By Constance van Niekerk in SA
Louis Mhlanga (born 10 November 1956) is a Zimbabwean music maestro currently domiciled in South Africa. Louis is a gifted and internationally acclaimed guitarist, singer and music producer. He taught himself to play the guitar at a very tender age and started playing at the age of ten. He has to date worked with a considerable number of renowned artists who include Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri, Busi Mhlongo, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Jonas Gwangwa, Vusi Mahlasela, Letta Mbulu, Miriam Makeba, Michael Lannas & Talking Drum and many more. At one time in the UK Louis stood in for the lead guitarist of The Kinks pop band taken ill before a major show. Amongst the hits of The Kinks is the anti-nuclear anthem ‘Apeman’. ‘Distant Lover’ the bubbly track on which Louis’ exceptional guitar skills are hugely evident, is the signature tune for the popular ZBC-TV Talk Show – The Mai Chisamba Show.
Apart from his solo conquests, Mhlanga has released numerous albums with fellow musicians. In 1997, he released the ten track album, Musik ye Afrika with bassist Jimmy Indi and drummer, the late Jethro Shasha. He also released Vusi and Louis Live at the Bassline with South African Award-Winning singer, poet-activist and songwriter Vusi Mahlasela. In 1999, he released an album dedicated to his daughter, Song for Nomsa with double bassist, Eric van der Westen. Zvinoshamisa is another album he recorded with famous Dutch Jazz outfit The Paul van Kemenade Quintet who he toured The Netherlands with from 1998 to 2000.
The guitarist’s meritorious skills have taken him all over the world, indeed a world traveller, performing at various major festivals such as The Sunsplash (Austria), Music Metisses (France), Rudelstadt (Germany), Masaka (Ivory Coast), DRanouter (Belgium), Tribute Concert for Lady Diana (England) Stranger than Paranoia and Mundial in The Netherlands, just to mention a few.
Louis Mhlanga, photos from Google.com
Q. What drove you to learn the guitar?
A. Well, I come from a musical family background and that got me to love music, then got inspired to play an instrument.
Q. How old were you when you bought your first guitar?
A. I bought my first guitar when I was 18 years old.
Q. Were your parents supportive of your choice of career?
A. My parents encouraged me but also made it clear that I have to finish my schooling and study something different.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue music as a career?
A. When you love something and it starts to grow inside you, then one decides to take it to a higher level, the professional level and enjoying what I am doing.
Q. Where were you born and raised?
A. I was born in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe today) and my education was spread out to Botswana, and later travelled to UK where I continued with my music and coming back to Zimbabwe then decided to go to South Africa my mother’s birth place in the late 80’s.
Q. How many albums do you have?
A. I have 4 solo albums titled in order
1. MUKAI – (Mhlanga’s debut eight track solo album re- released in 1999 with popular tracks Manhanga Kutapira, Mukai and Wandikurumidzira to mention a few).
2. SHAMWARI – (released in 2001, a ten track album with mostly instrumentals such as Distant Lover, Hona Ka, Take Me, Chisamba and the title track Shamwari, just to mention a few.
3. TINGANEKWANE (STORIES) – (a nine track album released in 2004 with tracks such as Mari Hakuna, Calypso, Gwenyambira, Quiet Moments and Stories just to mention a few).
4. WORLD TRAVELLER – (on this 2005 album, Louis feat. other artists, Rhumba All the Way feat. Orchestra Baobab, Spreading Some Love feat. Ernest Ranglin, Serena feat. Oliver Mtukudzi, Kamba Kemaziso feat. Habit Koite and Zuva feat. Oliver Mtukudzi, Busi Mhlongo and Chiwoniso Maraire)
And I am happy to say that I have another guitar album coming out early in 2016 and am excited about it. It’s titled ‘Louis Mhlanga’, but this is all I can say for now.
Q. Did you face any challenges as a solo artist?
A. Journey as a solo artist is never easy and always full of challenges, I guess that’s what it’s all about.
Q. How do you write your songs?
A. Some songs tell personal stories while others are about other people I have met through my travels.
Q. Do you play with only a particular kind of artist?
A. I don’t choose to play with one artist, I want to play with everyone.
Q. Where does your musical journey end?
A. Music is my life and I don’t see any end to it except to continue playing and sharing the music.
Q. What would you say is your highest artistic achievement?
A. Artistic achievement for me, I am still achieving it and getting the world to know my music.
Q. What inspires you?
A. My Inspiration is prayer, respect, love to another human being.
Q. Any advice to the upcoming artists?
A. Advice to upcoming artists is to work hard and be true to themselves. There are no shortcuts in music.
For those who believe in seeing first to believe, Mhlanga will be at The Orbit in Braamfontein on the 19th of December, 2015. See you there!