By Loren Dondo
INNOMUNO is flying the Zimbabwean flag high across the globe. Currently based in New York, the young artist has kept his Zimbabwean identity by releasing a Shona version of his latest single“Reason to live”.
The hit is a cocktail of R&B and soul, with a touch of old-school. Innomuno made the single during the Covid-19 lockdown, in the comfort of his home, while the city of New York had been hard-hit by a high number of coronavirus cases. Speaking of his experience during the production of “Reason to live”, Innomuno recalls composing the song in Zimbabwe last year before Covid-19 had spread across the world.
The song derives inspiration from other Zimbabwean music legends such as James Chimombe, Marshall Munhumumwe and Oliver Mtukudzi. It is safe to assume the driving force behind Innomuno’s musical talent is deep-rooted in his identity as a Zimbabwean even though he has spent quite some time in the United States.
Born Innocent Tswamuno, which inspired his stage name Innomuno, the artist discovered his passion for music at an early age. While in his hometown of Nyanga, Innomuno learned the piano and sang in a church band. “I learnt to sing and make music in my father’s church in Mutare,” as he reminisces of his childhood. Music takes Innocent back to his home where he was not yet a musical star but just a little boy exploring his gift.
It is rare for a young artist to be persistent with their talent, yet Innomuno has not given up even during a challenging time such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
“One night I was in a headspace where I was missing home and thought how cool it is to write a song that connects the pop/contemporary sound with my roots,” he says. It is clear that “Reason to live” is more than just a song, but also a glimpse into who he is and where he comes from.
Revealing his love for Pamereki Braai, a favourite spot to visit in Harare, Innomuno still holds Zimbabwe dear to his heart.
“The cover art for Reason to live was shot outside Pamereki Braai,” he adds.
Innomuno thrives on his African identify and admits that he never understood his African roots until he left Zimbabwe in 2007.
“My African identity is the only thing I carry within me everyday, no matter where I am. It’s the piece of home that nothing can ever remove,” he says.
His decision to make music that integrates his native language, Shona, was based on a motivation to promote his cultural identity.
“That amalgamation of English and Shona pays homage to my African roots and anyone who isn’t Zimbabwean will want to learn about it. I have several American followers asking me to explain the language I use in my music and I get to educate them about Shona,” he adds.
New York is known to be one of the busiest cities in the world and Innomuno can attest to not finding time for his music before the lockdown. “I had been planning to release music towards the end of 2018 but work and other obligations held me back,” he says.
However, the artist took advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown which has given him time to reflect and find inspiration for new songs. The “opportunity” has given Innomuno the chance to complete two singles and he feels fortunate to have a recording studio in his home.
Innomuno also uses social media to engage with his audience by showcasing his recording sessions; in order to create an intimate atmosphere with his fans. The lockdown has encouraged musicians to perform live on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
Although it has led to a competitive environment for musicians who do not have access to social media, Innomuno expresses gratitude for having that privilege.
“Zimbabwean social media users have been showing me an incredible amount of support,” he says. It has become vital for African artists who live abroad to connect with their fanbase, back home, by the use of social media interaction and Innomuno is no exception.
“Reason to live” resonates with couples who are suffering the consequences of lockdown during Covid-19. “It speaks of enduring love, devotion to someone. When someone loves you deeply, you lose fear and feel secure: you stick together through all the peaks that is what I’m singing about,” he explains.
The sense of urgency which is found in the song that appreciates love during a global pandemic is inspiring to those who feel hopeless. Innomuno is one of the few musicians who portray that romance is still alive and so is the African identity.
By Loren Dondo