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Introducing Sunnyboy Mthimunye
When I wrote about the launch and the nominations announcement event for the 17th Annual MTN South African Music Awards last week I mentioned that I had a peculiar, but positive, encounter with whom I thought was Amaru Da Costa at the time. I learned later that the guy is actually guitarist Sunnyboy Mthimunye who has been playing for HHP and a host of other musicians and singers.
Just early this week I got word that he is on a promotion trail for his brand new debut album aptly titled Let It Play. I was offered a chance to have an interview with him on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t meet with him face to face. I did, however, send him questions that he happily answered for me. Below are the questions and how he responded to them.
Q: You took up playing guitar after matric, what were your interests before that?
A: Athletics, soccer & just growing up!
Q: At any point growing up, had you ever envisaged that this is what you’d be doing as an adult?
A: NOPE, not at all, my plan was to finish school, go to varsity and study commerce, you know, the usual…
Q: Can you share briefly about your upbringing and childhood?
A: I was brought up by both my parents and stayed in a small town eMbalentle in Secunda Mpumalanga, during school holidays I would travel to KwaNdebele also in Mpumalanga to visit my grandmother and other family. I was just a township/farm boy who didn’t care much about much but going to school, playing sports, being with friends, getting up to no good, the usual boyish stuff… My family was not well off but had just enough to get by, my late father was a contractor and my mother was a helper. I was taught to respect others and appreciate the little that I have. As an alternative to just staying at home and getting up to no good with bad friends I spent time at church with my mother which is where I developed an interest for music.
Q: You dub your “Sunnyboy sound”. Can you describe what Sunnyboy sound is about? What does it entail?
A: My sound consists of all the elements of music i.e. hip hop, funk, African, smooth jazz, lounge music, a bit of reggae and that special Sunnyboy touch.
Q: You’ve performed with some of the biggest acts in our musical landscape, what lessons have you absorbed from those experiences?
A: I’ve learnt different types of music and different styles of playing. I’ve learnt how to present myself on stage under any circumstance.
Q: And having performed with the various artists who have different sounds, how do you keep away from sounding the same? How do you make sure the style of your playing varies with each artist you play for?
A: I’m led by the particular artist’s music, if they’re genre is hip hop, I put on my hip hop cap; if it’s African I automatically switch to African sounds but always try to keep my distinctive touch, which is my God given talent.
Q: What kind of impediments have you had to push through to get to where you are in your music career? And how did you overcome those challenges?
A: Some of the challenges would be not getting respect as a musician from other musicians or people in the industry especially because you’re much younger and therefore not experienced or knowledgeable, and also not being recognised for who you are because you are just a band member behind a big name.
I over came it by being humble, patient and not losing focus of what I want to do .
Q: I picked up some Ronny Jordan, Jonathan Butler, Ernie Smith, etc, on the two songs I listened to. Are those some artists that influence your sound?
A: Yes, Ronny Jordan, Jonathan Butler, Bheki Khoza, Richard Bona and a few others.
Q: And how different are you from them? What makes a listener distinguish that this is Sunnyboy playing?
A: I can’t say really, for me it’s a gift from God which I can’t explain. I guess people will have to get the album and after hearing me play once, they will somehow be able to pick out my sound from anywhere.
Q: What I liked about the songs was the nice, catchy melodies. Is that the basis of how you create your music? What is the creation process?
A: I don’t have a specific method really, a song for me starts from any end, I could be listening to birds sing and somehow get my inspiration from that. I could start with the beat, or the bassline, or some keys and then build up from there, infact the melodies are usually the last part of the production.
Q: The artists you have selected to feature on your album, how did you decide? What qualities did you look for when considering collaborators?
A: I didn’t plan for any of the collabos, everything just unfolded as the project was going along, most of the collabo’s were done after I had already laid down the songs, and they are all with people that I have been working closely with in my musical journey. Because my album crosses between different genres it was easy for those artists to relate to particular songs and add their artistic feel. Some happened by default because maybe we were together in studio when the song came about, with Thandiswa I knew which song I wanted her to feature on, and when I played it to her she automatically related to the sound and did her thing.
Q: What are your thoughts on the level of talent from young South African musicians? Besides yourself, do we really have musicians to carry the baton from the likes of Jonas Gwangwa, Themba Mkhize, Madala Kunene, Abdullah Ibrahim, etc?
A: The current young South African musicians are extremely talented and are continuing to fly the flag up high globally. We have an abundance of talent in South Africa, it just needs to be recognized and when recognized it needs to be nurtured.
Q: What do you want people who listen to your music to get out of it?
A: I want people to enjoy the music; I want the music to bring joy & comfort in people.
Q: You’ve released your album and have been doing gigs to promote it. Where to from here?
A: Forward we go! I’d like to do tours nationally & internationally to perform my music and bring it just bit closer to people than just them hearing it on a CD/radio. I’d also like to have an academy for your young scholars in the townships who don’t have the privilege of going to a music school to learn how to play instruments and make music.
That’s it from Sunnyboy Mthimunye. All the best to him for embarking on his own thing. Be on the look out for his debut album Let It Play. You should get familiar with him and his music as he continues to promote his music in the different media platforms.