A Conversation With Mutsa And Ruvimbo The Neo-soul/Electronic Duo Called MVM

The alternative sound although successfully delved into by the likes of Tkay Maidza is a genre that hasn't really been captured by a lot of Zimbabweans. MVM is one group seeking to occupy that space and maybe become household names and transform how that sound is received across the board. Although not yet widely known this is by no means a measure of their talent.

The duo of Mutsa and Ruvimbo make up the neo-soul/electronic group MVM and they're currently riding the wave of their first single. They featured as backing vocalists on Shingai Shonhiwa's debut solo album and they have all eyes on them for what they produce next. We caught with them for a conversation and here's how it went:

MVM as photographed by Mary Sho

How did you guys discover your passion for music?


Mutsa: I would say I discovered it growing up as a child you know the usual clich├ęs. I grew up around music, my parents were very music oriented. They loved having music around the house, obviously the classics what you would classify as world music but I still actually don't know what that is. But just a very big range of music, from country music to Zimbabwean music to South African gospel. 


And personally I did go to music school, from when I was around 8/9 until I was 15 and I learnt a classical instrument but it really wasn't exactly the passion I was looking for. But I stuck with it and I'm kind of happy that I did actually push through with it because it has helped me with music production now because the ear, you need to have a trained ear when you're making music or you're producing music or even recording music. 


So that's pretty much how the passion started and then obviously it wasn't well received with an African & Zimbabwean family. So you try to do what is right or what you feel is right and it always calls you, so I feel like we're finally answering that calling.


Ruvimbo: I discovered my passion for music in school. I didn't really know I could sing, I didn't really know music was my thing until one of my teachers asked me to audition for the school play and I did and I sang and I was like oh gosh I guess I can sing and then since then I just kept singing at school and talent shows. I was really lucky because the secondary school I went to offered free music lessons so l tried to learn the guitar but then the slots were already filled so I ended up with a singing teacher. 


But also music was always a part of my life. My dad used to listen to reggae, Oliver Mtukudzi, Yvonne Chakachaka, Brenda Fassie, you know just that awesome Zim upbringing where music is at the centre. And we also went to church and I really liked it because I used to experiment with my vocals in church. I would be switching from alto, to soprano, to tenor and that really helped train my musical ear.


How did you come together as MVM?


Mutsa: We kind of just formed seamlessly like it just happened at some point in 2016. We had already met and we were already friends and we used to visit each other and we knew we could both sing. I can't remember the exact time or point but we just said let's do this and it was just about overcoming the fears and the doubts and impostor syndrome. A couple of years later we ended up doing a couple of gigs. We did our first festival in 2018 and it was well received. It was a very very small gig but it gave us the confidence we needed. And since then we've just been focusing on recording and the first single came out in May this year.


Ruvimbo: I can't add anymore to what Mutsa said about us coming together as a group. It was very much organic, we met through social media, through Twitter and we had the same politics, we liked the same things. The universe kind of brought us together because it's so surreal when you meet someone who just understands you not just on a friendship level but in a creative sense. I feel the universe, God and our ancestors wanted us to meet and make magic. We actually found out that Mutsa's dad and my mum are both from Nyanga and we both have the same totem.


Did you figure out your sound together or you were both already leaning to this neo-soul category as independent artists?


Mutsa: It has been really hard actually, I would say that's been the one of the main obstacles from when we formed until our first single. Just establishing that sound. We knew what we liked but it was hard translating that to producers. Because we can't produce music on our own, but we have been trying, we do make songs and this first single that we made we co-produced it but we're not actual you know skilled producers or recording technicians. 


So it was hard to translate that sound over to people who were trying to work with us. We just love synth like synthesisers, we love heavy base, we love like deep grooves that will get you a catchy beat and neo-soul has all of these elements and electronic music has all of those elements too, so we kinda stick to neo-soul/electronic 


What has finding your feet been like in the industry?

 

Mutsa: I would say we've actually been very blessed to have people around us who believe in us, that's been a really really big help. Obviously you know in this UK, it's so hard even to just get your foot in the door anywhere, as ethnic minorities in Britain as well. London is also such a big talent pool. We've had quite a few artists who've been there for us and we're really thankful. 


We're thankful to Shingai Shonhiwa who took us under her wing and you know took us into the studio. Literally from the ground up she was like yes I want to work with you guys. She loved what we were doing and we haven't even got started yet. So I'm so happy to know that they're people behind us but I also excited to that this is just the beginning. I think finding our feet will be up to us really and the people who enjoy it, people who vibe with it, who relate to it will follow.




What inspired your first single "No Hesitation"?


Mutsa: (Laughs) I wish we were together like in this interview but ummmm okay. There's obviously going to be two versions of this story but my version is we were in a hotel carpark and the song just came or the lyrics just came to us and I started harmonising and we recorded it on Ruvimbo's phone and it just stayed there on the phone for like a couple of years. And one day Ruvimbo was like I made this, like I was just going through carriage band and I got this loop I really like with lots of synth and she used that recording that we made. Just a random random phone recording and yeah it sounded good. So I added to it, sent it back and she liked it, added more to it. We went back and forth and that's pretty much how the song was made.


What's your creative process like?


Mutsa: The creative process is pretty much that we come up with ideas and we send them to each other by email because we don't live close to each other. We live about a 100 miles away from each other. So we both drive so sometimes we come to each other's houses or we meet up and we write stuff and produce but most times we just email our ideas and see what we can make of them and build from that. That's the good thing about technology, that we can just go back forth.


