Meet Vusa Mkhaya: The Bulawayo Imbube Singer Based in Austria
I started making music when I was a kid. I am being told that I used to sing when I was 4/5 years old. I don’t recall but everyone ngekhaya calls me ‘Manyanyatha’
iNgudukazi: If you could change anything about the Bulawayo music industry, what would it be?
Vusa Mkhaya: I think the Zimbabwean music industry nje needs to change a lot of things because right now people are not being paid amaroyalties abo kuhle. We need a proper structure and a Musicians’ Union that will protect musicians and always stand for musicians because musicians are being taken advantage of. Their songs are played on radio and most of them don’t get paid royalties and right now with the Corona they were promised money by the Ministry and no money has been paid yet. So what I would change is to create a proper Musicians’ Union that will represent musicians not only on grass-roots level but also in Parliament.
iNgudukazi: You have such an amazing voice, at what age did you start singing?
Vusa Mkhaya: I started making music when I was a kid. I am being told that I used to sing when I was 4/5 years old. I don’t recall but everyone ngekhaya calls me ‘Manyanyatha’ because I used to sing and dance and imitate oMasgandi and so on. This is how I started doing music. When I was 9 years I joined the junior choir at school Mahlabezulu Primary school in Tshabalala koBulawayo and I sang in the choir and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the attention. There were a few boys singing in the choir and a lot of girls so we got the attention and I enjoyed that, from there I joined the senior choir and I kept on singing.
Voting lines are open. ONLY Econet subscribers! #Ngiyabongamina pic.twitter.com/4VXchrvBLE
— #Masiyephambili (@VusaMkhaya) November 3, 2020
iNgudukazi: What steps did you take to break into the music industry?
Vusa Mkhaya: The steps that I took to break in to the music industry were simple for me first I knew that I wanted to be on stage. I knew that I wanted to be on radio and so everyday we just rehearsed and rehearsed and in Bulawayo back then there were community halls in the townships so we booked our own shows, printed our own posters and went around emalokitshini performing. We went to primary schools to perform. We made sure we performed wherever we had an opportunity and audience we did not wait for someone to do this for us, we did not wait for someone to say hey guys come and perform here do this and do that we did it on our own because we knew that if we were to wait we’d wait sizesiyekufa (till we died).
iNgudukazi: How do you feel the Internet has impacted the local music business?
Vusa Mkhaya: The Internet has played a very big role in the music industry, especially now during lockdown we’ve seen many live shows on Facebook. We’ve seen people selling their music on iTunes and Spotify, we’ve seen video clips on YouTube so the Internet is playing a very big role. We’ve seen musicians on Twitter as well as Instagram I really would advise those who aren’t sure or are lagging behind to get on board and get on social media and push their brand because the Internet is the future without the Internet kunzima kakhulu ngabe asikho esikhona kathesi
iNgudukazi: What is your favourite song to perform?
Vusa Mkhaya: Mhm my favourite song to perform would be ‘uManyanyatha’ because this is my story and this is a song that talks about where I come from and who I am. It’s one of the songs that’s really personal to me and every time I perform this song, I get a certain feeling of pride of where I come from, who I am, thinking of my people, thinking of my mother because on this song I mention my mother, grandmother, my late sister and my cousin so this is a song that speaks to me in so many ways and it will take time for me to get a song that really speaks to me the way ‘uManyanyatha’ does.
Music collaboration is a crucial skill all musicians should consider. It can help develop your musical knowledge, expand your fanbase, boost exposure, open opportunities, and advance your career in the music industry. #Ngiyabongamina
— #Masiyephambili (@VusaMkhaya) October 23, 2020
iNgudukazi: Which famous musicians do you admire and aspire to work with?
Vusa Mkhaya: This would be Peter Gabriel hands down. I admire the way that he writes his music the way that he arranges his music and my dream is to work with him in the studio or on stage I also admire Hans Zimmer I was honored to be on the same space with him and also perform some of his works in front of a live audience. Peter Gabriel is one musician who I’d love to collab with and do a song. Salif Keita as well.
Yesterday we got a call from one of Zimbabwe’s finest musicians asking us to feature on his song….. recording starts in a few days time. Who do you think it is?#Ngiyabongamina #lonyakaSo #AsilwiSiyasebenza pic.twitter.com/8vCnHYEwBh
— #Masiyephambili (@VusaMkhaya) October 31, 2020
iNgudukazi: What kind of singer would you classify yourself as?
Vusa Mkhaya: My background is imbube music. First started with choir and then imbube music and then evolving into world music crossover and mixing all genres jazz elements and classic elements. So I really don’t box myself and say what I do and this is the kind of music that I perform. I try to experiment and do what I think my voice can do. Except hard rock of course. My voice is flexible to experiment and sing different kind of genres.
iNgudukazi: What skills have you learned that will help you in your singing career?
Vusa Mkhaya: I attended the Johann-Joseph Fux Konservatorium in Graz, Austria and I learnt music theory and composing. This is very important for me because working with other musicians from all over the world is not easy if you don’t know how to read and write music. So it makes life easy for me now to collaborate with whoever I want to collaborate with because the music language is the same world wide and if you have the best of both worlds, the music theory knowledge and the music knowledge that we were born with then uyabutshay’ ubambile.
iNgudukazi: You’re currently in Austria how do you cope with being away from home for long periods?
