, Zola, Trompies, TKZee, or Mashamplani, felt like a taste of the everyday and right now – basically vernacular. That vernacular Kwaito sound caught the attention of Mawiza, who thought its vibe was just #perfect. So much so that he has crafted his fledgling career around that 90s sound.


Born Wisdom Moyo, Mawiza is a former protégé of the late ZimHiphop star, Cal_Vin – now turned King of ZimKwaito. Whilst most new artists turn to trending or future sounds, Mawiza, it seems is not afraid to look backward – especially when it comes to re-purposing that classic Pantsula feel. It’s an interesting move to craft your career on memories of a bygone era, but that’s what Bruno Mars has been doing for years and that’s how Mawiza has made a name for himself. Both artists have adopted a put in reverse and return to the source strategy. Maybe that’s why Mawiza’s music has traces of things we have lost, dreams we had hoped to achieve, and attitudes we have already groomed. But that doesn’t mean his music is old-school or stuck in the past.

A quick glance of his collaborations – from ZimHiphop heavyweights ASAPH and Cal_Vin, to the self-professed “President Yama 2000s” Tebza, to the soulful Mimmie Tarukwana – will show you why this finance student at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) is often dubbed the “future of Kwaito”. Mawiza is “building upon a classic”, as they say, and we caught up with him to find out why he has taken such an old fashioned approach to contemporary music.

AG: You have been dubbed, the “King of ZimKwaito”, but your music fuses several contemporary genres like Soul, ZimDancehall, Hip-hop, and Trap. How would you describe your sound, for those that think you are refusing to let Kwaito die a peaceful death?

MW: (laughs) Actually, my sound is 100% African. And secondly, Kwaito is going nowhere. What l can tell you is that Amapiano is just Kwaito which went to private school. What I do is ‘try’ to fuse Kwaito with the sounds emerging from the new generation. Just to show that it can keep up and it’s still relevant.

NT: First it was D’Gong, then Panstula, Kwaito, and now it is House, Gqom, and Amapiano blasting out the cars in the parking lots in Bulawayo. You rarely hear ZimDancehall or ZimHiphop. Why do you think South African music is so ingrained in Bulawayo culture? And please do not say it is a language thing.

MW: It’s because these two entities, Zimbabwe and South Africa share a past. If we take ourselves back to the era of Tshaka, Mzilikazi, and Lobengula, one has a clear view that Ndebeles and Zulus have a history. Therefore, Ndebeles feel a sense of connection per se, that is tied up with some aspects of Zulu culture. Especially since Zimbabwean Ndebele and South African Zulu are almost the same language. I know you said don’t say it’s a language thing, but we cannot ignore the fact that similar languages are the fastest way to connect cultures. Furthermore, the media plays the biggest role in spreading SA’s influence in Bulawayo. Most people in Bulawayo watch DSTV (Channel O, MTV Base, Trace, Etv etc), and other pirated channels. So they are more familiar with the South African lifestyles and artists, than our own.

AG: Keeping it on the whole language thing – “Ng’khulum’iskhiwa ngeVernacular”; what an interesting catch-phrase.You start most of your songs / verses with that signature. But, with a lot of African acts now using local languages in their art, do you think that English will still be relevant?

MW: Yes! English will still be relevant. English is the cornerstone of the academic world. You can try to ignore it, but that means you will be putting up a vast number of communication barriers because a lot of things are translated to English. So in a way English broadens our horizons. However, that ‘signature’ statement is an affirmation of how proud I am of our own local culture. I know to be who I am I have to fully embrace and use of my mother tongue in as many situations as I can.

NT: Your debut album, “Last Namba” featured quite a few artists from different genres – from Cal_Vin to Msizkay. I know the cross-over appeal must have influenced your decision to include these artists, but once you got them in the booth, how did you manage to marry their sound with your sound? 

MW: My approach to collaborations with other artists is based solely on the idea I have for the song. That makes it easier for all who are involved because we are working on the best version of that song. As for my album, it took me years to finish it because Cal_Vin (RIP) would always say it’s not yet time. Or maybe he thought l was not yet in album mode. However, working with him was always fun and we made so many records together, most of which are not even out. As for my other features. With Mimmie it was hard to get her in studio but she is a natural and a very talented musician. I thank God she nailed the idea. And, Tebza and Msizkay, they are my home boys. Working with them is like working with Cal_Vin. They have grown to know my sound and the ‘sound’ of the song is the backbone of any good collaboration.

NT: So, which local artists, besides Tuku and Majaivana, would people be surprised to find in your collection?

MW: I listen to Berita, MsizKay, ASAPH, Killer T, Tebza, and Awakhiwe, just to mention the ones I am currently playing.

AG: Which African artists would you like to work with, and why?

MW: Makwa. I like his new Mzonkonko sound. And Burnaboy because l respect his Naija Afrofusion vibe. I so wish I could fuse Burna’s style with Kwaito and see what can come out. That would be something 110% African!
AG: Bringing it back home for a minute. You once said in Zimbabwe “you have to be versatile to survive and find different ways of making money”. Zimbabwe has become this ‘guma guma’ dog eat dog, survival of the fittest country. How do you think this hustling lifestyle has affected the youth?

MW: There is a fine line between crime and hustling. This dog eat dog culture has pushed up the crime rate and pulled down our own values. We now have a new generation of people who are intellectually poor, unprofessional, and inexperienced. When you’re hustling and surviving you only see what’s in front of you. That damages the society in the long run, and the whole country’s posterity. However, it is not all bad. We mustn’t ignore the positive impact that hustling has on our day to day lives, and entrepreneurial zeal. It creates well-versed, jacked up individuals who are autonomous at a younger age. You need to be innovative and creative to come up with the next hustle in a community of hustlers. Thus, a lot of youths are now able to think outside the box and that’s a fundamental step of real life living.

AG: You said that football legend Chipo Tsodzo’s turn from being a striker to midfield then a defender, inspired you to be “a jack of all trades”. So, besides being a musician and a finance student, what are your other talents? Do you have a side-hustle?

MW: Hmmm. A good hustle is best kept silent (laughs). But everyone knows I’m into entrepreneurship. Though the details of my projects are not ready to be divulged to the public, just know l got a few projects in the pipe line that will be exposed soon.

AG: Well, we do know at least one side project, well sort off. You do some volunteer work, right? We are familiar with your involvement with Grassroots Soccer in Bulawayo. Besides Grassroots, do you work with any other organisations?

MW: Yes I do volunteer. And, l have worked with other NGOs before, which include CCJP. To me, volunteering is simply giving back to the community. l believe that if we all become change-makers in our communities, instead of just talking about change, we will be able to make the world a better place. And, besides volunteering, being a mentor also serves the community. In this age of social distancing and lockdowns it is better to find mentorship opportunities because mentors serve as a support system to provide the youth with information and the encouragement to believe in themselves. They groom and nurture talent. And most importantly, there is the whole acquisition of knowledge thing; mentors share their knowledge and experience. As a mentee you can learn from their experience. Information is power, the more you get to encounter other people’s experiences, the better you get to understand life.

NT: There is very little information about your life out there. So for the final question, we would like to know – is there someone special in your life? A muse, a Mrs, a child? Tell us everything.

MW: (laughs) Yes, l do have someone special in my life whom l will reveal to the public when the right time comes. There is a time for everything and when the time is right it won’t be a reveal, it will be an – it is what it is – moment (laughs).

FOLLOW MAWIZA at: https:/www.facebook.com/Mawiza-Zim
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