With a catalogue that extends more than 14 years, and with no fewer than six critically celebrated and awarded albums, Moreira Chonguica returned to the annual Music Exchange digital conference which was held from 10 to 20 September to talk about where he sees the continent, his music and the economy is headed.
What does Music Exchange mean to you, Moreira Chonguica, now in its 10th year?
Music Exchange on its 10th anniversary means that if you have passion, if you believe and if you have attitude, anything is possible.
It is not easy in Africa, and South Africa in particular, to keep a project of this nature alive. The country has gone through a lot of challenges with the recession and now with COVID, but Music Exchange’s 10th anniversary shows young people that if you have faith and you believe, things are possible.
Through Music Exchange, a lot of debates are made, a lot of experienced players, lawyers, publicists, managers, and artists, come and share their knowledge with the bulk of the players in the music business — young people like DJs, instrumentalists, producers, arrangers. These are young people who make up the music business in the world today.
Music Exchange shows that nothing is easy but everything is possible.
The calibre of players that were present this year showed that although we are in Southern Africa and in Africa, we are not an island. We are part of the global village and being part of the global village with the evolution of technology, with the demand of new products, with the demand of new tendencies, its important to be organised.
Music Exchange is the platform for exchanging ideas, exchanging opportunities and exchanging love through science, through experience of the music business for the future.
Where do you see the industry going post COVID?
The music industry post COVID is not going to be the same. Nothing will be the same.
All industries in the world have been affected and the music industry is no exception. Yes, we will see more selected intimate performances, across all sectors of entertainment, but COVID also brought positive pressure to the music industry because we are flooded with a lot of information, with a lot of products.
I believe COVID made the world sober so people are very critical about what they are exposed to through social media and media in general and we have seen a boom in the past six months of online performances and online promotion of music material.
But the day is only 24 hours and we need eight hours to sleep, so the public is not going to be able to consume everything that is available. People are going to be very selective in what they want to listen to and view, so quality and originality are going to be huge factors when it comes to the music industry post-COVID.
Because of the abundance of material on line, people will not only buy songs and buy albums, they will buy stories, so artists must weave beautiful stories that go online. Consumers are looking for the story associated to a product.
The industry is going to be naturally filtered because we are going through a natural process of filtration across every industry — not just music — and we cannot look at the music industry post-COVID in isolation.
The whole value chain is going to be evaluated again and we as players in the music business have no choice but to be associated to other industries and other brands. That’s how we are going to prevail, survive and earn revenue.
What challenges do you see ?
Artists in general are self-centred beings naturally, and human beings are social beings by nature which means we need people and places to feed our souls. All artists, whatever the discipline, are inspired by mobility, and there is a challenge for an artistic creative person to be confined as we have been for the past six months.
Either the end products are going to be very sad and melancholic or they are going to be repetitive because artists are fed by their association with other people.
Culture is made by people. The lack of mobility is the greatest challenge for all artists across all disciplines. Because creativity is derived from the reflection of the experiences of the artists – not being able to move around is going to be a big problem. Virtual content and travel will never substitute the human factor.
What does music mean to Moreira?
Music for me is the strongest form of expression in the world. Silence is music. When we harvest, we sing; when we want rain, we sing; when we go to church, we sing; at parliament, we sing; at sports events, we sing.
We sing all the time, because it is the most natural thing human beings can do. Singing, music, rhythm are like a pulse. Music is everything.
Music is to be felt nor explained; you don’t need to be prepared. Just hear it. You don’t need to go to school and be educated to enjoy music. You just feel it. It is the world. Whatever your race, religion, age, nationality… music is the strongest art form of expression and everybody is related to it.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work ?
It is the challenges. I have learned to live with the challenges of not knowing what is going to happen each day. I have found challenges and ways of living and surviving. I have learnt to make ends meet and to associate with other art forms in life in order to survive.
I love the challenge of reinventing myself for survival. Every day is a different day. Every day is a different challenge. I am in control when I am creative.
