The Sunday News
Jeys Marabini does not know how he comes up with the songs that end up on his albums. He does not know what compels him, from time to time, to pick up a pen and come up with the words that make up the songs that have won him acclaim in Zimbabwe and beyond.
To ask him how he writes or why he writes is similar to asking a fish why it swims or a bird why it flies. He does not know why he does it. It is this mysterious ability to create stories and songs from out of thin air that has seen Marabini get nominated for a much coveted National Arts Merit Award (Nama) in 2019.
When the cream of the local arts scene makes the pilgrimage to the Harare International Conference Centre for this year’s edition of the awards, Marabini will be among the chosen ones.
While many delight at his songs, as the Nama adjudicators clearly did, Marabini himself does not know how the songs he makes come to him. It is a gift that bewilders even its owner, a man who has committed his whole life to telling stories.
“Songs come in different ways. Sometimes they come via the guitar, sometimes it just comes from nowhere and I feel compelled to write a song. I’m inspired by people and inspired by my own life. So I don’t think I will ever run out of stories. I will only stop telling stories when I die. I say this because my experiences influence a lot of people,” he told Sunday Life in an interview.
The Nama nomination has come at the right time for Marabini, a man that has always believed in his own abilities but has not always been convinced that the world of music gives him what is due to him.
After the success of his ninth album, Ntunjambila, Marabini is now thoroughly convinced of the everlasting power of his music.
“I call my music lifetime music because I feel like it is everlasting. I feel like you can play it in 2040 and it will sound good,” he said.
Music has indeed been a lifelong calling for Marabini who, in the 29th year of his career, believes that he is being rewarded for his commitment to his craft.
“This is my 29th year as a musician. I only mention those years when I was a professional musician and I’m not including the period when I started gaining a serious interest in music when I was at school. It’s a privilege to last that long in music and I feel like Zimbabwe now trusts me and my work. I feel loved and trusted,” he said.
As recognition continues to trickle in, Marabini has been appreciative of those that acknowledge his meticulous work.
A Nama nomination is the boost that he has been waiting for after the release of his ninth effort.
“I’m very happy. I’m happy because this shows that I’m recognised not only in my own region but in the country as a whole. I feel like recognition is more important or means a lot than money. Recognition assures you that you’re in the right direction with your career. Whether I win or not doesn’t matter to me now. I’m just happy that I’ve been given that recognition for my efforts.
“I’m flattered by the nomination because I have never won this award. I think this is the fifth time I have been nominated but I have never had a chance to go home with the gong. For me the nominations mean that my efforts are respected.
“A nomination is like a seal of approval and a message that tells everyone inside and outside the country that these are the best artistes that Zimbabwe has to offer,” he said.
With almost three decades in the world of music, Marabini does not hesitate to name the album that he is being rewarded for, Ntunjambila, as his best effort.
The excellence of his ninth offering, Marabini said, was because of the meticulous recording process.
“This one was the best because of the way it was done. Perhaps the compositions and the type of music I do is still the same with music from my past. I’ve always believed in my abilities and I hoped that people would recognise this with time. This nomination is part of that journey. I create on my own and my music does not sound like anyone else’s. I don’t get carried away with new sounds that might emerge,” he said.
While his own abilities are celebrated, Marabini credits the artistes he worked with on Ntunjambila for creating the perfect conditions for the birth of a unique jazz album.
“The best thing about the recording process was the atmosphere. It was a fantastic atmosphere and I received a lot of love from the artistes that I worked with. It’s always fantastic when you can learn from the people that you’re working with and whenever someone came to the studio to learn from me, I ended up learning from them because that was the kind of environment that we had created in the studio. It was give and take,” he said.
As proud as he is of his work, Marabini does not believe that he has been fully rewarded for all his sweat. In fact, he believes some of the hard work will be rewarded when he is not in a position to benefit from it himself.
“If I don’t make money now, maybe my children will reap rewards from my work. Maybe my music will get even more popular when I’m retired or when I’m gone. But I’m happy that the effort has been recognised and I didn’t have to beg anyone to vote for me. I hate it when artistes have to beg people to get votes for their music to be recognised,” he said.