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Farai Muvuti goes global

They say a prophet is not celebrated in his homeland.

This might ring true for United Kingdom-based contemporary musician and producer, Farai Muvuti who together with his backing outfit The Forest Dawn have become popular at music festivals in the foreign land.

The other group members include Ailsa Shaw, Tino Dube, Jack Lonergan and Charles Roper.

The singer, songwriter and producer – who was born and raised in Bulawayo – has become a permanent face at numerous musical events in the UK ever since his shift to that country in 2005 to join his family and also complete his studies.

But unbeknown to him, the move to the UK opened for him floodgates of recognition for his music.

“Music then became something that found me,” he said in an interview recently.

“I formed the band The Forest Dawn in 2013 not knowing that bigger things were in store for us,” said Muvuti.

Through hard work, research and networking, Muvuti soon found his dream coming true when his group started getting invited to perform at various festivals and venues.

“Some of the memorable events we have performed at include the Drum (Birmingham) and Hootananny (Brixton) apart from having our music featured on BBC’s Three Counties Introducing broadcast,” he said.

He said their ultimate objective was to determine their own destiny.

“This is why we founded CUSP which is an independent promotion company with the objective of organising our own international tours.

“We have come a long way and this is the reason why we were chosen to entertain guests at 02 Academy to the internationally known ZimFest Festival as headliners.

“Our band also emerged from a remarkable triumph of its own,” he said.

Over a course of 15 weeks, from November 2, 2013, to February 8, 2014, Forest Dawned battled with 80 bands from across the UK at the Boisdale Jukebox in Canary Wharf, and emerged winners of the Battle of the Bands in 2014.

Muvuti said they stormed to victory largely on their own compositions, having initially introduced themselves to music fans through a handful of Youtube cover versions of Motown classics such as Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.

Talking of cover versions, he said there was nothing wrong in playing hits by prominent musicians, for as long as one acknowledged the originator of the song.

“When you look at the history of bands, including our very own Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi, they started by covering popular genres to build a following before introducing their own material.

“We started with what was closer to home in terms of the sound we wanted to put out, which was Motown.

“But we came with a different twist to it. Basically we wanted to converge the sounds you know from Motown and from current pop rhythms, and infuse them with a touch of Africa just to show our appreciation of where we come from and who we are.”

With members of the group hailing from diverse musical and cultural backgrounds whose broad sweep covers everything from Afro pop, Soul, Folk, Rock and R&B, it was inevitable that they would soon set aside the cover versions and find their own style and brand of music.

The talented singer said it was not an overnight thing to achieve recognition in a foreign land, adding that it entailed a lot of sweat of creativity to make a breakthrough.

“The industry is pretty much the same no matter where you are.

“The challenges artists face back home and here are fundamentally similar. It’s purely a question of how committed one is to the dream.

“Nevertheless, not being at home means you work twice as hard to break into the circuit because you have to establish a network on new ground,” he said.

One positive thing that gives Muvuti leverage is his firm belief in everything Zimbabwean, hence the reason why his music is rooted in Zimbabwean and African traditions punctuated with global trends, “I believe I am helping in marketing the brand Zimbabwe.

“This I am doing through by telling a positive story about my country through art.

“Home is where the heart is and part of my duty as a citizen is to share the beauty our country has to offer and music gives me the perfect platform to do so.

“But in spite of that reality the quality of our music has drastically improved and we are beginning to see that growth being recognised internationally as evidenced by our very own Jah Prayzah’s recent successes.” said Muvuti.

The band is currently working hard on new strategies to reach out to its growing fan base especially local music fans.

“Expanding our reach is definitely a challenge but we’ve been able to implore innovative strategies to overcome that challenge. Getting radio play back home is also another huddle but I think with time we will soon be able to find a solution to that.”

This year the group plans to tour Europe and Africa in order to widen its fan base.

“To make this possible we have partnered with gigmit.com whose focus is the international markets,” he said.The Herald

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