By Bruce Ndlovu
WHEN the song Ncam Ncam came out in the late 90s, it made Calvin Gudu an instant star. This was during the time when Zimbabwean urban music was still finding its voice and as the front man for the group known as Matonto, an outfit he had led alongside his brother Chris, Gudu was one of this urban awakening’s leading luminaries.
With silky smooth vocals and the looks to match, Gudu was undoubtedly the star of the show. On Ncam Ncam he was in top form, serenading listeners with a uniquely Zimbabwean take on a typical 90s slow jam.
However, beneath the surface the song hid explicit lyrics, masked perhaps by Gudu’s smooth voice and use of metaphor and innuendo. Simply put, Ncam Ncam was one of the most erotic songs that the Zimbabwean music scene had ever produced up to that point.
On the song, Gudu spells out what he plans to do to one lady who is now the object of his affection. In no uncertain terms, the charismatic singer promises to give this woman he desires the time of her life between the sheets. ‘‘I don’t want to put you under pressure but instead I seek to pleasure you’,’ he gentle whispers in her ear.
On national radio and on TV, thousands listened and watched as Gudu promised to take a woman to the heights of sexual pleasure. Surprisingly, in a time when HIV and therefore sexual education was high on the nation’s agenda, the song was a hit that seemed to be enthusiastically embraced by all and sundry.
“Imagine yourself as a guy who has been chasing this girl for a long time and she has been avoiding you,” Gudu told Sunday Life from his UK base in an interview.
“She has been basically making excuses not to see you. Then one weekend comes along and she decides to give you a chance.
Now she says its fine I will see you. Women are awakened by what they hear so what you say is very important. So on that song I thought let me tell this girl all that I would do to her.”
Even after two decades many, according to Gudu, feel like he was singing about his own experiences in the song.
“To be honest with you, I’m a highly creative guy. They’re many ideas that run in my mind and I like to explore whatever comes. A lot of people have developed mental illness because they fight these things. I choose not to do that.
So with that being said I would like to make something clear, and this even goes to my mum and dad. I want to make it clear that I was not doing all those things that I was saying in that song. It was all a result of my imagination,” he said.
Coming from a strong Christian family, Gudu said that he never got reprimanded for the lyrics in the song. He attributes this to the fact that he believes, like most who heard the song at the time, they simply could not grasp what his lyrics meant.
“No I never got pushback from my family for the lyrics in my song. Let me put it this way, if your father used to go to the club and later on in life turned into a Christian, you will never know peace in your life.
“This is because he is always suspicious of what you’re doing. That wasn’t the case with my father. My father has been a Christian all his life so he doesn’t know all that. Christians don’t know about this stuff. I’ve had pastors come to me and ask me to sing Ncam Ncam at church events and I’m bemused,” he said.
After making his name as a one of the luminaries in Zimbabwe’s urban scene, Gudu’s career has taken a different turn in the United Kingdom. Gone is the swashbuckling crooner who used to have young women across Zimbabwe weak at the sound of his sultry voice.
Years after he gave Zimbabwe Ncam Ncam, that unforgettable bedroom tune that rivals anything the R’n’B genre has ever offered, Gudu has found God and is now a fervent member of Word of Life church.
“I would like to point out that there was nothing wrong with the music that I was making before I went the gospel route. Apart from a couple of songs perhaps like Ncam Ncam, there was nothing that was particularly X-rated. It was all good music that I’m proud to have made,” he said.
But just what prompted the musician to make such a dramatic U-turn?
“My urban music era was offering me too much candy. It was like eating popcorn. You go through four or five buckets of the stuff and yet you still don’t feel full. You still feel unfulfilled.
That’s exactly what I was going through. When you’re doing urban music you’re always under pressure to do certain things that make you look cool.
“You always have to girl that pretty girl in town that everyone wants, you have to get that new production or this and that.
You’re always in search of that new thing. You’ve got to go to the club and do these things and in the end I felt that the urban scene was pushing me towards things that I felt were unnecessary,” he said.
Despite having left the dog eat dog of urban music, Gudu points out that even gospel music has its own unique pressures.
“What I have noticed is that when I was doing circular music, there was a lot of pressure to market myself. In circular music, you’re always under pressure to make yourself look cool. This is because if you’re not hip, people will not buy your music.
You’re under pressure to market yourself in a certain why and I’ve noticed that it’s the same thing with gospel music but in the opposite direction.
“In gospel music, you’ve got to market yourself as the good guy. You’ve got to be the guy who goes to church, the guy who has one woman at a time, the guy who listens and is well behaved. As I’ve made my transition into gospel music I’ve discovered that I’m more at home with that kind of pressure than the kind that was brought on by circular music,” he said.
Since he unleashed Above All, an album released under his Praise Worth record stable, Gudu has been on a journey to rebrand himself. It is a journey that has not been easy thus far, as to many he is still the same man that made Ncam Ncam.
“When you were doing circular music for so long, people brand you. You’re known as that guy who did Ncam Ncam or Tombofara. So since my last album it was all been about showing people that this is a different Calvin.
“The more things we do in the gospel genre, the more people come around to this idea of the new me. So over the last couple of years I’ve been mingling with people on the gospel scene as opposed to the urban scene which is what I had been doing previously in my career,” he said.
As he works on more new music, Gudu is confident that he is making the necessary headway.
“Changing from gospel to circular music is not easy. I feel like we’ve spent the last few years preparing me for now. We’ve fully embraced the direction that we’re heading in and can finally come to the full realisation of our ambitions,” he said. Sunday News.