Mashasha

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Mashasha
Birth name Peter Mujuru
Born (1982-10-15) 15 October 1982 (age 31)
Harare, Zimbabwe
Origin Zimbabwe
Genres African, jazz, world
Occupations Bass guitarist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, percussionist, music producer
Years active 1998–present
Labels Elegwa
Website mashasha.com

Peter Mujuru (born 15 October 1982), known by his mononym Mashasha, is a UK-based musician, bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer from Zimbabwe. Widely regarded as an original and important new voice in African music,[1] his debut studio album, Mashasha (released by Elegwa Music in 2011), was acclaimed by critics internationally, and won a Zimbabwe Music and Arts (ZIMAA) award for Best Album.

Early life[edit]

Peter Mujuru was born on 15 October 1982 in Harare, Zimbabwe, to Stellah and Lovert Mujuru. As a child, he was nicknamed "Mashasha", which in Shona means "someone with skills of a champion."[2] His earliest exposure to music was from his father, who was then an avid record collector, and attending the nearby Highfield Presbyterian Church, where his mother is an elder. The church is renowned for its music, and the leading church vocalists, including Peter's mother, have released an album. His secondary education was at Mukai High School.

As a child, Mashasha was a frequent visitor to the home of neighbor and family friend Oliver Mtukudzi, one of Zimbabwe's most popular and influential singers. It was in this house that he first had access to a bass guitar, and began teaching himself to play. He soon started an amateur band with Mtukudzi's nephew, Tapiwa "Oliver Jr" Mtukudzi, who played guitar. The band made its professional debut in 1999, as "Oliver Jr and Friends", opening for Mtukudzi and his band.

Mashasha performing in Zimbabwe in 2006

Career[edit]

Mashasha's musicianship and skill as a bass player was quickly noted, and in 2000 he joined the band Sisonke, led by veteran singer Jonah Mutuma,(best known for his work with the band The Pied Pipers) playing both original Afro-jazz material and covers. He worked with this band until Mutuma's death in 2002, by which time he was recognized as a prodigious talent on the local music scene. In 2002 he co-produced and arranged the debut album "Nyarara" by Malethar (Tafadzwa Mteswa), and before long he became much in demand as a studio and live session bass guitarist, working with diverse Zimbabwean artists including Chiwoniso Maraire, Edwin Hamma, Rute Mbangwa, Charles Summerfield, Comrade Fatso and many others.[3]

In 2003 Mashasha joined the band Too Open, led by guitarist-singer Brian Nhanhanga. The band played mostly covers and some original material composed by Nhanhanga, but eventually the musicians found that it was the original material that was making the most impact in the live performances. Mashasha, Nhanhanga and drummer Sam Chagumachinyi preferred to concentrate on original material only, however the remaining five band members were apprehensive about the financial risk involved, believing that a covers band was more employable and viable. In 2004 Mashasha, Nhanhanga and Chagumachinyi stripped the band down to a trio, and from that point on the band played exclusively original material, with all three as co-leaders. The subsequent album, Zororo, achieved widespread recognition and extensive airplay, especially the track Matinda Hostel.[4]

In 2004 Mashasha joined one of Zimbabwe's leading popular bands, Andy Brown and the Storm, recording on the album "Chiedza" and touring around Zimbabwe and internationally. At the same time, Mashasha played regularly with township jazz trombone player Tanga Wekwa Sando.

He continued working with Too Open, and by 2005 the band had built a cult following among jazz audiences in Harare for their spontaneous and unpredictable, high energy live performances, as well as the improvisation, musical creativity high level of musicianship of all three members. Working with Too Open, Mashasha first had the opportunity to perform his own original songs and make his debut as a vocalist.[5] That same year, Mashasha joined the Zimbabwean rock band Bush Guru, which toured in Zimbabwe and the UK between 2006 and 2008. In late 2005, he was invited to participate in the all-star collaboration project "Hupenyu Kumusha" (Life at Home). Commonly known as "The Collaboration," the project included artists from diverse musical backgrounds, including contemporary mbira player and singer-songwriter Chiwoniso Maraire, star vocalist Busi Ncube, mbira player – percussionist Adam Chisvo, guitarist Roger Mbambo, classically trained piano player Bengt Post and others. The album "Hupenyu Kumusha" was released in 2006, and featured two songs by Mashasha, "Spirit" and "Africa, Why War?" The songs made an impact upon their release, resulting in increased media interest in Mashasha and several interviews in the Zimbabwean press and on TV. That same year Mashasha began developing and teaching bass and music workshops for high school students. He also featured in two television documentaries by film-maker and music producer Eugene Ulman about the Harare performance venue, The Book Café: "The Book Café Turns 10" (BBC, 2007)[6] and "Six Nights a Week at the Book Café" (Al Jazeera 2008)[7]

