I interviewed .. Moreira Chonguica

I’m a citizen of the world, says Moreira Chonguica

The Cape Town based award-winning jazz saxophonist talks about music, inspiration and Cape Town

Radio Moçambique voted Moreira ‘Cultural Personality of the Year 2010′ and his latest album ‘The Moreira Project Volume 2 – Citizen of the World’, received the An’R Award of Excellence in 2010.

Who are you?
I’m 33-years-old, originally from Maputo, Mozambique and I’ve been living in Cape Town for 15 years. 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 the when I turned 10, because I didn’t like it.

None of my friends were there.

Where they more into sports?
Yes, sports, soccer or just playing around and getting dirty. I gave up. I literally ran away from music school. I lied to my parents for an entire year. I left the house saying that I was going, but I actually wasn’t…

… and you rather played with your friends?
Boys will be boys. Eventually, when I was around 15, I went to register for singing lessons and playing the piano. Saxophone wasn’t even an option. Then, after two years, I started playing the clarinet, which I majored in for 5 years. During the end of my course in 1993 I was introduced to saxophone, mostly because of the jazz music my family listened to.

What made you decide to study in Cape Town?
Many reasons. My uncle owned one of the hottest jazz clubs in Soweto, the Pelican Club, so I started hearing about the Mother City. Initially I wanted to study international law and become a lawyer, but instead I came to Cape Town.

My dad asked me, “did you enlist for university”. I said, “No. I want to go to South Africa to study music.” I applied and he allowed me to do what I wanted to do. He didn’t budget, he didn’t plan. I have tremendous respect for him. I am who I am because of him.

I studied for five years and then I did two years of my Masters, but then gave up. I thought: I’m not getting any younger; I’ve got to do what I want to do. You don’t learn music at school; you learn music outside of school.

Always jazz?
Again, 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.

How do you describe your music style?
From jazz to African music. I play many styles from places such as, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Congo. It’s a mixture of different genres with a bit of hip hop, funk, and contemporary.

What type of person are you?
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.

What inspires you?
People from all races. Miles Davis, Fela Kuti and many others. Not just because of the music. It’s a package. I’m a food lover and a great cook. I love clothes. I love to go out. But I love my space. I love playing with colours. I’m spiritual; the connection with my ancestors inspires me. Those are the people that guide me, they are my gods.

What are you career highlights?
I think the decision to come to South Africa. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing. And secondly, the decision to go solo in 2003. And 2005 when we released the album.

How do you feel about Cape Town?
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.

What does being successful mean to you?
It’s the ability to say “I’m going to do that and do it”.

What are your future plans?
We have a new album coming out soon which is jam-packed. I have other social projects: HIV awareness, educational projects, music schools and community schools that I support financially and with my time. These kids need to be around their idols. They just want to ask, “how did you do it?”Or, “what do you do when you’re depressed.” These are the things they want to know.

Are you happy with what you’re doing?
Look at me! I am so happy. I’m on top of my game, on top of the world, I love it. You know why? Because I don’t think about it. I’m a citizen of the world, like the name of my album.

Tell me something encouraging for other artists.
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.

What’s your favourite spot in Cape Town?
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.

What is the feedback you get when someone experiences your music for the first time?

Anything else?
Innovative. Energetic. Hip. Funky.

by Antonia Heil

Check out www.moreiramusic.com for more information. Tip: subscribe to www.capetownmagazine.com and win one of his CD’s!