Vusa Mkhaya: It’s not so easy being away from home especially this year with Covid-19. I always try my best to be at home two or three times a year and if I’m lucky and I’m touring somewhere in Africa I try come home and spend time with my people. This year is hard because even if I want to be home to spend time with my people because of the travel regulations that were imposed by Covid I can’t at the moment but with the Internet, WhatsApp and Facebook I stay connected to everyone at home and I talk to them everyday and make sure I don’t miss out on anything especially the most important dates, birthday’s anniversaries and all that kind of thing.
iNgudukazi: What is it that most of your fans don’t know about you?
Vusa Mkhaya: (laughs) wow but then if I say it they will know about me, maybe I want to keep it a secret but I was a tennis player growing up and I won some tournaments but music and drama took over. I’m still a big fan of tennis and I watch it a lot and I think if I wasn’t a musician I was going to be a sports person. Tennis and rugby fascinate me, those are the sports that I love.
iNgudukazi: What challenges /if any have you faced being an African man in your line of work?
Vusa Mkhaya: Especially touring in Europe and the USA the issue is always the visa because you need a visa to travel to most of these places. If you have a Zimbabwean passport, you are already a suspect before you even do anything. I remember traveling to Russia, Moscow it was easy to get into the country but getting out was a nightmare we were detained and interrogated even though we were traveling with our white colleagues who just passed by easily. Sometimes you have to be strong and focus on what you’re traveling for and what you’re doing so I think the biggest challenge is the law enforcement. I remember at one point in Paris, France one lady saw me coming out of my room, this was a 5-star hotel and the guest told me not to clean her room because she still had her luggage inside and that she had spoken to the reception. She thought I was the help (laughs). I had a good time talking to her and letting her know I was a guest just as she was. At the end of the day, you have to focus and look at the bigger picture like what am I here for?
iNgudukazi: How are you giving back to the Bulawayo music industry? Do you mentor anyone?
Vusa Mkhaya: I do a lot of mentoring in Bulawayo and recording with artists. Archie, Sisa and I, opened a publishing company MGIZ Publishing (My Guy In Zimbabwe Publishing). We publish music and we make sure all the music is available on all online stores. We don’t take any commission for it. This is our way of giving back and making sure that musicians are visible out there. There is another project with my colleagues at Insingizi, Blessings and Ramadu, we are building a library and a theatre in Mbizingwe Primary school in Esigodini. We want to ensure that kids have a place to read and go create music, drama and theatre. At the moment, they do everything under a tree and they rehearse there, and they have prize giving there. It’s our biggest project right now. We are building there in Esigodini at the primary school.
#johnvuligatechallenge made in Bulawayo Zimbabwe. #NdebeleTwitter #Ngiyabongamina pic.twitter.com/BTCkPFkvdf
— #Masiyephambili (@VusaMkhaya) October 15, 2020
iNgudukazi: You recently went viral on TikTok with over 900 videos having used your “John Vuli gate” cover. Did you think it’d trend as much as it has?
Vusa Mkhaya: Yeah man, I did this ‘John Vuli Gate’ song. It was for fun. Q Dube, the comedian, took my video and posted it on TikTok. Twenty four hours later, I saw more than 300 videos with my ‘John Vuli Gate’ rendition. I was surprised because I didn’t expect something like this to happen. I was just having fun, fooling around in my home studio and BOOM it just went viral like that. I’m grateful to Q Dube for uploading it to his TikTok. I must admit, I’m not a TikTok person. I had an account which I hadn’t used for years or so. I went on there and I’m trying my best to be on TikTok since that video went viral. It’s not easy.
iNgudukazi: Tell us Vusa are you working on anything for your fans, what’s next?
Vusa Mkhaya: I am always working on something new. I have a home studio. With Covid and travel restrictions we can’t tour as much as we used to, so I spend a lot of time in my home studio working, writing and creating new songs. Right now, I just finished a new song which I was mixing and mastering and I am on to the next one.
I also do collaborations with different musicians. Djembe Monks and I have a song together. I’m not sure when it’ll be released, hopefully it’s soon. I was supposed to do a song with the late Cal_Vin. It’s still not easy for me to really accept that he’s not here anymore. He called me last Thursday and asked me to do a song with him for his new album. This was going to be our second song together where he features me. When he called me in 2017 to co-write music with him for his album UThando: A short story, I was surprised that he knew who I was. So I told him I was going to work with him on three conditions. Condition 1, no swearing on the songs I was going to be part of. Second condition, no “N word.” Thirdly, we were to keep it strictly vernac. There are a few English words here and there but we tried our best to keep it vernac. He agreed and we came up with a fresh new sound and an amazing album.
We were working on another one and you said this one will be a banger. On Thursday you said “Not another love song bhudas, let’s do something different this time”
Rest easy young KING🖤 pic.twitter.com/lyLgwuOTqY
— Vusa Mkhaya (@VusaMkhaya) October 25, 2020