Conversation With Pip Kembo; A Zimbabwean Music Producer Currently Making Waves In Hollywood

Zimbabwe is slowly positioning itself as a global music production powerhouse with a burgeoning list of local names on song credits and album liner notes from overseas artists such as Drake, Beyoncé and Rita Ora to African superstars like Wizkid, Burner Boy, Casper Nyovest, K.O and Wande Coal. We caught up with Pip Kembo; a Zimbabwean producer currently making waves in Hollywood for a sit down. Below is our conversation with him.

Introduce yourself

My name is Philip Kembo (24). Most people call me “Pip” though. It was my childhood name and I got so used to it that I decided to just make it my producer name as well! I was born and raised in Harare. I went to Hartmann House Primary and then St. George’s college, I think I probably picked up a lot of my musical interests from there!

What is a producer really and how different are they from a composer

That’s a great question. In my opinion, a music producer is the one who is responsible for identifying and putting together the ingredients needed to carry out the vision of a song. That can mean removing some elements, adding others, rearranging things, and also involves composing too. He’s the one who has the ear and needs to be able to solve the musical puzzle of making the song as good as it can possibly be. As a producer you need to have a certain skill set, to be able to communicate things and get the best out of people (for example songwriters), because at the end of the day you’re the one accountable for seeing the vision through. To me a composer is a person who writes music but does not necessarily carry out the process of that vision being actualized in sound and making it as good as it can be sonically.

How did you get into music production?

When I was about 11 a friend of mine introduced me to a program called Fruity Loops (FL Studio). He began to show me how to create drum loops and to make songs on the computer. I had always had an interest in music from playing in the school marching band and being in the choir so this program was so exciting to me. I noticed the reactions of my friends when I would play them drum loops I had made, they were so excited and this made me want to get better. I became obsessed with making beats and it became my number one hobby.

Which genres do you specialize in?

I tend to make mostly urban- pop music. I like making music that sound like the radio but still have a great bounce. Perhaps those are the African roots in me! Haha!

Explain your creative process to me. Do you use software; play live instruments, or both?

I mostly use a combination of my keyboard and laptop. My laptop has all the software that I need including drum sounds and virtual synths, so that’s the foundation of my creativity. As far as software, I mostly use FL Studio to sequence but I have been using Logic X a lot recently. I play the keyboard so I actually play all the sounds that I incorporate into my music. Occasionally I like to work with guitarists or other musicians, especially if the project requires a more organic sound.

Which artists/ producers have you worked with?

Locally I have worked with Simba Tagz, Fungai Nengare, Dj Macson, Vaeso, Dutch and Taps Mugadza (who is now based in the states). I think Zimbabwe has so much talent and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with a lot of people that I love. I’d really like to work with Jnr Brown though, I think he is incredibly talented and I’m a big fan of his music.

I also work closely with T-Collar ( Rita Ora, Chris Brown and Fifth Harmony producer) and Brian Soko ( Beyonce, Drake and Lil Wayne producer). I think they have both set out a great blueprint for Zimbabwean producers hoping to make it globally.

Others I have worked with include Dani Ivory (Pianist for Beyonce), Chris Batson (BMG Artist), Madison Beer (Island Def Jam Artist), Lovy (Iggy Azaelia producer) and B.ham (Ty $ Sign producer).

What does it mean when a producer says, “I have worked with so and so”, such as in your case? Do you get credit and remuneration for your work?

In terms of working with other producers, this normally means having collaborated together on beats or songs. As far as working with artists, it is normally when an artist records your song or you have had a studio session with them. The credit normally comes once the music has been released but before it is out it is difficult to speak about the projects in case one says too much.

How much money does a producer make, is it a lucrative career? Do you get paid upfront or what, please explain the whole business side of it to me.

I think it’s like any business. The extent to how lucrative it is depends on the nature of the artist you work with and how you are positioned. Producing a song for big artists that sell a lot of records such as Katy Perry or Rihanna is naturally more lucrative than doing a song for an independent artist or one that is not as popular. Producers normally get paid a production fee up front and receive a royalty percentage that is paid out on a quarterly basis. How much one receives is dependent on the size of the percentage that is owned on the song. This varies on a case-by-case basis.

How does a producer get major artist placements like how do you get accepted is it because of the hot beats, artists you have worked with in the past or your qualifications?

As an upcoming producer, I think the most important thing is how you position yourself. It is important to work with established producers that can add quality, value and credibility to your work. Working with producers that are signed can open doors in the form of relationships and the access that an unsigned producer might not have. A big part of it is networking. Relationships are king. As amore established producer, I think your track record begins to speak for itself. People will want you in the room based on what you’ve done because they have seen the value that you can add to the song. I think everyone’s story is different though; these are just some of the ways that I have come across on my journey so far.

Twitter: @pipkembo

Instagram: @pipkembo

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