Rusape’s Voice : Story of Lipa
Human interest column is about unraveling the jewels in Africa and shining a light on them. Ladies and gentlemen meet Rusape’s own born Tonderai Mutete and popularly known as Lipa (TM), in an exclusive with Sympathy Sibanda (SS).
SS: Lipa welcome to My Afrika Magazine. Please tell us more about yourself.
TM: Hello Sympathy, thank you for the opportunity to tell ‘our’ story. My name is Lipa Tee (32), birth name Tonderai Mutete. I was born in Chiredzi before relocating to Rusape in the year 2000.
When l was young my main challenge was knowing what l would be when I grow up since l was good at a lot of activities such as football. I started noticing the talent l had in music when l was in grade 7, back then we would remix the songs that were hits twisting the lyrics to Shona. I started writing my own songs when l was in form 1 adopting the name Lipa by my classmates (S/O to Eddie Mupazi and Tafadzwa Chowa).
I would take part in M.C Contests that were hosted in our hometown and at school, that’s when l started gaining confidence. Back then we didn’t have a single recording studio in Rusape, so my foundation was solid since l was more of a performing artist.
SS: What level were you when you started MCing?
TM: l was groomed as an M.C when l was doing my A’levels working with Fire Lion Sounds System. Back then we used to host gigs in clubs, schools and taking part in sound clashes most of them which were held out of town as far as Mutare, Harare etc.
SS: At what point did you relocate?
TM: In 2010 I moved to Durban, S.A where l met up with Urban Grooves Legend Tk Hollun who produced my first official single entitled Vengere which became a hit in Rusape since it describes the heart of our ghetto Vengere. I gained experience since l got a chance to perform with international artists, the likes of Lutan Fyah (Jamaica), Raldo Asher (Switzerland) to mention a few. I returned to Rusape in 2012 with my first album titled ‘4ever young.’
SS: As an artist from a small town what’s the main challenge you have faced?
TM: So many! For instance, we didn’t even have a single recording studio back then, that meant you had to travel to bigger cities only for recording which was close to impossible. I still remember travelling to Harare to record at a well-known recording studio then later realising that my track wasn’t included as part of the compilation (Riddim) when it was released.
The other challenge was airplay, submitting to local radio stations was a huge challenge since well established artists were the ones who had their tracks on rotation. In my own hometown, it was hard to get paid by our local promoters when they hosted shows. They would prefer to pay artists from other towns.
SS: Which of your songs did well and explain more what they are about.
TM: 1. Vengere- it was my first official recording which spoke about our own ghetto, and many could relate since it mentioned many sections of Vengere such as kumaVE, kumaR etc. It also had that street lingo in the lyrics including our well-known ghetto language “Chindebhe”.
2.Upenyu Hwakaoma- I recorded it whilst l was in Durban and many people could relate since it spoke about our day to day struggles of life.
3. Unondifadza – a love song that was dedicated to those who fell in love whilst in high school and are still in the relationship still after school.
SS: How hard is trying to make it on your own without parental support?
TM: Firstly, l would like to say may you continue to rest in peace to my late mom and dad who passed away when l was still young, and the sad part is they never knew l had a talent in music. Trying to make it without parental support seems to be hard but on the other hand it strengthens you because there’s a time you notice that you are now responsible for everything you face nomatter what.
It is indeed hard to an extent that one can easily give up not focused on your destiny. Honestly l really wish they were around so that they would witness what l have managed to achieve even without that shoulder to lean on in tough times of my career.
SS: You are a visionary who has never given up, as we see it. What has kept you going when you could have given up.
TM: I will take it back to that ghetto struggle, growing up with that same question of what tomorrow brings. It gave us the boldness to keep our eyes on the goal nomatter what comes along the way. I have always kept in mind that God gave me the talent for a reason and since I have started there’s no more turning back. I have learnt to face challenges as they come, and they have made me who I am today.
SS: Stereo 025 tell us more about it. Why the name and what you do?
TM: As an artist the main challenge was exposure and as a senior artist in my hometown, I noticed how hard it was to breakthrough into the mainstream media and my main concern was now on the youngsters who were following in my footsteps. So, I thought I would create a platform which showcases and motivates them. In 2014 I once introduced it as Vengere fm where l used to do pre recorded sessions playing local music from my hometown and interviewing artists, but it didn’t go so well since I used a local recording studio and there was no proper way of distributing the sessions.
In 2018 l shared with my colleague Ronald “Roble” Mutizwa the vision l had on starting a radio station, but it seemed to be a huge task ahead of us. We started small and at first, we faced resistance in our hometown. Imagine telling a person who knows your background that you are starting a radio station, most of them would laugh at us. I still remember opening our facebook page on a borrowed laptop since both of us didn’t own an Android phone.
As our following grew, we started broadening our content by hosting different shows such as football talks, interviewing our local ghetto crooners and some phone-in live sessions which got our community involved. As we speak Stereo 025 has showcased not only upcoming artists, but we have grown to launching music by international artists from as far as Uganda, Jamaica, Netherlands etc. We have grown from Stereo 025 to 025 Media Solutions since we now offer services such as photoshoots, PA Systems for hire, Podcast Shows, a dj Academy and many more.
SS: Well done Lipa. Any special mentions on people who have helped you along the way.
TM: Firstly, l would like to thank every Stereo 025 followers who have liked, viewed, and shared our content, the Stereo 025 team, Splits Loui, our Official Partners Trevor Tom (T3 Media Zimbabwe), Forged Steel, Hashtag Branding, Evanlay Planning Consultancy, 360 Arts (our graphic designer), Panmart Supermarket, Prophet P.M Shokobishi who has been an intercessor since we started the vision
and my wife and son who are always there for me after the long busy days.
SS: What’s your 5-year vision for Rusape and Stereo 025?
TM: Our vision is to create a media powerhouse in Rusape that will be able to solve all the media challenges faced not only in our hometown but the nation.
Then as Stereo 025 we are really looking forward to becoming an international broadcaster that provides the unique content and talent mainly from media artists who are struggling from artistic freedom in a media lanscape.
SS: Do you still sing and doing M.C?
TM: As a singer l can’t say l no longer sing as the saying goes “once a player always a player,” l just took some time off since l had to focus on the vision and it’s been 6 years now since l last released music but who knows l might drop something anytime soon if the mood permits. As an M.C l usually do it in the studio during our live sessions and at music premieres and sometimes l M.C at local functions. Last year l was part of the Osborne Summer Festival which was held at Osborne Dam.
SS: Your word to someone who wants to give up.
TM: To anyone who has a vision and is about to give up, keep it in your mind that there was a reason you started. Before you quit think of the lives you were going to help through your vision, challenges will always come, and they are always there so giving up is not an option. All you must do is to stay focused on your dream.
SS: Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with us. Higher still higher
TM: It is my pleasure, thank you.