Steve Dyer speaks on Zim music

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HARARE – South African musician and producer, Steve Dyer, will direct a new-look Mahube at this year’s edition of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) set to run from May 2 to 7.


Mahube, a collaboration which brought together southern African artistes who included music superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, was one of the highlights of the first edition of 1999.


To revive the Mahube concept, Dyer, with the help of his son, Bokani, has roped in Tuku, mbira songbird Hope Masike, Mozambican songstress Xixel Langa as well as South Africans Siya Makuzeni and Mbuso Khoza.


The Daily News on Sunday’s Dakarai Mashava recently spoke to Steve Dyer, who led a band called Southern Freeway in Zimbabwe in the early 1990s before relocating to his homeland, South Africa in 1993. The interview touched on Mahube, the 2017 edition of Hifa and his views on the Zimbabwean music scene. Below are excerpts of the interview:


Q: Whenever you think of Zimbabwe in music terms, with particular reference to the time you were based here, what comes to mind?


A: What comes to mind is that there were bands there (in Zimbabwe) that stuck together — that always played music as communal. Also that the audience appreciates music and takes an interest in their artistes. I learnt a lot of the rhythms and approach of Zimbabwean musicians that influenced me to this day I would say. Oh, and also that bands there can play long hours…I think of the Pungwes…..!!. Also I learnt the other day that Basil Mapfumo (Bulawayo-based professional band manager) named his son Thabiso, after the first song I ever recorded. That felt good.


Q: Of the Zimbabwean artistes that emerged after you left Zimbabwe in 1993 which one(s) has/have impressed you the most?


A: There are many musicians that impress in their chosen styles and on chosen instruments, so to identify and single out a name is difficult. Recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Ammara Brown, Mokoomba, Selmor and Sandra Mtukudzi, Tendai Manatsa, Tariro Negitare, Hope Masike, Chengeto Brown…Zimbabwean music is in good hands!


Q: As a producer you have worked with Zimbabwean artistes?


A: I have worked with Tuku, produced an album for Tariro Negitare, and am busy working on material featuring Ammara Brown from the theatre production Colour Me Human that we performed in 2015.


Q: Since you produced five albums for Tuku, including the very popular Tuku Music, how can you best describe Tuku? How does he compare with the best in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent?


A: As a producer what is needed from an artiste is a good choice of songs, and a unique approach and sound. Tuku has an instantly recognisable voice, strong material with meaningful lyrics, and a good work ethic. In the times we worked together, he was often the first person to arrive at the recording session or rehearsal. As an artiste, the only competition is yourself. Tuku has been an inspiration to Africans as well as a great ambassador for Zimbabwean culture globally through his music.


Q: Apart from the Hifa show, do you have any other show lined up in Zimbabwe?


A: Not for 2017. However, for the first time I am staying for Hifa after performing to catch some other events.


Q: What is your advice to upcoming Zimbabwean artistes?


A: My advice is that music is a tough life choice. It needs endurance. Before worrying about your public profile, work on improving yourself and your art and so become ready for any opportunity that comes your way. Learn from everywhere possible. There are no shortcuts.


Q: What is your company Dyertribe Music about?


A: Dyertribe Music is a company that I direct with my son Bokani (A multi-award-winning South African pianist, composer and producer). It is important to get a grasp as far as possible on the business side of music. Recognising the intellectual property rights associated with music is key, and if handled correctly it is empowering. Dyertribe is involved with the conceptualising, directing, recording, performing and publishing of music.


Q: You will co-direct the new-look Mahube with your son Bokani. Why did you bring your son on board?


A: Bokani is one of the young musical “lions” in South Africa. Whether my son or not, he has his own story to tell, and his own musical voice. Times move, and the new Mahube needs younger voices to become involved in the concept and take it further. I think Selmor Mtukudzi said “evolve or dissolve”. Haha — I am trying not to dissolve.


Q: Did Southern Freeway disband when you relocated to South Africa?


A: They disbanded when I relocated. Sadly, many of the members of Southern Freeway have passed away: William Mhlanga, Sipho Ncube, Kenny Marozwa, Thandeka Ngono, Handsome Mabiza. They may be gone but the memories remain — we had some great times together. I am still in touch with Never Mpofu.


Q: Any information you think Zimbabweans don’t know about you?


A: They may not know that Steve is a handsome thirty-something-year-old guy that is doing his best to enjoy life. And that sometimes he has a naughty sense of humour (I think).

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