The Sunday Mail
Takudzwa Chihambakwe Leisure Correspondent—
“NDIANI anoziva kwandakatangira kurova ngoma ndichirimudiki ndichipfeka hembe dzamukoma? Ndiani anoziva pandakamboshanda ku abattoir ndiri butcher boy ndichi dhila nenyama? (Who knows where my music career began, when I was younger borrowing my brother’s clothes? Who remembers when I used to work in a butchery?)
The above lyrics are an extract from Freeman’s hit song “Confessions”, off his latest blockbuster album “Mangoma Ihobho”. He claims that every word in the song is true and a genuine reflection of where he came from, rising from humble beginnings to being an award-wining dancehall star. Last week, the chanter also known as Ambassador or Doctor weMigitare, staged a massive gig in his much-loved ghetto (Dzivaresekwa), which was attended by thousands of people, with scores dressed in the singers regalia and singing along to each of his tracks. It was a true testament of the impact Freeman has not only in DZ (Dzivaresekwa) but on Zimbabweans.
The event was also his belated 28th birthday celebration and the launch of his sixth album “Mangoma Ihobho”, and a number of those in attendance got free copies. “I decided to host this first ever and once off free gig because I never bought fans to be where I am today. They supported me freely and I thought I should also give back to the community that has made me who I am,” said Freeman.
The dancehall scene has been a bit quiet for the greater art of 2016. Winky D’s Disappear disappeared in the first two months of the year, Killer T’s new singles drowned, Soul Jah Love’s new album flopped and the likes of Seh Calaz and Kinnah have no new hits.And the unexpected has happened – Freeman has risen to become the dominant force, giving Zim dancehall a lifeline as many were now fearing for the worst – its death. Like the days of hit song “Joina City”, Freeman’s music is being played everywhere and it will require a very solid project from other artistes to topple him.
“After I finished school I decided to look for something to do with my life. Things were not bad at home but I just thought since I was now 18 years old I should start to fend for myself. So that is when I got a job at an abattoir as a butcher boy,” said Freeman, adding, “Uko kwaishandwa manje wangu!”
“We would wake up as early as 4am and finish late but I enjoyed that experience. It was during that time that I met a guy called Nhubu who then became a friend, and together we recorded my first song but it did not do well.
“I kept on trying the music thing though I had not transitioned into a fulltime musician. During this period I dropped another track ‘Ndokupa Rudo’. It did well but when it was played people thought it was a track by Trinta because he was and still is my role model. “Despite all this I persevered and I dropped ‘Joina City’. That was my breakthrough and when I heard it playing in the commuter omnibuses I was really thrilled. By then I had
changed jobs, becoming a truck driver delivering sand to builders.
“Many people did not know who I was but the few who knew me began having debates that always get me laughing as they would always say ‘Freeman akaimba Joina City hasiriye anoita zvema jecha ndeumwewo Freeman . . .
“From there on doors began opening at a slow but steady pace. In December 2011 I was invited for my first show in Banket and the promoter and I agreed I was being paid US$100. So I hiked and those days I had no manager, just me and my backpack.
“I did my thing but it was tough. The response was not so great and I was suffering because I was wearing my brother’s shoes and they were very small but I had no option as they were the only descent shoes I could wear.
“After that the promoter then tells me we are now giving you $80 and I was really agitated and all hell broke loose. I then got back on the road to Harare a frustrated man as I was cheated and was in pain because of the shoes. When I dropped off in town I could barely walk because my feet were now swollen. However, all this made me strong and has helped me be the artiste I am today,” revealed Freeman.
“Joina City was doing very well on the charts and at that time I was madly in love with the music of Vybz Kartel. I was then inspired to revive a crew we had in school called Danger Zone Vibes. Danger Zone Vibes was just a bunch of naughty friends causing mayhem in high school but this new movement I was heading was all about music and uplifting each other in society.
“So we formed Danger Zone with my friends and today we have a number of artistes who are signed up to the movement. One doesn’t just wake up and say they are now part of Danger Zone but we have laid out rules that they should agree to and they get signed up.
“So we have been growing over the years and many artistes such as Delroy and Magical have been birthed from this movement where we have a slogan that says Hatimire Kusimbisa Danger Zone (HKD), which I believe many have heard in our songs. “However, the formation of Danger Zone was no walk-in-the-park as we had conflicts and splits but am glad to say we are still standing and moving forward.”
Staying in the game
“When I dropped ‘Joina City’, there were a number of hotshots already rocking in the ghetto. For instance we had Winky D, King Labash, Trinta and Sniper Storm. However, my secret was just to remain true to who I was.
“I never tried too hard to prove a point but patiently waited for my turn to rise and it eventually came. On the other hand when you are on top you always know other artistes will rise and dethrone you and that is what happened when the likes of Soul Jah Love, Killer T and other artistes began to emerge.
“I really felt the threat but I soon realised that we have different ways of doing things and so I remained strong. But, ndakambovhunduka. I then told myself I had to maintain my level and kept pushing. I also realised that music is like gambling. One day you are rocking the waves and the next there is someone else but as an artiste you must have plans on how to stay relevant to your fans every time.”
“I don’t sit down and start writing words in a book then go into the booth, never! It all happens naturally when I am in the recording booth. When a beat starts playing I start singing and make corrections to lyrics as I go. However, I have vowed never to sing nonsense.
“There are some who can sing about literally everything but I have told myself I will only sing things that make sense. As an artiste there are times you work on a song and instantaneously you know it will be a hit song. As I alluded to earlier, it can all be likened to gambling. Sometimes what you assume will be the hit track will turn out to be a flop and the tracks you pay less attention to become the hits.
“For instance, ‘Shaina Mwana Iwe’ was never meant for public consumption. That was a song specifically for a client and when I did it I was in a hurry to get it over and done with. But we don’t know who then leaked it and before long it was an anthem.
“When we did ‘Happy Tym’ I actually wanted to do a different track all together but a friend said just do something for party lovers as we were heading into the festive season. Again with that passive mood I then did the track and the rest is history.
“However, when I did ‘Zvakaipa Itai Ndisiye’ which is on my new album I knew it would be a hit song and it turned out to be true because the message resonates with everyone in our society. “I am really humbled with the reception I am getting from fans with my new album ‘Mangoma Ihobho’ and though I was a bit on the quiet side I am back and rocking the airwaves.”
What’s in store?
“I am currently working on a DVD album. Fans have been asking for more videos since we dropped ‘Happy Tym’ last year. So hopefully before August we will be launching that DVD. I have number of singles ready to be released but will hold onto them for now and push the new album till the market is saturated.
“Besides the music we will also keep investing in other things to generate multiple streams of income. For instance, we have the shop which sells our merchandise so we will be expanding into lucrative business ventures so that when the time comes to retire from music we will have a fall back plan,” said the HKD boss.