Jam Signal is an upcoming urban house fusion live band in Zimbabwe that is made up of three members
,namely Mutsawashe Gudlanga who specializes in drums, and Osborne Matengenzara on the saxophone and Abel Maunga who specializes on the keyboard.
Their music and unique blend of styles ranges from jazz, swing, blues, samba, funk, house, afro jazz, r’n’b, Latino and traditional music though pop and jazz is their main domain.
The versatile group was formed in December 2012 after the trio came back from a tour in Maputo, Mozambique, where they represented Zimbabwe during the Umoja CFC international. It was then that they then decided to start their own band and seize being session musicians, and ever since, they have been together.
To date, they have released 5 singles which includes Chikopokopo, their first collaboration with the hip hop star, Overrated, Stuck in my head, Jikina, and Orlando
Harare magazine got in touch with one of the group members, Osborne Matengenzara, the Saxophonist, and the following is an insert from the interview:
HM: Can you give us a brief background about Jams Signal?
OM: Jam Signal started of Dec 2012 when we came back from an Umoja tour in Mozambique. After performing as part of the Zimbabwe Umoja, we decided to star our own band and stop being session musician. We started off playing strictly jazz at a restaurant at Sam Levy’s village called the circle. It took us a couple of months to really find our unique 3 peace sound and then we started performing publicly at Book Café, thanks to a gentleman called Hector. Through the exposure book café gave us, the brand grew and we started playing at big festivals and venues such as Intwasa Festival, Musica fest, Miombo Magic Fest, Pariah State, etc. In October 2015, we decided to commercialize our music and introduce vocals to our new afro pop sound.
HM: When and why did you start playing? i.e Which instruments do you play?
OM: We all went to Prince Edward School and that’s where our music journey started. Personally I started playing music because I was physically small in form one and since I could not do any sport, I decided to go join the music club. I started off playing trumpet, and later switched to saxophone. I play any brass instrument, saxophone, clarinet, piano and a little bit of drums.
HM: What was the first tune(s) you learned?
OM: The first tune I played on the trumpet was a marching band song, I am not sure about the title but it’s a very popular Zimbabwean soccer song, “Ndivavo vakomana vekwedu, vanotamba kufanana neshumba”
HM: Which famous musicians have you learned from?
OM: at Prince Edward School, we were greatly influenced by Jimmy Dludlu and Moses Khumalo, both are outstanding musicians from South Africa. I also learned a lot from Mozambique saxophonist, Ivan Mazuze and our very own outstanding saxophonists, Aubrey Kabambe and Vee Mukarati.
HM: What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?
OM: One of the best musical memories in my town was when we played at the HIFA opening in 2008, and when Jam Signal performed at the Italian Embassy in 2015. In my house we always have great musical memories, the best one being when we did our own shona version of Panda, trust me people at my house are crazy.
HM: Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
OM: I do not have a clear memory of me listening to old records or tapes, I guess I did not pay attention to music then. I am however a Bob Marley fan. His music, lyrics and mindset is just amazing.
HM: What are some of the challenges you have faced as a group, during the past years, and how have you managed to rectify some of them?
OM: Like any other relationship as friends and band mates, the first and notable challenge we faced was obviously dispute in the group. I remember one time we were actually on the verge of breaking the group up, but we locked ourselves in a room and had a long argument. At the end, after praying we smoothened everything out. We have come to a place where we understand each other and respect our different roles in the band.
HM: Where do you see yourselves within the next five years as a group and as an individual?
OM: We want to establish ourselves as fully functional and notable entertainment company in Africa and we also aim to have a strong fan base across Africa and grow the brand Jam Signal in other entertainment business endeavors. My personal 5 year plan is greatly influenced by the group’s 5 year plan, the success and status of the group directly translates to my personal success and status.
HM: Are you working on releasing any album soon? When can we expect it on the shelves?
OM: The 5 singles we released are part of the album we are working on, we aim to release summer this year if all goes well.
HM: Have you been in competitions? Any prizes?
OM: Unfortunately or fortunately we haven’t been in any competitions.
HM: What are some of the success stories, if any, which you would like to share with us since your group’s inception?
OM: We started with a different sound and most people would advise us to add more members to the group. We had to lease the bands that we were playing for and focus on the non-paying Jam Signal rehearsals. We were also one of the first instrumental led bands in Harare and people were not used to this kind of set up. With that said, I think the fact that we are now a respected brand in the industry and have managed to effectively and successfully step up on the commercial scene, is a success in itself. We continue to grow and we will continue to succeed, this is just the beginning.
HM: Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV?
OM: We do lots of public performances from weddings, to cooperate events, festivals, to parties. These are all different set ups, so at one function you find us playing smooth conversational jazz and the next day we are pumping up an electric house at a festival. We host concerts here and there, the last one being October 2016, we haven’t set a date for the next one yet. We have been on all radio station for interviews and jam sessions a number of times and we appreciate the support we receive from those amazing people, special mention to KVG and MOX.
HM: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
OM: Smile and wave! We are free spirited people and find almost anything funny, so when we do make a mistake or one of us does, we usually laugh it off and continue.
HM: Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
OM: I do not know about the others, but I still get sweaty palms before a performance. However, as soon as I play the first song, I get comfortable and enjoy the performance.
HM: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
OM: My advice would be go on stage as much as you can. I am sure the more you do it, the less nervous you become if you do not have a stage perform for family and or friends.
HM: What do you practice – exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?
OM: Our rehearsals these days are mainly focused on Jam Signal original music. We are focusing on making our songs sound better than the recorded versions and also keep it interesting for a live performance. The hardest track to perform at the moment is “Stuck in My Head” and we are still working on it.
HM: How would you want to be remembered in as far as your music career is concerned?
OM: As a band, we would like to be remembered for our unique sound and quality of music and we would also like to be remembered for our stage performance and presence. Personally, I would like people to remember my lyrics, I love songwriting and I put a lot of effort in my lyric writing.