Norwegian musician Eirik Hoff Walmsness is set to release sungura singles that will be part of his debut album of the genre.
Sungura is a Zimbabwean music genre which borrowed from Tanzanian kanindo and Congolese rhumba music.
Popularly known for his sungura instrumental tutorials on YouTube, Walmsness has always had a crush on African music, particularly sungura and dendera, another Zimbabwe genre which came off sungura.
Walmsness' sungura singles’ project will be his debut solo project following other musical projects he did together with his former bands: Svermere, Trondheim World Music Ensemble, and Sør for Sahara from his region.
In an interview, Walmsness told The Southern Times that he is currently working on a sungura project which will see him eventually releasing an album.
“I am striving to achieve the ‘classic sungura sound’ and have been working on it for some time now. I am really taking my time to bring out the best and I am doing it independently. Using my home studio, I am recording the instrumentals from the drums, lead and base guitars as well as the vocals,” he said.
“I am not much of a Shona speaker yet, so my songs will be in English but, I really want my lyrics to focus on Zimbabwe in some way.”
He said his lyrics are centred on the Zimbabwean story because it is the original home for sungura music genre.
Walmsness’ previous projects were mainly on jazz music and folk music. However, over the past decade, he has grown a bigger interest in African music, having worked with Congolese and West African artists, before discovering sungura.
His love for sungura music has been a journey of discovery. From hearing the music in Namibia, South Africa and Malawi as well as in his music studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the United Kingdom.
“I was part of a folk musical band where I was a drummer and we also had a chance to go and play with some Malawian musical groups,” said Walmsness.
“My sungura discovery started when I was in Namibia and had a chance to interact with musicians in Namibia and some of them were originally from Zimbabwe. Later on, I lived in Malawi and I also stayed in South Africa for a year, so I have been finding myself around Zimbabwe. Sungura music has always influenced countries surrounding Zimbabwe so from there I slowly started to pick up an interest in sungura but still I wasn’t really aware that this is sungura.
"I discovered about the title in one of my musical classes in UK where I was covering music from several African countries, West Africa, Ethiopia, central African music. One day we had Zimbabwe on the agenda and I remember my music teacher playing some examples and she said ‘here is a song by John Chibadura’ and the guitar started and when the drums started kicking, the band joins then I remembered the music. Then I started doing my research. Of course, YouTube was a great resource to find sungura recordings,” narrated Walmsness.
He said there had never been a promotional on sungura music in his home country, so he was using his own findings on the genre.
Driven by a growing interest in sungura music, Walmsness went to Zimbabwe to learn more of the genre where he met sungura musicians, Alick Macheso, Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria and dendera musician Sulumani Chimbetu.
He had an opportunity to play drums for Macheso during one of his life performances in Zimbabwe in 2017.
“I was stalked the first time I saw Macheso on stage. They called me up to dance, then I was asked to play the drums. Playing with Macheso was really an amazing moment. I was pinching my arms being on stage with him in front of a huge crowd. During the same trip, I was also able to attend shows by Nicholas Zakaria, Sulu Chimbetu and this is when I knew about dendera and I did play a guitar with Sulumani,” said Walmsness.
His first musical trip to Zimbabwe was in 2015 where he went for the HIFA Festival. However, the festival did not have much of sungura music so he just bought several musical albums of sungura music in music shops.
“My 2017 trip was remarkable, it came after a friend of mine in Norway hooked me up with a drummer living in Zimbabwe who had been part of Music Crossroads touring Europe. We quickly became friends as he hosted me for two weeks. I was staying with him in Chitungwiza, a town where sungura seems to be more dominant. It was quite an adventure. What I have experienced and saw also contributed in the lyrical composition of my sungura songs,” he said.
Walmsness intends to perform his sungura music live in Zimbabwe after release.
He said, “I will start the process of assembling a band in Zimbabwe to work with me. This includes the singers, instrumentalists and dancers. I am really excited about that!”