Chinganga the saxophonist everyone wants

GABORONE, Botswana – Zimbabwean-born saxophonist Andrew Chinganga has become one of the most sought-after backing artists on the local music scene.

If you saw this sax player blowing the horn to create melodies on the stage, you would realise why his services are in high demand.  He has backed some of the luminaries of local Afro jazz and featured in their albums.\r\n

Just recently, he was part of Citie Seetso’s backing group when they performed at the acclaimed Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF). Chinganga has become such an accomplished musician because he always had access to a variety of musical instruments in his parents’ house in Bulawayo.

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Whilst other children were playing with toys, he was “fiddling” with musical instruments.  His father was a trombonist whilst his elder brother and sister could blow a trumpet.  Chinganga himself started blowing the trumpet at the age of seven.

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Later on he dabbled with the drums, clarinet and finally the sax.  There was a jazz influence in the Bulawayo Township where Chinganga grew up.  Chinganga was staying in the same neighbourhood with Paul Lunga, a renowned trumpeter himself.  Just a street away lived “Timothy”, a member of the jazz combo, the Cool Crooners.  There was also George Salimbo, a member of Sub Marina as well as Kenny Marozwa who used to play Steve Dyer’s Freeway. 

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“There were a lot of musicians in our street,” Chinganga recalls with fondness. He said Bulawayo was then a city of jazz.   There used to be a number of jazz groups in Zimbabwe’s second biggest city after the capital, Harare.

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There was a good number of jazz joints in the city, which revellers from Francistown often frequented.  Live jazz shows started during the week. During school vacations, Chinganga used to jam with Lunga’s group, Jazz Impacto.  Other than that he did not play for any specific group.  Of course he could go for shows with other musicians in countries like Botswana and Lesotho.

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After he completed his secondary schooling, he enrolled for a diploma at a music academy.  With his trumpet under his sleeve, Chinganga headed for Botswana in 2000 and started to back local musician, Kenny Ndaba.  “I used to play with Kenny Ndaba when he was based in Masunga.  I used to play drums for his band,” said the versatile artist.

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When he moved to Gaborone, Chinganga joined a resident band at the Oodi Lodge.  “We used to call ourselves Urban Brew,” he said. Later he joined forces with the Brand New Vibe.  Chinganga has since then backed a number of local jazz artists like Shanti-Lo and Lister Boleseng.  He is blowing the horn on Shanti-Lo’s latest album.

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He also features in Punah Gabasiane’s new album as well as her previous release.  Songbird Nono Siile also engaged Chinganga’s services when she went to the studio.   Even the Norwegian-based music giant, Banjo Mosele appreciates Chinganga’s horn.  Banjo engaged the Zimbabwean saxophonist when he recorded his last album, Nowadays that features the hit track, Ntsa E Jele Ntsanyana.  Chinganga has also worked with other local groups including reggae bands.  But the highlight of his music career was to perform at the Cape Town jazz festival with Citie. 

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He is still praising their performance at the festival.   He said the attendance was also impressive. Chinganga said since people wanted to see the Botswana group because this was their first time a local group from Botswana appeared at the festival.  The boys did not disappoint.  He said their moving performance has made the international community to realise that there is abundant talent in this country. 

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For Chinganga, playing with a number of local groups has enabled him to gain vast experience.  He appreciates the Botswana music scene and says the industry is growing. “It is really picking up.  There is a lot of support from locals and this is very good,” he said. After assisting other artists to release their albums, Chinganga is looking forward to recording his own album.  He has compiled a few songs that are yet to be recorded.  He has also compiled some of the material for Brand New Band’s forthcoming album. – Mmegi Online

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