 

How do you think your first single "No Hesitation" has been received?


Mutsa: I feel like we had a very very organic fanbase from the time we kind of formed all the way in like 2016-18. Obviously with mostly our friends and family and people that have just been watching us, certain celebrities as well which is really cool. So they'd seen us sing live and they'd seen our YouTube videos but they actually hadn't heard a proper song from us. I think it's been received really well, people can finally hear what exactly we're about. 


It's just the beginning as well, you know this song itself isn't perfect but I feel like it's a really good first song it's something I can be proud of and that's one thing we wanted to make sure of, that we can both put out something we can be proud of. So I'm glad that we got to do that. There is an upcoming video so we're just going to re-push the song just to promote the video and hopefully that'll received well too. It's quite you know... it's different. Hopefully it'll be received well.


Ruvimbo: It's been received really well and it's really encouraging. I'm really proud of it as our first baby. It's been a labour of love and it's nice to know that we've had our stamp on it in terms like actually saying this is the sound that we want. But I do think in terms of reception we also could've done a better job in terms of marketing ourselves but these things come with experience and learning. 


We could've waited to release the single and pitched it to different playlists and stuff, that's definitely something I would encourage any artist that wants to make music seriously and just wants to be more organised in how they release their first single. That's the one piece of advice I would give like give yourself time, time would've been amazing for us but I think we were just both so eager to release something because we'd been working on music for a long time.


When can we expect a follow up project to that?


Mutsa: We're currently working on a follow up project. Hopefully another single and then to release an EP, that's our main goal. Obviously there's always issues with funding and money and you know stuff like that. So we're always applying for grants, which is good about the UK, there's always some kind of initiative/grant for unsigned artists or independent artists. We're also focusing on writing camps as well, just trying to get specifically black women together in an industry that kind of erases us and doesn't really give us the right credit. But just joining forces and focusing on making songs that we like and other people will like too.


Ruvimbo: You can expect a follow up project in God's time (laughs). I think I've made peace with the process, anytime that we set deadlines it just never happens, it happens when God decides it's the right time.


How has being part Shadow to Shine's project benefited you or positively influenced you guys in your career?


Mutsa: Being a part of Shadow to Shine's project has been really helpful they have a mentoring system or mentoring scheme where someone from the industry is able to just check in with you. They answer any questions that you might have. Strategy, PR and obviously we're independent we aren't professionals in this but it's also good to be business savy especially with everything that goes on you know people getting ripped off and stuff, not getting their royalties and stuff like that. So it's really good to have a mentor who's there and who's been through it all, who has all the tips and tricks. And it's an ongoing thing.


What challenges have you faced breaking into the music scene in the UK?


Mutsa: I don't feel like we've fully broken into it as of yet but people definitely know we're there if that makes sense. From the people watching and noticing us especially on social media it feels like the pressure is on but I don't think we've fully broken in yet but I do feel like we're in that process so we've just gotta keep going, keep pushing and hopefully we'll be received well. 


But the UK music industry is not really nice for black women or dark skinned black women, artists who don't do the typical RnB/HipHop/Drill/Grime. Anyone who wants to do a genre that is not the usual received genre is not really going to have a smooth journey, which we already know and we're prepared for. We've got our support system as well, so for any challenges we've got our mentor as well. I just feel like there's always going to be challenges especially with the genre that we like to make.


Ruvimbo: I would say we're not really in the music scene yet. We've just opened the door and we're waving, just saying hi guys we're here. But we've been so blessed, the amount of people that have believed in us, believed in the vision before we even had an official single out. The opportunities that people have given us have been amazing, like we've been able to perform with some artists that we highly rate. I'm just really touched and inspired and encouraged by it all.


What is the vision for MVM?


Mutsa: The vision for MVM, well for me personally and I'm sure Ruvimbo would agree, is just to create a space where breaking into the industry isn't as hard as it is for us. Just to make it easier for people, just to learn where we went wrong and find out how we can rectify things. Just to get to a place where we can make it easier for the next generation coming up but to also secure the bag.


Ruvimbo: The vision for MVM is just to make music, perform, live all out and see how we can make the journey easier for the next group of young black women who want to make music and that's my vision for MVM, that's both our vision. I feel like we've had this conversation before and we both care about more than just us, we care about leaving a legacy that makes these steps easier for the people that come after us.


What local Zimbabwean artists would you want to work with?


Mutsa: We've already worked with Shingai which is really really cool but over here I can't think of many Zim artists but over there there's TRK, he's like a really good friend of mine and we would like to work with him. There's also Simba Tagz, I've hooked up with him a few times but we haven't really gotten into the studio together. I also feel like Tkay Maidza is also really cool, he does quite a few genre bending songs which I like. I can't really think of anyone else right now so yeah those 3.


Ruvimbo: From here like artists we know and love and respect, like Shingai. We would love to work with Ruvimbo she's sick, like not me Ruvimbo but the alternative singer. We would love to work with Kahreign, she's sick as well she's based in Manchester. As for people in Zim all the artists that Mutsa said and Hope Masike, she's really really cool. I'd love to just know what's going on in Zim especially when it comes to alternative artists.



MVM can be found on social media here:

Twitter: @MVMband_

Instagram: @mvmband_

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