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'I’m a citizen of the world', says Moreira Chonguica
Cape Town Magazine sat down with the multi-award winning jazz saxophonist to talk about music, inspiration and, of course, Cape Town
Moreira’s style is a mix of jazz and African rhythms - music that hails from Mozambique, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Congo and South Africa - all blended together with the more modern styles of funk and hip hop.
After two albums, one of which won the An’R Award of Excellence in 2010, the Cape Town based Moreira thought it was time to produce a complete album with Mozambican musicians; a composition in which each song is sung in a different Portuguese dialect. This album, entitled “Khanimambo: A tribute to the legends of Mozambique”, mixes Mozambican sounds, rock, ballads and jazz with unsolicited commentary between most of the tracks by the artists themselves.
And while his Mozambican roots have always reflected in his music, recording “Khanimambo” was different. When Moreira was little, his father took him to see these artists performing, and arguably more than anything, this album is an attempt to keep the older musicians from Mozambique alive in the music world. And in an equally honourable manner, the collection is a tribute, of sort, to the man who exposed him to these artists in the first place.
Despite his recent devotion to his homeland’s musical culture, Moreira is nonetheless committed to the Mother City. He’s lived in Cape Town since he was seven, and still speaks of how astounded he was when he first stepped foot in the city. Nowadays, a lot has changed, but Moriera still seems to be amazed at what’s what in this urban centre.
First get a great taste of Moreira and his music with these video's:
The Moreira Project - Blue Puzzle Moreira Chonguica - OTUPAM
CapeTownMag: What type of person are you?
MC: I’m bold. I know how to be a family guy, I’m social, I’m crazy, I’m like a pope sometimes, like Kofi Annan, better than Obama. I make music for people. Being an artist is a profession of danger. I know artists that don’t do anything but art. I’m here with you. I’m living my dream.
CapeTownMag: Have you always been interested in jazz?
MC: My dad was a scientist. He used to tell me, "You are Moreira Chonguica. You have to find your own song. You have to develop your own identity, that’s what’s going to take you to the world." I basically studied American jazz. I’m also interested in other rhythms from Africa, from Brazil.
CapeTownMag: What song of yours are you most connected to?
MC: “Ancestrology” from The Moreira Project Vol1 The Journey. It is a very spiritual for me. I wrote it a long time ago, but I play it at every show. It brings me into perspective.
CapeTownMag: If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
MC: Miles Davis. One of the greatest jazz cats of all times.
CapeTownMag: What concert do you consider your best?
MC: Every concert is really unique. The crowds are different at each one. I never play the repertoire in the same order and I re-arrange my songs so that no concert is the same. A memorable concert was in Maputo in July 2010 when I played on stage for three straight hours and had no idea we had played so long until we came off. The band and I were having so much fun we hadn’t noticed the time and nobody left the venue!
CapeTownMag: What is the feedback you get when someone experiences your music for the first time?
CapeTownMag: What was the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome thus far?
MC: Up until 2005 I was the saxophonist for Jimmy Dludlu. We toured the world, but I knew I had to make my own music. The decision to break away and go solo was very difficult, challenging and scary. Not to have a fixed income for months on end was a life changing experience.
CapeTownMag: What does being successful mean to you?
MC: It’s the ability to say “I’m going to do that and do it”.
CapeTownMag: Tell me something encouraging for other artists.
MC: It is very important to analyse everything you do. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. The game is always moving. We have to move with it. Be proactive. It’s fun, but it’s not a joke. It’s tough now.
CapeTownMagazine: Why did you move to Cape Town?
MC: I came because I was studying at the University of Cape Town. The first time I saw a music instrument was at a very early stage, my dad and uncle used to play acoustic guitar. I went to the music school when I was 7. But, then I left when I turned 10, because I didn’t like it.
CapeTownMag: How do you feel about Cape Town?
MC: It is home for me. When you get to Cape Town when you’re young, you feel 'wow'. And that’s what Cape Town is.
CapeTownMag: Is there an area of Cape Town that has influenced your music?
MC: Not really. I adore Cape Town because of the diversity. You are 30/45 minutes from the winelands and the sea or the mountain and the West Coast. I would say there are people from different parts of Cape Town that have influenced my music; from the gospel singers and musicians who took me to church when I first arrived in Cape Town, to the musicians from the ‘flats’ who used to jam with me at west end or the g-spot.
CapeTownMag: What’s your favourite spot in Cape Town?
MC: My top place will be the place where I go often. If you ask me for good coffee, go to Origin. If you ask me for a good spot to dance, I will say Asoka. If you ask me for a good spot on Sunday, it will be Mzoli’s. I like galleries, I like art. There are many things, because my life is about meeting people all the time in different places. I’m always out and about, when I’m not in the studio doing music.
CapeTownMag: A place to go on a first date in Cape Town...
MC: ...Signal Hill to see the sun set with a picnic.
CapeTownMag: Best place in Cape Town to cope with a hangover on a Sunday afternoon...
MC: ...Grand Beach Café at Granger Bay for ambience and great food.
CapeTownMag: What’s your favourite venue in Cape Town to play in?
MC: I love playing at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. It is so well-run and organised. I also enjoy the concert in The Gardens during Heritage Day. To play in such a historic place at the foot of Table Mountain is very inspirational.
CapeTownMag: If your city were a song it’d be...
MC: ‘We built this city’ – Starship. The words of the song are applicable to Cape Town...."We built this city on Rock and Roll"; Cape Town is a rocking and rolling city.
CapeTownMag: You always say...
MC: We are human beings first.
The Moreira Project - Ancestrology
by Antonia Heil and Karin Willemsen for the CapeTownMagazine.com music series.