Elisha Muyengwa, who goes by the ‘street name’ of Maelo, relishes in his independence, especially as he promotes his debut album, titled Groovers.
Maelo, who is twenty-five years old, admits that he has not been very optimistic about a career in music in the past after a Kwaito group he had formed, as a teenager alongside three of his mates, disbanded in 2001and when a member was killed.
“My friend had been standing there, talking to a young lady when suddenly, he fell to the ground.” A drunken stranger, had quietly crept behind the young man and stabbed him with a knife in the back, Maelo says.
“He didn’t die suddenly,” he says grimly, “but died on the ride to the hospital.” It was a sad period for the ‘newbies’ who, instead of carrying on, disbanded, “We were down in the dumps. Our parents also became overprotective of us, limiting our movement. This discouraged us from going any further as a group,” he says.
Maelo says he also became pessimistic about the local industry. “Honestly, I doubted that a career in music could be viable.” The release of the 6 track album, Groovers implies that he has had a change of mind.
“I have always loved music after all,” he says. He set about recording an album with the help of Mgaro, who produced his instrumentals.
He also collaborated on the first track of the album, Fa Go Nna Monate, with younger brother Mingo, who is popular for the kwaito-kwasa hit, Tshaba Tsotsi. “The amazing thing is you can’t tell the difference between us because our voices are similar,” says the raspy voiced kwaito artist.
“Many people ask me why my younger brother has released an album before me,” he says, smiling reservedly. “We grew up in different households. His was more liberal than me, which is why he released an album when still in his teens.
“And I, with both my mother and father having passed on, lived with my older brother who is deeply religious and was against me forging a career in music.”
Maelo has recorded a popular gospel standard popular across southern Africa, Johane 14, in his mother tongue, Shona, which might appease his brother. The song stands out from the rest of the album because of the language used and the use of slow paced music that is zouk-inspired. Zouk is the type of music popularised by Momo through his hit, Oule.
The rest of the album is made of kwaito lyrics and beats that recall Trompies and Mdu, who Maelo says he particularly loves. “Kwaito-kwasa is cool but I love the original sgubu,” he says. Sgubu is the term used for conventional kwaito.
Maelo manages himself, and he says the main challenge he has faced is having limited funds. He credits Orange, the cellular network company, as having been instrumental in allowing him to finally release his album. They sponsored the production of the first consignment of CDs. After reviewing my material and placing their logo on my album, as a stamp of approval, he said. Two of Maelo’s songs, Groovers and Fa Go Le Monate, are also available as ringtones.