From the days he emerged on the Zimbabwean music scene back in the early 2000s with the hit track “Musalala”, he has become a darling of many.
He has become one of the most sought-after entertainers in the country. His name is ExQ. Twenty-six days from today he will open for Nigerian reggae-dancehall star, Patoranking, at the HICC, and five days later he shares the stage with Davido and Nasty C.
The laid back father of two has managed to stay consistent for almost two decades, emphatically proving his staying power and dominance by scooping five gongs at the Star FM Music Awards held last month. He is up for two nominations at the upcoming National Arts Merit Awards this April.
The Sunday Mail Society caught up with the decorated singer, who shared insights on his career; how he has remained relevant, the changing music scene, tastes and much more.
His advice is; “Working hard is the secret, I believe. Trying new ideas is also critical. However, it is a risk. If it works then bho (all good), zvikaramba (if not) try other things.”
Early career, bonds
ExQ has worked with a lot of local artistes and those from the continent. However, he has always collaborated with two particular individuals — Roki and Stunner. It is a miracle he is not as controversial as his peers.
“Roki and Stunner are the brothers I never had in my family,” he said.
“I was also close to the likes of Leonard Mapfumo and Discord, and most of the musicians during the rise of urban grooves. But visions in life change. Some of the guys we grew up with in the game are no longer into music. But Roki, Stunner and I are still heavily pushing and we have stuck together.”
The “Nzenza” singer revealed that they are cooking something together in the studio.
“We got plans to drop some material with the guys. Currently, I am working with Extra Large, Stunner and developing something with Leonard Mapfumo.”
With all the success he has achieved, the happily married singer said he had some low moments in his musical journey.
“One of my lowest moments was when I was trying to adjust to changes in sound,” he revealed. “I had mastered the dynamics around urban grooves and one day the sound changed to trap and Afro-beats among many other grooves that popped up. It was not easy trying to adjust, people around me were mocking and laughing at me. So there I was, one moment I was making hits and the next things have changed and I was struggling.”
Tempted to quit
After dropping the hit single “Alleluyah”, which featured Roki, ExQ wanted to quit music.
“There is a time I said to myself I am going to quit music. Even now, there are moments I feel like walking away. You give so much to the industry and the returns anonetsa kuwona (are not tangible).”
He said there are unending wars in the game.
“There is always a battle. The corporates are not sponsoring the industry. The government is not supporting us. One can only make money from shows,” he explained.
“When corporates are dealing with us there is always someone in the middle who has a very different attitude. They make themselves so important and we have to suck up to them.
“One cannot have proper deals in this country. It is usually a take it or leave it scenario. People look down upon us as artistes in this country but we try hard.
“At times all these issues make me feel like walking away. That time came when I had dropped the single “Alleluyah” and had just finished working on tracks for my next album. It was DJ Stavo who encouraged me to stay in music at that time.”
Most local successful male musicians are always linked to financially solid older female business tycoons. ExQ was also said to be a beneficiary such an arrangement.
“Every time that something good happens in an individual’s life the devil comes through with a different story. I have so many good songs that I never made videos for such as ‘Nhema’ and ‘Nzenza’. Surely, if there was such financial backing I would have made them. I attribute my success to the team I work with and within that team there is no older rich woman,” retorts the singer.
It is rare for an artiste to get an opportunity to perform at two high-profile shows that are separated by a few days, sometimes even weeks. But in a space of five days, ExQ is set to share the stage with heavyweights on two different stages, something which speaks not just to his popularity with music fans but his dominance in the industry.
“It is always an honour to be given an opportunity to perform on such big platforms. The Patoranking gig on April 26 is set to be a good show and so is the other one. I have performed at the HICC a number of times. The difference is that there is a visiting international act but I have performed with the other listed acts such as Winky D, Jah Prayzah, Nutty O and Jah Signal,” he shared.
“However, to go on to perform with Davido and Nasty C a few days later, for me, I can only thank the heavens, they are smiling on me.”
“I am in the studio working on some new stuff. Once am sure it is ripe and ready I will then release. However, if I decide to drop a single, I will drop it with a video this time around,” highlighted the man also known as Mr Putiti, real name Enock Munhenga.