THERE are times when technology threatens to run away with the way we behave, think, make choices and enjoy our lives. The danger of a rich past being permanently erased looms large.
Yet there are things that will remain unique, barely touched by the relentless march of change and innovation, music being one of them.
Enter Ronald Ndanga, who seems to confirm the adage ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’. Confusing? You better listen to his music to understand how.
Unapologetically Zimbabwean, straight from the country of his birth, his music is bound to tempt proponents of the Chimurenga genre into claiming it as theirs. Yet the ‘revolutionary’ tag can only stick to Ndanga’s music only as far his uncanny ability to fuse the waning past with the present is concerned.
“Mine is an old school Zim-vibes sound sung and put together in modern style,” explains Masvingo-born Ndanga, who currently resides in the United States.
“It captures the attention of both young and old. Some of the music is thought-provoking, whilst some is rhythmic dance or just easy listening,” continues Ndanga who takes pride in singing in Shona, uninfluenced by other languages or his sojourn within the bastion of western culture.
Ronald, who uses his surname Ndanga as his stage name, offers an enthralling yet refreshing repertoire in an age where ‘real’ instruments are giving way to digital remixes and sampling.
It is not surprising, for when growing up he listened to the icons of the Zimbabwe traditional beat – the likes of Pengaudzoke, James Chimombe, Devera Ngwena and Leonard Dembo.
Those early influences in addition to those of the Super Sounds, Ngwenya Brothers, Khiama Boys, Bhundu Boys and the legendary Oliver Mtukudzi form the heart and soul of the untainted traditional beat that stubbornly resonates in his delightful offering.
In fact Ndanga more than succeeds in capturing elements of the modern without compromising the hypnotic heartbeat of the past. His broader appreciation for other musicians, the likes of Côte d'Ivoire’s Dobet Gnahore, DR Congo’s Papa Wemba or Irish singer songwriter, Chris De Burgh, influences the way he structures his lyrics and delivers his songs.
“Music comes naturally to me. I used to sing along to my father’s accordion tunes when I was only ten years old,” he recalls.
He attended Kwekwe Junior and Louis Mountbatten schools before his high school years spent at Prince Edward High school in Harare. He had a brief stint as an air traffic controller at the Harare International Airport before he took off for Detroit in Michigan, United States, where he studied accounting at Wayne State University.
“I always enjoyed playing around with church hymns changing their structure, holding notes longer or creating harmonies and adlibs everyone else was not singing,” remembers Ndanga.
He writes and composes all his songs, every one delivered in his native Shona, though he wishes he could include other African dialects.
“My songs articulate the joys and hardships faced by everyone anywhere in the world,” says Ndanga.
The song “Africa” was written with exiled Africans in mind.
Ndanga’s first single “Goja Goja”, released on July 1, is a bouncy tune with a calypso influence that tells a story of a young man caught up in the fast life, cutting all corners to the world to quick success.
However, the long arm of the law catches up with him. He is found sitting in prison cell harking to the advice his father had given him against get rich quick schemes. It echoes profound regret.
Ndanga will follow up the single with a 12-track album called Chishuwo.
Among the notable tracks on the album is ‘Zuva Rimwe’ which encapsulates both the spiritual and traditional. It’s a hard driving track that is an appeal to the Almighty for a second chance to correct the wrongs that had been left unattended for some time. It is difficult to put to paper the emotion that one goes through when listening to the tune and its haunting lyrics.
Ndanga’s music has tremendous crossover appeal in a market full of one hit wonders and fly-by-night performers.
“Now is the right time for the world to listen to what has been brewing inside my head all these years,” proclaims Ndanga.
To download Ndanga’s first single Goje Goje on iTunes CLICK HERE