What I see, what I taste, what inspires me, what I dream, what I wish. Its my zen moment because I am alone. My level of concentration is based on what I have experienced, what I have seen. Being able to share the creative moments and outcomes with my fellow musicians, fans, audiences is hugely satisfying too.
Who are your heroes?
My heroes are not only musicians. They are people who I have managed to deconstruct their ideas, ideologies, even rituals.
I am inspired by people. I have different heroes in life who have managed to bring controversial and non-controversial ideas to light. Manu Dibango, Hugh Masekela, Fela Kuti – I did not necessarily enjoy their music in the beginning but the more I listened and read about them the more I understood about the purpose of their lives.
Other people I admire include Charlie Parker — one of the greatest saxophone players of all time — Miles Davis, Ozwalk Boateng, Kofi Anan, Nelson Mandela, Lewis Hamilton, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods for their persistence of black excellence in predominantly white sports, JayZ and Puff Daddy for their essence.
Which living person do you admire most and why?
Difficult question… but I think my mother is this person because I grew up without my father who was sent to study in Cuba for six years. Today, as a father myself, I am able to put into perspective how difficult it is for a mother to be without a partner to help bring up children and I really respect how my mother managed to raise two boys on her own.
What’s your dream gig to do?
I would love to play at Carnegie Hall or Royal Albert Hall with a symphonic or philharmonic orchestra.
What makes you stand out?
I wake up everyday to beat my own records; to beat my own time. I think like a swimmer and I act like a runner. I am not competing with anybody. I am not competing with anyone, I just want to be a better person every day.
If you were not a musician, what would you do?
I would be an international lawyer. I wouldn’t mind being the Secretary General of the United Nations. It was a toss up and music won.
What are your five favourite SA albums of all time?
- Hugh Masekela – Hope
- Letta Mbulu – Naturally
- Sibongile Khumalo – Live at the Market Theatre
- Moses Molelekwa – Wampona
- Jimmy Dludlu –Essence of Rhythm
What do you think is the greatest movie ever made?
It’s between one of these: The Godfather, Mo’Better Blues, New Jack City, Malcolm X.
What song changed your life?
Different songs have different purposes… different songs have played different roles in my life. Mnganami from my album Vol 1 The Journey was written by my uncle.
Who do you love?
My family, my saxophones and my friends. I love my life! I love my heritage, my culture, my rituals… they all complement my persona and my music and things I do in life. I respect life.
What is your favourite word?
At the moment it is “patience”.
What is your greatest achievement?
At the age of 43, it is that I have always been me. This is who I am. I have never wanted to be or tried to be anyone else.
What do you complain about most often?
As Africans, why can’t we live in peace? Why can’t we respect each other? Why can’t we grow together? Why the corruption? Why do we kill ourselves? Why do we destroy and undermine each other all the time?
What is your fear?
To live in a world without music.
A free, peaceful Africa, an Africa without corruption, an Africa with prosperity and respect, a space where young people can thrive and grow.
On stage, what do you tend to do?
What is the best life lesson you have been taught?
The most complex cocktail is patience with persistence.
Do you get worked up whilst watching a sports game on TV?
Where would you like to be right now?
I would like to be touring the world. I am missing the buzz of airports, being on a tour bus or in a car, seeing new places, experiencing new food, enjoying new audiences.
Do you do charity work and if so, what?
- In 2014, I developed the Morejazz Big Band – young people coming together every week to play music, to talk, to discuss issues.
- I am the patron of the Escola Nacional de Musica (National Music School).
- I am involved with a programme of music for the central prison which encourages inmates to use music as a vehicle of reform.
- I am involved with the Ministry of Defence’s musical programme and military band.
- I produce the International Jazz Day celebrations in Maputo every year endorsed by UNESCO.
- I lend my voice, my music, my status to any worthy cause where I believe it will make a difference — particularly around education of young people.
Wishes and dreams?
To have a peaceful Africa, a peaceful Mozambique, a peaceful South Africa where young people have space for dialogue to grow and improve. Without this we have nothing. That we live together whatever the race, the ethnicity, and enjoy our continent, our culture, our heritage and proclaim our stake in the global environment.
Watch and listen: Chonguica in action
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