The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
INKULULEKO Yabatsha School of Arts (Iyasa) has been involved in a few epic videos ever since the group was born in the classrooms of Mpopoma High School over two decades ago.
There was the video for Chase Skuza’s remake of his brother Solomon’s Banolila, a video whose visuals took an old song and propelled it back to the top of the charts.
Recruiting Iyasa was a masterstroke from Skuza, who made few, if any, changes to the actual music that his brother had already earned fame for. How could a hit that was still familiar enough in the ears of listeners suddenly gain a new lease of life? How did it, once again, get to climb the charts at lightning speed, elbowing out tunes that were still hot and fresh from some of the country’s giants of song and dance?
The answer was Iyasa. With the dynamic, cross-dressing Futurelove Sibanda captaining the ship, Iyasa gave Skuza his first hit and Zimbabwe one of the greatest videos ever made.
It is a video mentioned in the same breath as Jeys Marabini’s eMarabini, a production that launched a career that is now approaching almost two decades of prominence. That video’s visuals were crisp, Iyasa’s dance gravity defying and the dramatisation and acting done to absolute perfection.
The retro feel of that video, was a perfect introduction to Marabini, a man whose style and music aims to be timeless, uncorrupted by the trends of the day. That old school feel was to be replicated recently when Jah Prayzah and Iyasa collided in the making the video for his song Sadza NeMuriwo.
This time Iyasa’s trademark style was brought to life before award winning video maker Vusa Blaqs’ camera lens with Jah Prayzah’s booming voice in the background. While it might have been new to Blaqs and Jah Prayzah, it is a style that Iyasa has fought hard to preserve over the years in a world were styles come to and go like the seasons.
“The way Nkululeko (Dube, director) built the foundation of the group meant that we never have to chase all these new dance styles that come along. Our act is very jazzy and caters to a more old school style and that is what has put the group were it is today,” Iyasa member Nyasha Dziruni told Sunday Life after the blockbuster video shoot.
A meeting of Jah Prayzah, Vusa Blaqs and Iyasa on one video shoot seems like a match made in musical heaven. Yet for Iyasa’s new generation of stars, controlling their excitement before they met the man who arguably wears the crown in the music scene locally was a priority before the video shoot. In the same breath it was a confirmation of how Iyasa had already charmed the local music industry.
“It was a great experience but a big challenge as well. I mean this is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest artistes and just being in his presence is daunting. For me personally I took it as a step ahead in my career. They fact that he wanted to do this video with us felt like a just acknowledgment of what we do. It shows that our work even has an effect on these people that the whole country regards as superstar. It was my first time working with an artiste of his stature and I really would like to do something of that nature again in future,” said Dziruni.
For all their fears of being star struck, Iyasa were put at ease by Jah Prayzah’s own character and demeanour.
“He is not a hard person to get along with. He is very light hearted and that helped us ease into the set. He is also incredibly open with everyone and whenever he felt that there was something that he needed to express he wouldn’t pull you aside but instead he would come out outright and say it. Even during the shooting, he didn’t separate himself from everybody else but instead openly mingled with everyone on the set,” Dziruni said.
Whenever a video featuring Iyasa debuts some viewers may sometime try to imagine what might have been happening behind the scenes. When one sees the jaw dropping dance moves and wide smiles, it is hard to imagine that the making of the video was a sad affair. This, said Iyasa member Shyleen Mutano, was indeed the case.
“We had a lot of fun on set. At times it didn’t feel like work at all because there was a lot of socialising in between the shooting. At the end of the day I felt like I had achieved a goal in my career,” said Mutano.
Like others on set that fateful day in July, Mutano confessed to being an avid Jah Prayzah fan.
“It was such an honour because before anything else I think that I’m one of the biggest Jah Prayzah fans. To be on a set with him and help him achieve his vision alongside Iyasa is something I’ll always treasure.
With a meeting with one of Zimbabwe’s stars on the cards, Iyasa member Kelvin Nyoni had found it hard to even sleep the night before the day of the shoot. The day of the shoot itself was the culmination of a lot of hard work as veteran choreographer Richard Ndlovu took them through the paces on the days prior to the shoot.
“When I woke up on the day of the shoot I just had that urge to just meet him. I just wanted to shake his hand. Even on my way there the excitement was just hard to contain. When I met him I was just humbled because he spoke and acted like a grounded person. He came to me and spoke about how what we were doing was how we could make a living as artistes. That was a big moment for me in my career.
“It was crazy experience. I was just so happy when that vision came to fruition because it was hard putting the choreography together. We rehearsed day after day just to get it right and we would mix that style with that one and then discard it. So it wasn’t easy,” said Nyoni.
While he might have been star struck, Nyoni admits a talk with the star of the show calmed his nerves and gave him a new perspective.
“He came to me and spoke about how what we were doing was how we could make a living as artistes. That was a big moment for in my career,” said Nyoni.
Group members will forever remember the suspense filled drive to the venue of the shoot.
“When we left for Matobo we were even questioning if he was going to be there at the shoot. We thought maybe someone would stand in for him. During the drive we were all confused because we didn’t know where exactly we would be shooting,” said Dorcas Ngwenya.
While Iyasa members were in awe of Jah Prayzah, other cast members were equally pleased to rub shoulders with members of the legendary group.
“I’ve never worked with Iyasa before and this is a group that I’ve always watched and been inspired by and this time I finally got a chance to work closely with them. It was like one big happy family. Jah Prayzah I also a cut above the rest, no wonder he is going far,” said model Ben Chest, who was part of the cast.