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Willis Wataffi rises again

WATAFFI Too many people begin to whisper things into the ears of members to the point that perspective is lost. Whatever happened back then, from the rubble of Afrika Revenge’s demise, singer songwriter, Willis Wataffi has set his sights on a glittery horizon. His struggle to shake off the Afrika Revenge albatross is finally paying off here in Bulawayo where his music career began. Wataffi graced the stage last Saturday night at the Bulawayo Theatre as he was part of the coterie of artists who had gathered to help songbird Prudence Mabhena launch her debut album. With a guitar in his hand and  without a band behind him, no frills, Wataffi showed out. He is an Afro-pop music purveyor but he prefers that you call his music qaya music. Very soon the world will yet again see that here is a highly gifted artist with a strong social conscience, very much in touch with who he is and what his singular musical vision is. He is a solo musician many miles from the Afrika Revenge pop group that dazzled the nation in the mid 2000s and helped bring a otherwise obscure language Kore Kore  to national attention in the song Wanga.  The group went on to make history by winning four awards in one night including song of the year for Wanga, best male artist, best jazz album, best newco-mer at the 2004 ZIMAs and outstanding album for the debut album Qaya Music” at the 2005 NAMAs.In the aftermath of the Prudence Mabhena launch show, The Financial Gazette’s Admire Kudita conducted an interview with the artist basking in the crowds adulation at the Bulawayo Theatre on Saturday night.
How has been your musical journey?
Willis Wataffi was born way before Afrika Revenge,he’s only being revealed now. As a matter of interest, Wanga was written long before Afrika Revenge became anything and Anochengeta when I lost my mother on July 3, 1997, Buwe buwe in 1994 when I was heading cattle in the mountains of my Kore Kore kingdom.
Music has always been my life, my passion. The journey has been great because all I prayed and fasted for happened and God took away the things I don’t need anymore for the next chapter,now for the second phase of my career and im more than excited whats in store for me, I have had fun and a time to cry. But above all it has been a great journey full of lessons and more beautiful things i’ m still holding.
Can you elaborate on your work with Prudence and your social activism  ?
I pledged myself to Prudence Mabhena and I’m here to make sure her album launch does happen and that the Prudence Mabhena Trust is also launched and this alone has taken the interests of many highly important people and so shall follow  the Qaya Rootz mentorship programmes with a lot more other Bulwayo artists I  have from my own pocket recorded and  will soon launch them to give them a much needed platform that we never got when we started singing. It may have had been hard for us but it doesn’t have to be tough for these youngsters as long as God has blessed us.
Back when you started in Africa Revenge your music was dance then changed to Afro pop?
Well that’s simple,when you are starting in music, you don’t really have much of choice as to what you want to sing,that freedom’s  taken away when producers tell you what and how to sing because record companies are only interested in selling records. Look at Lucky Dube, even Thomas Mapfumo, if you have listened to some of the songs done by them there are influences of Motown. This is because of the time they grew up and what was selling then was the Smokey Robinsons and Deep Purple of this world. The dance music wasn’t me and I wanted out but had to lace my African Kore Kore and Ndebele lyrics so that I feel better about myself. We had to do it this is way of the popularity of dance music at the time. Because it was not to my liking I quickly moved to Harare and wanted to try my hand at real music, a fusion of the north and southern sou-nds, a true representation of a modern African society. My music sells a lifestyle and we are not a band, we are a lifestyle. Other musicians in Harare laughed but look who laughed last.
What lingo did you use when you wrote Wanga?
On Wanga I wanted to display and show off who I really was, I am born Kore Kore,born in Umvukwesi (Mvurwi). I’m Kore Kore from Chawanda, Dotito, Mt Darwin and I am a prince son of he who crowns Chief Mushowani/Madziva.I am a rainmaker and hunter put together and went to school in Murehwa till 5th grade, moved to Bulawayo in the deep of the bright city lights and so exposed to two great extremes. Wanga was written in my rurals. I then developed it in the late 90’s to suit some urban things I was being exposed to. For instance, I had lost a girl to someone who could afford much, so in this song I’m having a dialogue with her in my mother tongue Kore Kore so she understands I’m trying to win her back, but I don’t have all the amenities that could make a girl smile do I ?
What happened to Afrika Revenge?
One morning in the wake of 2007 when things were not so good in Zim, my former partner decided he was going to try his hand in another profession and he took a route closer to his heart then and I then decided to launch my solo career with the same band and everything minus the one soldier I had made history with. There were no fights over money and or women as media had it then, people were praying for Afrika Revenge to fall and I guess their prayers were answered?
 What’s your musical vision now ?
My musik is called qaya rootz meaning home music that is deep rooted in its way of life to pan Africanism and to the total unification of Africa.qaya rootz musik seeks to celebrate the footprints of those who came before us and those whose footprints helped shape the future we live in today, qaya rootz musik seeks to instill pride and nostalgia in every African and to shift the earth beneath the feet of the oppresser. It is a depiction of a modern African society, a true African experience, an entrancing experience of African magic, dance, motion, emotion, spiritual, rooted tribal craft-laced in love, passion and respect. That’s qaya rootz musik. It is also social commentary.I paint onto the canvas the things I feel, see and hope for. Sometimes people look at things in another light but we as artists see things our own way and I like to call a spade a spade. I am not one artist who sits on the fence.
Thoughts on the business side of music?
We can’t just wait for another foreign artist to come so we can be seen by our own people, we need to be pro-active and I encourage the corporate world to vision partner with those artists making the efforts to be active, for instance Landrover deals with Alick Macheso. As for a manager I don’t have one but have lots of booking agents who make 20 percent off me, there aren’t that many qualified music managers in this country. We need to introduce in colleges music management courses. It’s a different ball game from a company.
What’s next?
Willis Wataffi making Zim proud and the next album to be dropped off in singles and in the wake of the UNWTO, see you on my dance floor. ‘’m a world changer. I changed my world. I’m about to change yours !