Collaborating with Oliver Mtukudzi and Hugh Masekela
01 January 1970
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Hello and welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio. My name is Aphiwe Manono and I am your host. Today we are in conversation with vocalist/songwriter/composer and Wawela Award winner, Berita. Thank you so much for joining us, Berita.
Berita: Thank you so much. I’m really enjoying talking to you.
AU: Now earlier we spoke, you were actually speaking about your collaboration with Baba Oliver Mtukudzi and Bra Hugh Masekela. Now these are huge names. These are Grammy nominated worthy artists. What was that experience like? I know you touched a bit on it earlier but how did it even come about that you worked with these two icons?
Legends really do help guide you
B: Yes, you know it’s always been a dream of mine. Growing up in Zimbabwe, you know we all listened to Baba Oliver Mtukudzi. In fact, people always joked that if you go to Harare and you go to a sports bar when you’re listening to musicians, they all sound like Baba Oliver Mtukudzi because we all grew up listening to him.
Even at our parties, you know we didn’t have house music. We played Baba Oliver Mtukudzi or Brenda Fasi there, Yvonne Chaka Chaka. But so having to sit down and have a conversation first was on its own an amazing experience you know.
From day one he took me as a daughter and he said to me that definitely a collaboration would be possible, it would be a matter of scheduling because he’s someone that travels a lot so he initially invited me to Harare. I went over there and we worked on Monoamai which is a song basically that talks about young women in society.
How our society looks down upon women when they lose their way instead of guiding them and he really liked that because his thing is about singing things that are very much related and happening in society. After we did the song, a couple of months later, I was doing a festival in the Eastern Cape and I don’t know how that happened on that night.
I happened to be playing just after Hugh Masekela on stage and usually the time flows are set in festivals, I would hardly every play after such a big name at this stage in my career. But on that night it so happened that it was set like that and that’s how Bra Hugh Masekela got an opportunity to watch me on stage. Because otherwise had I played maybe two hours before him or two hours after him, he would have been gone by then.
So after he watched me I came offstage and he came up to me and he just basically gave me words of encouragement and he was saying how much he saw a future in the music that I’m doing and he was basically saying that I’m on the right track. We started talking and he was asking what I’ve been working on and then I told him that I’d been invited by Oliver Mtukudzi.
He was having a concert in Harare only to find out that he had been invited. He’s very close with Oliver Mtukudzi, so he had also been invited to the same event so we basically created a little friendship. We were like, “We’ll meet then in Harare next week”, and when we got to Harare it was a very joyous celebration. We were there to do the concert but we were also there to just mingle and have fun.
I got to spend some time with Hugh Masekela, Judith Sephuma, other African starts like Eric Wainaina and Stuart Sukuma from Mozambique, so it was a big gathering but it was all these big African musicians. I was the only little one there and I basically became the child of the situation. At one point I had Hugh Masekela listen to the song I had done with Oliver and he liked it. In the end he’s the one that initiated that he definitely needs a bar or two in there so that he can also let his trumpet breathe.
AU: Wow. That is so amazing.
B: It was really, afterwards when we got back to South Africa, you know before we left he was like, “I’m serious. Your people must talk to my people. I need to get in studio with you”, so when we got this side all that was coordinated and before long we went into studio and did the track.
AU: You know I have this favourite book by Paul Coelho called The Alchemist. I don’t know if you’ve read the book.
B: Yes, I read his books.
AU: That is my absolute fav because for me it seems like a little Bible. I sort of lived by that book and there’s a part where the young boy is travelling on The Alchemist and he discovers that basically what you seek is seeking you.
Once you start, when you find what you want to do or start to form a direction to what you want, the universe conspires with you. I think you are a perfect example of that, that you finished school, you got into the music and things just start happening for themselves because that in itself is re-affirmation that you are where you are, where you need to be at this going moment.
B: Yes, most definitely.
AU: Besides the icons, who else would you love to work with in the future?
Onward and upward for Berita
B: Well, I mean, you know there’s amazing musicians. Maybe I shouldn’t talk now because you know I’m spoiling things for my next album but I’m in talks with a certain amazing Grammy award winning South African.
B: I won’t say the name but –
AU: Ja, let’s not jinx it. It’s fine but once you do have it we will have the first interview.
B: Yes, most definitely and we will refer to this one when we talk about it.
B: Yeah, there’s a lot of amazing musicians, as in I mean musicians my age. I look up to a lot of musicians in the industry. You know the past 2 albums that I’ve done, the first one didn’t have the collaboration actually with like a well-known musician.
I had an amazing Imbonje from the Eastern Cape called Ngonzona, and on the second album I have uBra Hugh and uDadi Oliver. But I think on the third album, when I start working on that, I am definitely thinking about a lot of collaborations just so that I can unite in music with other amazing artists in South Africa.
AU: Now, Berita just finally for that young girl that’s sitting in Zambia or Zimbabwe or Mozambique or Lagos that wants to branch out into music and they’re just scared to do it but they know this is what they are made for, what advice would you give them?
Advice for girls wanting to be musicians
B: I think maybe the most important thing is to know exactly what you want and once you know what you want, get the information about it. The thing I said earlier that the music industry books. I meet a lot of young people that want to get into music and people that are way more talented than I am and I listen to their music and I say this is amazing stuff but you need to know.
I believe that people don’t understand how wherever people, you know, being a musician is work. It’s a career like any other. People in the office know what their do’s and don’ts are so it’s the same way in the industry. Before you do anything, you need to know what your do’s and don’ts are.
AU: Thank you so much for taking the time out to speak to Old Mutual Live Radio, Berita and stay humble, stay as sweet as you are. It’s always such a pleasure speaking to you.
B: Thank you so much, Aphiwe. I really appreciate it.