Everything According To: Stewie Le Savage Q & A

Writing is hard!

Words by Alex Gwaze (Curator)
Questions by Alex Gwaze and Joanne Peters (Image Coach & Consultant)

I don’t know about you but having an idea is easier than writing it down in a concise piece of literature. Be it an article, a post, a script or a review, it always takes me miles of pacing around to finally turn the words in my head into something published. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Musician, Blogger and Influencer – Stuart Chikuni. Popularly known as Stewie Le Savage, Stewie won the Best Humanitarian Blog award at the Zim Bloggers Awards (2021) and the Outstanding Music Video at the PRACA Awards (2021). Furthermore, his single “Umthombo Wothando”, was remixed by several South African producers and played on Metro FM and YFM in South Africa. Not bad for an artist who has “described his musical career as a journey of a thousand miles” of “successful singles”.

While some might debate the merits of the ‘singles entertainer’ versus the ‘album artist’ strategies, what is clear is that we are living in different times. Gone are the days when one needed an entire album or a published book to call yourself a musician or a writer. Today you can self publish and be anything and everything, especially if you know how to express yourself quickly, briefly and passionately – online. “Welcome to the home of everything” as it says on Stewie’s blog.

In my opinion, Stuart has managed to become Stewie Le Savage so fluidly because he has embraced the spirit of the times – by that I mean “real time”. The digital age allows us to simultaneously react and create in the ‘now now timeline’. Everything we engage with is potentially new content. In such a world you can easily lose the real you. This is why I decided to talk to Stewie, to get a glimpse of who he really is offline.

JP: You’ve said you are more of a Poet that a Singer. So my first question is – what are your favourite lines or stanzas from a poem. And why do those verses mean so much to you?

SLS: It’s hard to pick a favourite from something I’ve done (I’m assuming you are asking about lines from my work). If I had to pick something in the mood I’m in now I would have to say, the closing line on my song, “Umthombo Wothando”. In that song I say, “there’s no better you than the you that you already are”. I love that line because it’s about motivation, mostly to marginalized groups that are always discriminated and stigmatized all over the world. For Africans, Zimbabweans, people living with Albinism, LGBTQIA+ community and disabled people, those words are a reminder that we’re all perfect the way we are.

AG: A lot of your work speaks to issues of empowerment and mental health. Specifically songs like “Voice of the Oppressed” and “Musical Therapy”. Mental health issues have plagued this generation which ironically is the most connected and most expressive online. What do you think is the core trigger of mental health issues for the youth?

SLS: I can’t speak for all the youths, but in the Zimbabwean context I think lack of jobs is the biggest trigger of mental health issues amongst young people. Living in Zimbabwe is like surviving in a jungle of joblessness, inflation, power and water cuts without respite. There’s too much pressure for young people to make it in these very difficult conditions. And at the end of the day it affects us all, mentally. It’s hard to be in survival mode 24/7.

AG: Personally, I think social media can’t be left out of the mental health equation. You give a lot of advise on social media behaviour on your blog “According to Stewie”. However, people are obsessed with gaining followers. What’s the best advise you can give people to help them gain genuine followers?

SLS: Social media doesn’t have a one size fits all kind of formula. It all depends on one’s content. But one thing I always advise people is not to use robots to get reactions or boost their following, because there is no use in having 3 million followers and your posts can’t even elicit 100 reactions. So step one, make your content boost your followers emotions. Step two, follow and engage with other peoples posts. Social media is a community after all so step three is – create a community around you and your interests.

JP: One interest I’ve seen you push on social media is that of Colourism. Even your song “Melanin Confidence” is centered around Africans being comfortable in their own skin. Do you think we still live in black and white world, even in Africa?

SLS: Yes we do! You know, I wrote “Melanin Confidence” after a conversation I had with some high school students who told me that they believe certain career paths are only for white people. There’s still a huge gap that needs to be filled, especially within the black community’s understanding and representation of their worth. We still have so much to do as Black people, especially in Africa.

