At just 22, Blessing Chimanga is a highly acclaimed Zimbabwean drummer, instrumentalist and songwriter. Passionate and self taught, he has earned a name for himself after collaborating with various well-known local and international musicians including Max Covini, Matteo Boldini, Ray Phiri (South Africa), Eric Wainaina (Kenya), Amanda Ladabanda (Italy) and locally Hope Masike, Postor G, the late Chiwoniso Maraire and Andy Brown. He has extensively toured both Africa and Europe performing in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Italy and Norway. Chimanga is currently collaborating with the Italians in Zimboita, sponsored by the Italian Embassy. He recently launched his third DVD ‘Let the Drums Play 3’ featuring the late Chiwoniso Maraire and Dudu Manhenga. Harare News was excited to catch up with this drummer who’s definitely going places…
Describe your first music experience.
The first instrument I played was drums. I felt beyond satisfied. I felt as if this was everything I ever wanted in my life. This was truly my answer and my dream. When I play drums I feel refreshed, complete, as if it is the best thing ever.
Why do you play different instruments in many genres?
People want difference; they want that versatility in one’s music. It’s easy to reach many people. I want my music to touch the young and the very old. I take it as a challenge that I must boost myself with many styles so I can reach many hearts and many people. I do have my own sound but I want to add many styles too.
What do you prefer live concerts, radio, are you ever on TV? Where do you like to perform?
I love live vibe because there is life both for the musician and the audience. I play at Book Café, German Society, Alliance Francaise, Jazz 105, Mushandirapamwe, Harare International School, Reps Theatre, 7Arts and many other places. My best of them is Alliance Francaise because of the intimate setup that it has created, a good sound, lighting and stage setup makes a good venue.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Most of the time when I make mistakes I laugh and smile and I try by all means not to show the public something happened. I once fell on stage while playing drums and I made it look as if it was part of the performance. After the show I was applauded for my ‘skilful performance’.
How do you deal with challenges in your industry?
The challenges are the opportunities to perform and paying artists what they are really worth. Personally the only way I’m dealing with these challenges is I’m packaging myself slowly but surely. After realising that the opportunities to perform are few, I am coming with my own concerts that will allow me to perform, such as ‘Let The Drums Speak’. Now it’s still just a concert but in few years it will be a festival. In travelling I give my audience good performances so as to ensure people realise how valuable and talented Zimbabwean musicians are.
What has been your greatest achievement?
This is a tough one. I think my greatest achievement has been to launch my dream and vision ‘Let the Drums Speak’ Concert and collaborating with Italians as Zimboita. This dream has made me travel across nations. I have started my own thing and it has been received very well not only in Zimbabwe and Africa but internationally too.
What have you done to give back to aspiring musicians?
I teach music at Watershed College and also I do private music classes. I’m opening my small school in few months.
What advice would you give those who would like to collaborate with different cultures?
Grab opportunities and use them wisely. You learn a lot and it opens unexpected opportunities. You can also rise faster not only in your country but in the other countries too. You are promoting working together and peace in the world.