Love Lives here
It’s no surprise that Indigo Saint won best underground artist at the Zim Hip Hop Awards.
With a style of conscious rap that explores topics like mental health, the ailing economy and many other relevant issues to young people in Zimbabwe; this particular artist is one to watch out for .Indigo Saint otherwise known as Mzwakhiwe to those closest to him will tell you that; when you’re speaking to one you’re not speaking to the other.
However, he owes a lot of who Indigo Saint is an artist to his government name meaning ‘the home is built’. He describes himself as a family man but in the non-conventional sense because of the role he plays in his family as a son and a brother; which invokes the empathy that inspires him when writing conscious rap. He does believe that there is an element of code switching when he is in creative spaces because he regards Indigo Saint to be a totally different person from Mzwakhiwe the family man
Family seems to be a recurring theme in his life as his love for writing stems from growing up watching his father who was a playwright; bring ideas that would one day be in his head and then on another, manifesting right in front of him. He also attributes his passion for writing to his parents who fostered a culture of reading from a very early age
After being forced to drop out of the University of Pretoria because of unforeseen circumstances he says he decided that, that particular event was not going to define the rest of his life and so he gave rap his full attention. It wasn’t very hard to break it to his parents that he wanted to take on rap full time, he says that went to the studio and recorded his first song which he played for his mom who was thoroughly impressed despite the heavy cussing in the song and the rest was history.
Although he’s taken on rap full time he’s described himself as probably the only rapper trying to rap his way back to school because of his hunger to continue learning. Not because society requires us to have degrees but because this time he would be doing it on his own terms.
“I started rapping as comedic relief; it eventually became a fascination and finally became a responsibility. If I wasn’t meant to be a rapper then I wouldn’t even be able to do it slightly. It’s one thing to ask people to listen to your music but when they finally do, what will they find? Is it just going to be all about you or is there something bigger that they can identify with?”
Indigo Saint says that his thoughts guide him, “You know how it was in the bible when an angel would communicate a task from God to man and if the man disobeyed there would be consequences; for example the story of Jonah who got swallowed by a fish, in the same way my thoughts are my angels and when ignored I always feel like something bad will happen.”
When we begin to talk about his single Catherine that explores suicide and mental illness; he has to take a pause for a minute. He narrates a time in his life where he felt like he had hit rock bottom only to discover that there was even further to go. He began to feel like maybe he didn’t have a greater purpose after all; and that it would be better to end his life. After a failed attempt he realised that this couldn’t be his story and so Catherine was the person who answered when he called the emergency suicide number and he says she gave him clarity about life. He decided to write the song because he felt like there are so many young people tempted to give into our mental illnesses, mostly because we feel alone and he wanted anyone who listened to this song to know that you’re not alone.
“In 2013 my mentor and friend, AKidWitNo_Tag told me that we’re in it because we’re trying to shift the culture.” This is his reason behind sticking to the genre despite the hurdles and hardships. Seeing the growth of Zim hip hop in the last five years has been rewarding, from fighting to just get a single on radio to entire shows being dedicated to hip hop, there is definitely hope for our rappers.
His musical influences growing up range from Bob Marley, the Jackson 5, Queen and the Beetles. He especially looks up to Bob Marley as an artist and believes that his essence is what inspires his music directly; he goes on to describe him as a father figure. Currently; his favourite artist goes by Noname, a Chicago based rapper whose outstanding debut album was released in 2016. How many male rappers can admit to being inspired by female rappers, pretty cool guy right?
When asked about what we can look forward to hearing from him in the future, he responded that he was releasing a new album called Love Lives Here. This album is a departure from his usual melancholic lyrics about depression and failing economies. He describes it as a representation of who is when he’s not depressed or anxious because he believes we can’t let our mental illnesses define us when there is more to us. The topic of love was an obvious choice for him because its love that has gotten him to where he is today, whether it’s love for his craft, the love of his family and friends, divine love and romantic love.
Photographer: Tinashe Charleson Moyo