AG: You’ve talked about telling “the story of a 21st century black man”. I know you are still in process of telling that story, but could you give us an idea of how the 21st century black man is different from those men of the past?

SLS: There is so much I can say but it must be mentioned that men were always told that crying is for women. And that being a man, or manly or man enough means one has to possess power or control over everyone else. But in the 21th century, a man has to understand that it’s okay to cry. He has to understand that a woman is not a possession, tool or a servant. That she is also human, like him. The 21st century black man, or should I say men all over the world, have so much unlearning to do in this century on what it means to be a man.

AG: Your mom, uMaNgwenya raised your brothers and your sister alone. Many successful black singers / rappers are raised by single mothers and as result they dedicate several songs to their mothers. However, some of these same men abuse other women. Staying on that ’21st century male unlearning’, why do you think there is this male – female disconnect in some black homes?

SLS: You know that saying, “hurt people hurt people”. Most broken people find solace in breaking other people – maybe it has to do with familiarity (repeating broken patterns and such). I think that some men raised by single mothers believe it’s okay for women to raise children alone. So they put the blame on their mothers for their fathers leaving them. And that results in them believing that women are always at fault somehow. I don’t really know the answer to that question. That’s just what I think at this stage of my life. You know as a people we have a long walk to freedom. We still have a lot to do for us to make this world a better place – and it starts in our homes.

JP: Talking about homes, you are from Bulawayo. Interestingly, Bulawayo artists tend to collaborate with South African artists and Harare artists reach out to African artists. Is there an inherent desire for Bulawayo artists to reconnect with their South African heritage or is there something more to it?

SLS: (Laughs) Honestly, if you follow history you’ll understand the relationship between Bulawayo and South Africa (laughs). But well I’d love to believe that we collaborate or partner with people within our reach. So that’s why most Bulawayo people hunt for South African collaborations more. Also, most people in Bulawayo consume mostly South African content and ideas. So I think Bulawayo-South Africa collaborations are a strategic way to for both parties to share ideas and the same audience.

AG: However, you are a little different. Different in that you are doing Tribal House instead of Amapiano or Kwaito. Did you decide to work within the Afro-Tribal genre to reconnect with the larger Africanness beyond South Africa?

SLS: (laughs) I fell in love with my African-ness in my childhood days. I’d do a lot of research trying to find interesting aspects of being an African that speak to me. Everything I’ve learnt to date (be it at school, at church, on the internet or through my day to day life) has boosted my confidence and pride in being an African. I appreciate my roots and I don’t wish to disconnect with them. We all need to reconnect with our African-ness in some way.

JP: You’ve mentioned researching Africa and Africanness. As a blogger / songwriter I’m sure you have suffered from writer’s block at some stage. Does researching help you to get your creative juices flowing again? How do you overcome writer’s block?

SLS: Research is great for finding ideas or inspiration. However, when writers block hits I pause everything I’ll be doing at that moment. I take a break and seek inspiration to start writing again. One thing that works for me is looking back at my own work. I’ve always motivated myself by looking at the things I’ve done before – the positive feedback I’ve received and my achievements. As well as the negativity – areas I want to improve and stuff. This always reminds me of why I even started doing me in the first place (laughs).

AG: Lastly, you are a motivational speaker. Surely you draw your inspiration from other life coaches. What’s the greatest inspiration you ever gotten, which continues to give you purpose and direction today?

SLS: For me it’s watching the documentary on the life of Nina Simone. She inspired me to implement everything I always dreamt of doing. Being different in a society that has views and opinions against your beliefs is always a hindrance to a lot of things. So the entire life of Nina Simone inspired me to tell my story and let the world know and adjust to things that are different. Make them understand that not everything they see as wrong, is actually wrong.

Follow Stewie Le Savage on Instagram: @StewieLeSavage
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