The ‘Oktopus’ behind Jeys Marabini’s album


WHEN Bulawayo-based jazz maestro Jeys Marabini launched his ninth album, Ntunjambila, at a sold out event at Bulawayo Theatre late last year, a young and unknown Nathaniel ‘Oktopus’ Chipunza was part of Marabini’s band members, and was sandwiched by seasoned drummer Sam Mataure, percussionist Othnell Mangoma and lead guitarist Rodwell Roda from the late Oliver Mtukudzi’s Black Spirits.

With the way he handled the bass guitar, one would think the young Chipunza had the many arms of an octopus, strumming out quivering sounds that complemented Marabini’s vocals and trademark dance moves.

It turned out that he was not only an instrumentalist, but his hands were also behind the production of Marabini’s recent album Ntunjambila and coincidentally, his moniker is Oktopus.

Before the album launch, Marabini had heaped praise on Chipunza, who he described as a perfectionist and one who does not want to leave work hanging out and unpolished.

NewsDay Life & Style (ND) reporter Sindiso Dube caught up with Chipunza (NC) at his studio and below are the excerpts from the interview.

ND: Who is Oktopus and when did he start his music career?

NC: My real name is Nathaniel Chipunza, I was born in Bulawayo in 1987 and went to Milton High School. I started doing music from a tender age of 10 in church, where I could play different instruments and also sing in the church choir. I then entered production with my friend Petros Tunyce Malemane and later started music professionally in 2006.

ND: Besides Jeys Marabini, who else have you worked with?

NC: I have worked with a number of artistes, including Willis Wataffi, Nkululeko Nkala, Cal VIN, Thammie Khumalo and Thabbz. I have done a single titled Zvinondinetsa, featuring a Harare-based artiste, Jimmy Bindura. I am currently working on a project with seasoned guitarist Hodson Simbarashe and we will be sharing the details soon.

ND: You play a bass guitar and you are also a producer, what exactly is your speciality?

NC: I am an all-rounder, I play piano, bass, acoustic and drums. I am a producer and also a jazz singer; all these skills are self-taught. My ability to do many things led to my friends naming me the Oktopus because of its ability to use all its arms at once.

ND: How did you hook up with Jeys Marabini, and how was the experience of working with him?

NC: I met up with Jeys Marabini at some event; then he told me he wanted to work with me after he had listened to some of my works. At first I hesitated and thought Jeys was only joking until he convinced me and I gave in. He then started coming to the studio and we worked on all the songs on his latest album, Ntunjambila.

Working with Jeys was a great experience, I have always wanted to work with big artistes like him; and working with him was an honour. We merged the usual Marabi style and Oktopus fusion, which combines a bit of funk and jazz. I really had a blast working with him, he is experienced and has a lot to offer to the music scene. I respect him and thank him for trusting my skill with his prized music.

ND: What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?

NC: I have no awards to boast off, but the highlight of my career was the day I shared the stage with experienced instrumentalist Sam Mataure, on the night we launched Jeys Marabini’s Ntunjambila album. It was a great experience where we had Sam on the drums, Rodwell on the lead guitar and percussionist Othnell Mangoma. When Sam stepped in, I was nervous and excited at the same time, but when we rehearsed together, I acclimatised to the developments and was eager to perform live for the people. The moment was a big inspiration and I learned that music is a universal language which is not bound to age or tribe.

ND: Which other productions have you enjoyed working on?

NC: I enjoyed working with Cal_VIN. He is a hip-hop artiste and we managed to fuse his sound with mine. With Cal_VIN, it was more of the Jeys Marabini set-up as he came through with his music concept, and we re-created it and then he re-recorded it. Then we made the Uthando EP. Last year, we did Banjalo Abantu with Cal_VIN and the song went on to win the best hip-hop song at the Skyz Metro FM Music Awards, held last year in December.

ND: What are you working on at the moment?

NC: I have two singles I have done this year, one with Lesley titled Nguwe and also with Tamy Khumalo titled Kunjalo. I will be the head director and also an instrumentalist for Cal_Vin’s one-man show dubbed: Cal_Vin Unplugged which is set for March. From the preparations, I can guarantee that everyone is hungry and ready to make a success out of the show.

ND Your partying shot?

NC: The year 2019 looks promising for me, I have been getting calls from across the country and also abroad from people who want to work with me. I am also spending more time creating my own music and boost the Oktopus brand.


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