“I have always told myself one thing. Before you try and conquer a city, you must conquer your own household. You must be king in your own household before you go out there and conquer a city and before you conquer a whole nation… be a king in your own city”
Zimbabwe-born student of Architecture (North China University of Technology) and now London-based Afropop artist Garry Mapanzure released his debut EP “Sushi Season: The First” in March 2020. The culinary reference is a nod to his nickname, African Sushi, whilst “The First” is indicative of an artist with a real conviction about his future.
Garry first began toying with music as a child in a religious setting, his mother was a pastor and he spent his youth singing in church before singing in more secular spaces. Sonically, the Gospel is still very much there: speaking to you and offering it’s guidance. When commingled with themes of love, the allusiveness of the relationship with that Celestial-Fellow-upstairs even has some meaning for the seculars listening in. Gospel’s other great talent is storytelling, one which has resonated profoundly with Garry. “Sushi Season” tells the tale of longing for a love, falling into love, and then longing for that recently-lost love. The lyrics sway savvily from old-school romantic vows to anguished regrets, the type of stuff that powers all good love songs (see Nditaurireiwo).
Another piece of home that Garry holds onto is language. His songs effortlessly flit from English to Shona then back to English again to great effect - “Call yourself an Uber” sounds too good in English. Exposure across different continents is certainly a boon, but remembering “the people that brought me to where I am” is never not a priority for Garry. When asked about a disconnect from home, Garry is resolute in his commitment to maintaining a link to his people at home whilst underscoring that he might have become too comfortable had he not sought out challenges abroad. China certainly offered that, a new environment, a new language and a degree in Architectural Design. After six months without releasing music, Garry was back in the studio and even recording the video for “Your Man” which, if YouTube comments are to be believed, soundtracked a (successful!) proposal in Bali. The recipe? Garry, adorned in chest rigs, florals, beanies and ski goggles, and his new “Queen” date and dance through an arcade. It is a winsome formula, despite the claw machine’s failure to recognise the glaring Kodak Moments. Combined with a warm vocal timbre and a genuine charm, all this comes together for a romantic reverie that’s truly stirring, even to the level of a lifetime-emotional-financial-commitment.
But Garry’s remit goes beyond love songs, and exists more so in the abstract, “I’ve always labelled myself as the package. So I say what’s in me is the gift to give, it’s not for me, it’s for them. I’m just the package the gift was placed in”. This paradigm has its roots in religious ideology, but to translate it into something fun and accessible requires more than just placing bells and whistles in the right places. Music that is good for the soul often fails as it is too occupied singing paeans of hallelujahs for itself, but Garry manages to blend what is divine with what is earthly, and in multiple languages nonetheless. The African Sushi has his feet firmly on the ground, and possibly on water too.
Check out his video for "Your Man" here: