African singer-songwriter Mwiza Simfukwe had a special present for his listeners on his birthday on November 7th: a three-song EP titled Post Mortem recounting a happy relationship that ended in heartbreak.
The Tampa Bay resident is using his unique mix of R&B, gospel, rock, pop and African music to guide his listeners through their own hardships and provide them with a light at the end of the tunnel of their troubles. With silky smooth vocals, folky guitar, and colorful percussion, Post Mortem is a journey of love and loss that will have you dancing along for the entire ride.
The opening track “Kristina,” is a personal, serenading tribute written on the subject’s own birthday that transitions into the vengeful “Don’t Call Again” before resolving in “Now I’m Good,” a powerful conclusion to the story that’s full of ups and downs. All three songs, regardless of topic, are upbeat and engaging mementos captured from the arc of a failed relationship.
Born in Lusaka, Zambia, but living in the United States since the age of ten, Mwiza developed an appreciation for culture-rich music from a young age. He has had many friends and family show eager support for his career, from his mother buying him his first guitar in high school, to his bandmates in The Avalon Broadcast showing him the ropes of what it means to be a songwriter and performer.
Mwiza can do just about anything and everything for his songs. He is very involved in the studio, playing multiple instruments for each track and helping execute the distinct creative visions for how he wants them to sound.
But he doesn’t always like to work alone: he juggles his solo work with his participation in the duo Jocosus, a partnership with his friend Steston Lucier.
You can expect any music that Mwiza has been a part of to radiate positivity and good times. He is a very optimistic and hard-working person, and these qualities shine through in both the messages and sonic nature of his songs.
Mwiza shared with us his musical journey, a behind-the-scenes look at Post Mortem, and some tokens from his personal life.
So where did you grow up, and who or what got you into writing and playing music?
I’ve moved around quite a bit throughout my life, but I moved around Zambia while living with different family members because my mom was trying to find work in South Africa as a journalist. Then my mom ended up taking me to live with her in South Africa from 7 to 10 years old, after which, I came to the U.S. My mom played an array of music while I was growing up, but I never considered myself to be musical or able to sing until after I came to the U.S. and my 5th grade teacher listened to me sing, then forced me to sing some chorus solos, and inadvertently started my musical journey.
There seems to be a gap of when you were releasing music between 2016-2020. Can you talk about that time, and what prevented you from releasing music?
In 2016, I decided to stop focusing on open mics and wanted to start getting paid gigs, but I had no music online, so I decided to record two songs, “Take Heed” & “Favorite Dream” in order to send out EPKs. I didn’t think that I had the skill set and money needed to record a full album, so I wanted to focus my time into recording my most “pop” and easily digestible songs at that time. After that, I focused on live performances, writing songs, and perfecting my live sound. In 2017, was when I decided to make music my main focus, so I quit my job at the time and moved to St. Pete, where I was homeless for a few months until I started making a name for myself around Tampa Bay, and I was able to start making money in venues and I didn’t have to busk (street perform) to make a living.
I would have kept focusing on performing live and traveling were it not for COVID affecting live performances and venues in such a negative and serious way. This has actually been a blessing in disguise, since it helped me connect with my current engineer, George Tzouanopoulos, who is helping me get all my music recorded, since my online presence is vastly lacking as of now.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing and performing solo versus with a band?
A pro of performing and writing by myself is definitely the efficiency I am able to have since I don’t have multiple heads conflicting and fighting with a vision that I might have in mind. But a negative that follows is that I get stuck in my regular way of thinking, so I write very similar sounding music, and it takes a lot more to venture outside of my already established sound. And it’s a lot more expensive to pay for trips, music recording, takes a lot to build up connections, etc.
“I’m not a fan of gratuitous sadness or woe since it keeps you in a mentality of self-pity without factoring in that you can control your emotions and grab control of your life to create the life you want.”
And you recently released your new EP Post Mortem. What’s one main takeaway you’d like your listeners to walk away with after listening to it?
Post Mortem was written as a way for me to get over my relationship last year, so I want it to be therapeutic to whoever listens to it. The journey from being in love with someone, to finding a way to craft a new life without them, and finding peace or acceptance with yourself is a universal one, so I hope that it helps someone out there if they’re finding trouble processing or dealing with heartbreak.
What is one of your favorite memories from writing or recording Post Mortem?
The whole recording process was fun for me since it was the first time really focusing on a project with George, so I was able to also practice playing bass, and programming the drums on all the songs. And that’s actually become the template to how I’ve been recording and working on the rest of my music that will be released in this coming year.
It was a special decision to release the EP on your birthday. Did that in any way reflect how “Kristina” was written on her birthday, or was there another motivation?
It definitely did reflect how important Kristina was to me, since I think that she was the tipping point for me in my adult life and how I approach relationships. She meant so much to me that I sacrificed and neglected key parts of myself, but after going through that experience, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to love someone so selflessly and at least get to experience that since, before her, I was always guarded, analytical and aloof when it came to love. She helped me grow as a person, and I hoped that releasing the EP on my birthday would help me to remember what I’ve been through and not disregard the journey and growth that I am experiencing.
A lot of your songs have a very upbeat positive rhythm, even if the subject isn’t. How important is expressing positivity in your music to you?
Positivity and hope are essential things to me. In my personal opinion, humanity would not have been able to explore so much of the earth, create all this technology, or even create strong relationships without hope and positivity. A negative mindset keeps you from exploring or having the curiosity needed to enjoy everything that life offers, so I try to be conscious of the energy and message I put out in my music. People are drawn to and relate to sadness, as we can see in some of the most popular music out today, but I’m not a fan of gratuitous sadness or woe since it keeps you in a mentality of self-pity without factoring in that you can control your emotions and grab control of your life to create the life you want.
How did your time in the band, The Avalon Broadcast, steer you and help you find out what style of music you most want to play?
You definitely did your research so this is an amazing question. The Avalon Broadcast was my first taste of having the freedom of writing with friends, so that definitely helped spark my interest in bass, drums, and live performances. And that experience is definitely surfacing in an evolved and mature form in my current side project, Jocosus, since it gives me the liberty to pursue more upbeat and experimental music since I’m not writing by myself.
Do you see yourself staying in Tampa Bay long-term? And if not, where might you see yourself pursuing your music career?
It looks like Tampa will become my home base for quite some time, since I seem to always come back no matter how far I travel in the U.S. Tampa has also been welcoming to me, and be the birth of my musical journey narrative, so I don’t see myself leaving any time soon.
You seem to have a consistent theme of wanting to help people better themselves. Are there ways outside of music that you pursue this passion?
I used to volunteer at homeless shelters, but in the last two years, I’ve had to focus on bills and figuring out my life as a musician, so I haven’t been out helping people as much. But I was having a conversation with my mom not too long ago, and she helped me realize that sometimes you have to make sure have the means to support and help yourself before helping others. So we’ll see if this is an excuse, or if I’ll be able to put my money and energy where my mouth is.
What should fans look forward to from Mwiza in the new year?
This new year will finally welcome in more music from me on a whole as a solo artist, as well as with Jocosus. I will essentially try to put out more content as a whole, and try not to worry about perfection quite as much. But thank you for your time, it’s largely appreciated.