As one of the most prolific and sought-after saxophonists in Botswana, Andrew Chinganga continues to craft his mark in the local music industry. This Zimbabwean-born player’s musical versatility defies easy description; he plays the flute, drums, clarinet and trumpet – but the jazz infused melodies he summons from his saxophone made him rise through the ranks as a gifted player who is bound to gain international tribute.
He possesses a calm demeanour; something contrary to his impressive performances that engross audiences in a melodic trance and add a unique mood to live musical jazz sets.
At the young age of seven, Andrew was already playing the trumpet. While other children his age were fascinated by toys, his attention was on musical instruments. Growing up in Bulawayo, Barbourfields – in a house brimming with jazz music, warm rhythms of the trombone and the sounds of trumpets, he developed a deep love for music. “I come from a musical family, my father was a trombone player and two of my siblings played the trumpet.
Music always surrounded me, there was a variety of musical instruments in our house and I was intrigued by them. Even our street had a few well known musicians,” he said.
He transitioned from the trumpet, clarinet, drums and finally to the saxophone. Inspired by renowned musicians such as Joshau Redman, James Carter, Winston Ngozi and Craig Handy, he became fond of the instrument. “During my high school years, I used to jam with a few friends. There was a huge jazz influence in the streets of Bulawayo then. Our band was called Jazz Impacto and I played the trumpet. The whole experience made me want to refine my skills further,” said the versatile player. “After that, I enrolled for a diploma in music at Zimbabwe College of Music. I played with a few jazz bands until I came to Botswana through a contract,” he added.
Brand New Vibe became the band he locally worked with, which incorporated B Sithole and Sis Joyce after his stint at Oodi Lodge where he played with a resident band until his contract lapsed. He then met his friend and current manager, Gregory Armstrong. “Gregory played a big role in my career here. He would suggest we go to various jazz sessions, this is how I familiarised myself with the local music scene and I began working with a few musicians and bands. I have also staged one man band setups in places like Kasane, Francistown and Masunga,” said Andrew.
To date, Andrew has backed and collaborated with locally renowned afro jazz sensations such as Shanti Lo, Banjo Mosele, Kearoma Rantao and Nnunu Ramogotsi. He has graced various prominent stages like the Cape Town Jazz Festival, Bushfire and Grahamstown Jazz Festival. Some highlights of his career include unforgettable experiences that came through sharing the stage with jazz maestros, the likes of Hugh Masekela, Joe Nina, Jimmy Dludlu and Tshepo Tshola. Recently, he went on a European tour with Kalahari Roses and is part of the ‘Re Batswana Ensemble’ which plans on going for a tour.
Currently, Andrew is working on his first solo project which will be self-titled. “I’m excited about it and I’m also working with other local musicians on their projects,” enthused Andrew.
He praises Botswana as a place he feels very comfortable, and he mentioned that the country has a lot of talent that must be pursued. “Talent is plenty here, aspiring musicians together with established ones must be keen on improving their skills through practice, disciplined and should work hard at their craft. They must know what their artistry entails and understand what the market demands regarding quality,” he said.