Afro-jazz musician Dereck Mpofu is one of the few local artists who have used music to transmit social responsibility and positive messages that advocate for environmental conservation.
the style interview By Winstone Antonio
Popularly known as Green Ambassador, Mpofu who swayed into the limelight with his hit Chisikana Changu Zimbabwe has also fostered environmental projects like the Green Concert and Cultural Fiesta among other programmes.
Besides being the goodwill environmental ambassador for Zimbabwe under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate and City of Harare, Mpofu is an innovative award-winning environmental musician, philanthropist, author and social entrepreneur.
The use of music to communicate about environmental and health issues has seen him travelling in Africa and beyond singing and presenting on such issues.
The Standard Style reporter Winstone Antonio (WA) caught up with Mpofu (DM), who opened up about his music career among other projects. Below are excerpts from the interview.
WA: Can you share your vision?
DM: My vision in the music industry is to be the best original artist who exports the best of Zimbabwean music blending Shona and Ndebele genres to bring out an original Zimbabwean feel. To be an example of patriotism and do patriotic music that transcends party and tribal politics that unites all Zimbabweans to champion health, social and environmental issues through innovative methods like music and dance.
WA: Take us through some of your initiatives in your endeavour to advocate for environmental awareness campaigns through music?
DM: There are a number of initiatives that I have pioneered related to environment/conservation issues that includes; the Green Concert, an annual environmental and health awareness campaign that focuses on change of social behaviour among Zimbabweans through music. In its fourth year, it has hosted more than 30 artists from six countries and one of the Green Concerts’ fundraised for flood victims from the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam basin.
There is the Little Green Ambassadors Book, this book I wrote it specifically for kids from as diverse backgrounds as possible addressing environmental and health issues from waste management to energy conservation in four different languages. It is being considered to be part of the Zimbabwe school curriculum and shall be freely distributed to over 100 000 kids.
I have also produced the theme song for the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Survey and helped coordinate the national and provincial launches, as well as the road shows in all the provinces. Part of the responsibilities included engaging and notifying members of the public on the pending survey.
Every year, I bring couples together as they celebrate Valentine’s Day through planting trees and clean-up campaigns under the Green Valentines initiative.
WA: Has your work been recognised with any form of awards?
DM: Yes, I have received several awards. I was appointed Yali Green Champion in 2015, received the Youth Philanthropy Award in 2014 courtesy of Philanthropic Institute of Zimbabwe, was appointed goodwill ambassador environment, Water Conservation and Zero Littering (City Of Harare) in 2012, Artist of the Year (Monolio Studios) 2010 and 2013 and Action Award for Outstanding Fundraiser (African Arts Council) in 2014.
WA: On your latest album Godobori, it appears the song Mari is doing well. Tell us more about the song?
DM: The song Mari/ Unonaka Iwe or Ncwakaaa as some people are now calling it, is a striking song that celebrates the hustling nature of Zimbabweans and the world in general. I think in terms of attention the song Mari has surpassed by far the affection given to some of my more well-known songs like Chisikana Changu Zimbabwe in the shortest period of time. It is currently on high rotation on most radio stations and has entered the charts. It has made its way onto the streets. It has become my most requested and streamed song on the internet. I believe hard work has paid off on this album as I have become more recognised and relevant in a market that I only dreamed I could ever attract and most of it is thanks to Mari and Ndinokakama. I encourage people to visit my YouTube channel and listen to the full version of the song so as to stop dedicating the Unonaka part to Sadza, life and any other object of affection they saw fit to dedicate to.
WA: What of the insinuations around the song (Mari) on social media?
DM: I only know it had gone viral on WhatsApp in a new shortened format which only contains the part Unonaka Iwe. I don’t know who shortened it and their purpose. That version kind of loses the translation as to what I referred to that is so delicious, I clearly referred to money. The truth is that the song celebrates hard work. Money makes the world go round as the old age adage says. The song looks at the effect of the lack of money in society that is in hard times, and also I focus on the effect of its abundant presence which is a rich state. I focus on the lengths; both literal and euphemistic that people are prepared to go to in order to acquire this very elusive resource. That is why the song carries a sombre mood at the beginning when speaking of the scarcity of money and a joyous Unonaka Iwe when there is an inference to how we feel when it is around.
WA: Have you collaborated with other artists?
DM: Yes, I have collaborated with Nigerian artist Kunle Ayo, South African superstars Winnie Khumalo and Teddy Bears, Botswana’s stalwarts Amantle, Spiza and Bouncy, Norry Malonga from the Democratic Republic of Congo together with local artists Alexio Kawara, Esther Mukazika, Ras Caleb and Willis Wataffi on the song against xenophobia, We are African — No to Xenophobia. We did this project together to show that we are one people; same skin and blood thus there was no need for divisions caused by artificial boundaries.
WA: What are your future plans?
DM: 2017 is the year that I came out of my shell to establish myself as a pure artist without any cause attached, but just pure art. I am reaping the rewards of hard work and support from fans and peers especially on this latest album. I expect to be shooting a live DVD in October and bring the experience of performing at my shows to the people back home. I also have to fully institutionalise the green ambassador brand and spread its wings beyond a persona.
WA: Thank you for your time Mr Ambassador.
DM: My pleasure