Since 2008 Mashasha has been based permanently in Great Britain, where he performs as a solo artist and with other lineups, most notably with his bass and drums duo "Mashasha & Sam," featuring drummer Sam Chagumachinyi from Too Open, who is now also based in the Britain. Mashasha's performances in the UK have included such venues and events as Rise Festival, Celebrating Sanctuary Festival Hackney Attic, The Ritzy, Luton Arts Carnival, Rich Mix, South Bank Centre, 02 Stadium (opening for Oliver Mtukudzi), Passing Clouds, The Luxe, New Empowering Church, The Miller Pub, Hootananny, Zimfest UK, OneTaste Festival, The Cochrane Theatre and The Poetry Café.[8] He lives in Peterborough.

Portrait of Mashasha 2013 – Elegwa Arts

Solo album[edit]

Mashasha's debut album, "Mashasha" (Elegwa Music)

In 2011 Mashasha completed his debut album as a solo artist. The album, eponymously titled "Mashasha" was produced by Mashasha and Eugene Ulman. Mashasha and Ulman have formed the production company Elegwa Arts and independent record label Elegwa Music to produce and release their work, with "Mashasha" as the first project.[9] All ten tracks on the album were original compositions with music and lyrics by Mashasha, and featured an international band that included Australian drummer-percussionist Robbie Avenaim,[10] US jazz trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy, piano and keyboard player Danny G. Felix (who also collaborated with Mashasha on some of the arrangements), Senegalese guitarist Jeannot Mendy (best known as a member of Viviane Ndour's Jolof Band), Iranian ney master Davod Varzideh, Sam Chagumachinyi and others. The album received high praise from leading critics and publications in numerous countries. Martin Sinnock in Songlines magazine described it as "Exceptional" and "a refreshing and sparkling debut", awarding it four stars, while respected ABC radio presenter Doug Spencer on the "Weekend Planet" devoted an entire program to the release, and called it the "standout African debut" of the year. The Zimbabwean "Sunday Mail" described Mashasha "a new voice in African music," Hello Harare magazine described the album "complex, intense and unique, with each song layered with musical genius", while Michael Rofe in "The Australian" called called it "a revelation from a major talent." Other critics have compared Mashasha to such artists as Richard Bona, Rokia Traore, Youssou N'Dour, Habib Koite and Oliver Mtukudzi[11]

In 2012 Mashasha released the single "Musuki" (Elegwa Music.)[12]

Mashasha at work in the studio in London

Genre and musical style[edit]

Mashasha's bass playing has been noted for its combination of virtuoso technique, assertive playing and melodic imagination.[13] He has developed an intricate style of playing, which is rooted in Shona traditional percussion from Zimbabwe, with a strong influences of blues scales and jazz improvisation techniques. His bass playing style ranges from forceful with a strong sense of urgency, to melancholic and meditative, with noticeable influences of such bass players as Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Wilbur Ware, Gary Peacock, Étienne M'Bappé, Dave Holland and others.

Some of Mashasha's songwriting is based on reinterpreting Zimbabwean popular music styles with his own individual variations, with other influences including West African Afrobeat, East African pentatonic music and traditional music from Iran and the Middle-East. His compositions often feature complex time signatures and harmonies, with multi-layered arrangements and rich instrumentation complimenting dense, polyrhythmic bass and drum lines.

Mashasha on stage, London 2013 (photo by Kevin Igoe)

Mashasha has a wide vocal range, and is known for his compelling stage presence and charismatic, albeit laconic, performance style.[14]

Awards[edit]

Mashasha was a winner of the Morley Studio Recording Prize in 2011. [15]

The album "Mashasha" won the Zimbabwe Music and Arts (ZIMAA) Award for "Best Album in 2011.[16]

References[edit]

External links[edit]