The sound of Motown is ubiquitous, transcending race, culture and country. Despite the record label’s humble beginnings in Detroit, United States, under the visionary and leadership of Berry Gordy. Trading as Hitsville, Motown has had a cross-generational impact on popular culture. His music is of black origin, but packaged in a manner palatable to the lucrative white American audience. Once that goal was achieved, it would only be a matter of time before the rest of the world caught on. Fungai Nengare (FN) is an African soul man. His sound carries the same musical DNA. His music represents a niche. He is not Jah Prayzah. Admire Kudita (AK) of IndependentXtra spoke to him about his music.
AK: You released a single Maybe it’s You, that snagged pole position on urban radio charts. The single is unique in that it is unapologetically sung in English. What was the thinking behind its writing and process?
FN: It was simply music that was fun and easy to listen to. At the same time, I wanted to explain the complexities of love and relationships.
AK: How has been the feedback to the song?
FN: The feedback has been amazing. It is one the most-played tracks on all radio stations in Zimbabwe.
It was number 1 on StarFM hit list for five consecutive weeks and was in the major charts of other radio stations:
namely ZiFM and number 2 on PowerFM chart show. People loved it. Our local Dj, RayDizz, has it on his playlist. My fan base has also had a steady growth. The single sales were moderate, but good.
AK: Your music lends itself to RnB/soul. Was that deliberate? Did you have a moment whereby you decided that that is what you would do? Your vocal styling is definitely RnB.
FN: Yes, indeed. My music does lend to RnB/soul, but I do not think I can be put in a box and say that those are my only genres. My music definitely leans to it and you will hear it in my upcoming singles, as well as albums, but definitely not bound by genre.
AK: Explain your creative process in coming up with songs
FN: My creative process works in two ways. Sometimes I just wake up in the morning, feeling inspired. I go on my guitar and write. Second, I go to the studio and work with Reverb7 or Tagz till something is birthed, depending on what we want to make.
AK: Let us talk about your references or influences. Some critics feel you have the same vocal stylising as John Legend. Is it conscious?
FN: It was never a conscious decision, but I guess because he is one of my influences. It just happened.
AK: Who are the other influences and does it bother you?
FN: They range from the obvious John Legend, Jazz Invitation, Micasa, Anthony Hamilton, Babyface, John B Coco, Roy and Royce, Coldplay, Bobby McFerrin, Nico and Vinz. The list is endless.
AK: Does it bother you that you do not sound like, say, a Mateu or Roki or Jah Prayzah?
FN: Not at all. We cannot sound the same. It would be boring.
AK: Don’t you want to sound like a “Zimbabwean” musician?
FN: I want to sound like a musician. No need to box the music . . . it inspires you according to your story.
ak: What are you aiming to achieve?
FN: I am aiming to leave a legacy in the music industry and help shape the music sector in Zimbabwe.
AK: What has Maybe It’s You done for you?
FN: It has helped maintain my visibility and brought more listenership and fans.
AK: Is there an album on the cards?
FN: There is definitely an album on the cards. I have been in the studio for the past six months. We are 80% ready. It will be out in September.
AK: What has been happening in your music career in terms of tours and collaborations?
FN: My career has morphed from just performing to touring, corporate events, weddings and writing.
AK: Name some of the tours . . . locally and overseas, as well as corporate events?
FN: Local tours: Gweru, Kariba, Hifa, Musica, Newscafé, Maestro, Jam Tree and Horsebox. Overseas: Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. Corporate: Old Mutual, Cabs, Rotary Club, Rotaract, CBZ, Doltek, Remy Martin, Windhoek.
AK: How did you get to this place musically? What are the landmarks?
FN: It started at the age of seven (laughing). From singing in the choir and listening to my dad’s old records, to singing at variety shows in high school and to collaborating with my friend Simba Musiiwa, who inspired me to play the guitar. I went from studying music and taught myself guitar, to finally being called to the part of Jazz Invitation, which opened numerous other doors. I met up with amazing artistes like Reverb7, Simba Tagz, Courtney Rusike, Tina Masawi and Prayersoul.
AK: When was the Jazz Invitation era and how was it working with Kelly Rusike, being an experienced RnB hand from way back?
FN: The Jazz Invitation era was when I had just come to Harare. It was great working with Kelly (Rusike). It had its ups and downs. I had come from my hometown, Gweru. I studied with the University of South Africa.
AK: So it was nothing but music for you in terms of career path?
FN: Not entirely. While I was studying music, I was also training to be an infants teacher.
AK: What is your discography to date?
FN: There is no album yet, but singles namely: Beautiful day, Take me Home, Paradise, You Found Me, featuring Reverb7, Beautiful Faces and finally, Maybe it’s You.