Gora Zowa Machoronga, born Tafadzwa Gora, is an upcoming Afrocoustic musician working on his first offering – a 15-track album set for release within a month. So promising is his work that promoters in Europe and the United States are already calling to book him for shows even before his first work is out. Journalist Gabriel Manyati (GM) sat down with Gora (TG, pictured) this week to get an insight into what music fans can expect from the sizzling newbie, who has already assembled a band and is raring to hit the music scene with the force of a tsunami.
GM: What first got you into music?
TG: I believe I was born a musician. I remember, as a young boy, I used to put together empty bottles, tins and any metal object that could produce a sound, and compose songs. Most of the lyrics were of course senseless, but it was still music. Also, growing up in my rural home of Chihota, we used to sing at home with my uncles Alexandar (Zanda), Shame, Washington and Wellington. They were older than me but together with my other uncles Obey and Pride, who were younger than me but almost of my age, we would accompany our older uncles to the pfonda/jit gatherings.
The pfondas/jit gatherings were characterised by a lot of enchanting singing and dancing. So, this exposure caused me to fall in love with music. More so, we would also sing whilst herding cattle or working in the fields so as to kill time. There was a song that sekuru (uncle) Zanda used to lead in singing, and the lyrics went like Pamusoro pegomo kununa pakafira chana chenguruve, ndikerewo, ndikerewo handina keriya (A piglet died on top of the mountain and it is oozing fat, carry me, carry me, I do not have a carrier).
GM: Who inspired you to make music?
TG: I was exposed to music at a very young age, as my father would always play Simon Chimbetu’s and Thomas Mapfumo’s music. When I was in primary school, I remember an incident in which I was aboard a Zupco bus with my parents and I was given money by a stranger upon hearing me singing one of Simon Chimbetu’s songs.
However, I only entertained the thought and possibility of actually stepping into the studio at some point in future when I was exposed to music by the late Pastor Pfumo Kahwema, of Zaoga church. This is despite the fact that I was only introduced to his music after he had already passed on.
However, throughout this music journey, there were various individuals who contributed to bringing out the musician in me and moulding me and I remain greatly indebted to their selflessness.
GM: How would you describe the music that you typically create?
TG: My music is not made-up stories. It is real life. I sing about real people and real life experiences.
GM: What is your creative process like?
TG: I have never written down a song, but I compose a song in my head, sing it several times inside until I am satisfied with the arrangement of the lyrics and melodies, then I take it to the studio for recording. I do not struggle putting lyrics of a song together, as this comes naturally to me. In most cases, I actually make a conscious decision to compose a song.
The sources for my lyrics are various, ranging from statements and stories that I hear people say in my day to day interactions with them; statements that I read in written texts, the internet and on social media; African proverbs, idioms and folklore; to observations from people’s behaviours and experiences. In addition, my personal experiences are always a ready source for my songs as well.
GM: Who would you most like to collaborate with? If you could go and open a show for any artist who would it be? Why?
TG: Salif Keita. He is the Golden Voice of Africa.
GM: What is one message you would give to your fans? Or do you have a fan base yet?
TG: I appreciate the support that I am already receiving from all the people who are taking an interest in my music after I shared some snippets from the upcoming album on various social media platforms. My message to them is that I am finalising work on the album to come up with quality music. Also, I look forward to their feedback, including constructive criticism as soon as the album is released.
GM: What is the most useless talent you have?
TG: God endowed me with so many gifts that I have put to good use. However, the most useless is boxing because i never actually pursued it. I am swift and accurate. Growing up in the countryside, boxing was a rite of passage where you were expected to prove your manhood and valour. So I handed technical knockouts to everyone that I exchanged blows with, including my elder brothers and uncles. I never tasted defeat and due to my fighting exploits, I earned myself the moniker Chief Mapondera (the chief of fight) and that is the name they call me in my rural area to this date.
GM: Do you sing in the shower? What songs?
TG: I sing in the shower a lot. I take this time to perfect my new compositions.
GM: Why didn’t you just go into music but rather decided to do it as a side gig?
TG: It is because of pre-occupation with academic studies and career demands. However, ultimately, I see myself becoming a full-time musician.
GM: Tell us everything you can about your upcoming album? How many tracks? Is this your first effort?
TG: This will be my first effort in this genre. However, I have had experimental projects in other genres before. This upcoming album will carry 15 tracks and I have vivid memories of the times when, and the places where, I composed each track that is on the upcoming album. It was not easy recording the album because I had to strike a balance between work time, family time and studio time.
So, in most instances, I would step into the studio at midnight and finish recording at 5am, and then sleep for one and half hours, as I needed to be at my workplace at 8am. Nevertheless, the upcoming album touches on a number of themes and resonates with the daily experiences of the average human being irrespective of colour, social class, gender roles and sex, political affiliation, age, religious and cultural beliefs. It is an interlacing of economic, social, cultural and political discourses and human rights in the form of music, with the ultimate objective to enhance cohesion at all levels of society.
GM: Which famous musicians do you admire?
TG: I have so much respect for Thomas Mapfumo, who has always identified himself with the people’s struggle since the days of the liberation struggle; the late Oliver Mtukudzi, for championing the rights of women, children and people living with HIV and Aids. I laud these two great musicians for preserving our Zimbabwean culture and heritage through music. I also approve of the unique social conscious content of music by Alick Macheso, Leornard Zhakata, Victor Kunonga and Pastor Charles Charamba, as well as the well-organised top-notch live performances by Mokoomba.
Outside my country, I have high regard for Sona Jobarteh, from Gambia who became the first female Kora player to come from a Griot family; as well as Salif Keita, who rose above the stigma and discrimination associated with albinism to become the Golden Voice of Africa.
On the international front, I have so much respect for Bob Marley’s resolve in composing music that advocated for the rights of black people, including singing against poverty and oppression. Finally, I identify with Don Moen’s music as he spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ.
GM: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
TG: My mother advised me to be God-loving, hardworking, honest and always respectful. My paternal uncles taught me to be fearless.