Harare – Cases abound of music groups that disintegrate after achieving fame. But the same cannot be said for the Zimbabwean outfit, Xtra Large that has remained intact since entering the music scene in 2003. Last month, the group released its latest album, The Truth. On the album, they feature other local musicians such as Baba Shupi, Stunner, Ras Caleb, Pah Chihera and Poptain. The Southern Times Reporter Sharon Kavhu (SK) had an opportunity to chat with the Xtra Large ‘Maroja’ duo on its secret to survival in the music industry. Xtra Large is made up of Jim ‘Swaggah Jim’ Mangezi (JM) and Norman Likkle N Manwere (NM).
SK: So how did the name Xtra Large come to be?
JM: When we joined the Zimbabwean music industry in 2003, we did not want to sound ordinary like many other youthful groups that were also entering the industry, as such we came up with the name Xtra Large. For us, the name was more than just a household name and we knew it was going to draw attention.
SK: Does the name mean anything?
JM: It symbolises how huge our style is and how extraordinary we are when it comes to art and music as well as writing lyrics.
SK: Who inspired your music?
NM: We were inspired by Jamaican dancehall music ever since our school days. During our school days, we would write down lyrics of those Jamaican songs and I remember we used to perform them at school, in class and on variety shows. It began as a hobby, then after school, we happened to be there during the time of the 75% local content directive by the Government then we took advantage and recorded material which got a fair amount of airplay. Then Xtra Large was born. We actually quit our jobs to do music. I was an NC programmer and Jim was a draughtsperson.
SK: So after 15 years in the industry, what have you achieved?
NM: Well, we have achieved more than we could have achieved if we had stayed at work. We have achieved respect, recognition, awards and a comfortable source of income. However, we had several challenges when we started such as trying to remain relevant and be on the elite list. Such issues can be more difficult when a new breed of artists is born and attention may seem to shift from one genre to another but if you have an original sound that you are confined to then you won’t lose fans.
SK: What has been keeping Xtra Large together for all those years?
JM: Unlike many musical groups that meet through music, Norman and I are childhood friends. We grew up in the same area, went to the same schools and at one time we even worked at the same company. As such, our combination goes behind musical interests and this is what has made our band strong.
SK: You started music in 2003 and we are now in 2018, how did you manage to bridge the generation gap in the music industry?
JM: Since we are passionate about music, we are always aware of the trendy music genres. So from time to time we catch up with the trends so that we do not lose our fans. In some cases, we make music and have our children listen to it and if you see them not enjoying the music, for us it is a sign that we have produced an old school. Our children are grown-ups now, who have a better understanding of music, and for us, they resemble the young music audience. We also change producers from time to time in order for us to produce a variety of trendy music that makes us remain relevant in the industry.
Working with new talent is also an experience that makes us bridge the generation gap. Getting a new feel of sound and how the new generation is making a twist in the music that is trendy. We are lucky and blessed to have bridged the generation gap. It is God’s grace.
SK: How many albums have you released so far?
NM: Our first album was ‘Ndikadai’ then we had ‘Zvakora’, ‘Walembe’, ‘Small House’, ‘Large’ and ‘In Charge’, ‘Xtra Ordinary’, ‘The Xpandables’ with Ex Q, ‘Many Moods of Xtra Large’, ‘The Xpandables 2’, ‘Twenty Fit In’, ‘Singles Collection’ and ‘The Truth’.
SK: What can you say about your latest album, ‘The Truth’
JM: ‘The Truth’ was inspired by the journey we have walked in the industry. Our ups and downs and the secret on why we remained relevant and still together when other groups split and even hung their microphones. Some musicians have fought and killed a good musical future over fame and riches but Xtra Large has remained intact from back in the years, since 2003. We are ‘The Truth’, hence the album.
SK: Did you have one producer or they differ with the production?
JM: We started with the late Siphosenkosi Mukuhlani - TBA and Take Five Tatenda Genami from that squad studio. We also worked with all the elite producers such as Mac Donald ‘MacDee’ Chidavaenzi, T-Man, Russel ‘Russo’ Chiradza, Flash Gordon, Dr Clarence, Levels, PTK, Joseph Madziire, Fyah King, Dr Gluco, Gudnice, Sanii Makhalima, Mr Knoxa Oskid, Tamuka, young and upcoming producers like Quazor, Movvy Dee, Fyah King. So, basically, the producers differ with the production and we have worked with all the producers who have managed to make a name for themselves in Zimbabwe.