Gazza on education, alcohol abuse, fame, family, music

Walking down the dusty streets of Katutura, one cannot help but notice the same trend of music that blares from the loudspeakers often found in almost every open kambashu.

However, a closer investigation reveals that most of the songs usually played in the kasi are none other than those of the award winning and internationally acclaimed Namibian kwaito artist; Gazza.

Born Lazarus Karandu Shiimi, Gazza has not only managed to build a musical brand that has taken the local and the international entertainment scene by storm but he has also managed to carve a niche out for himself in the world of business.

His reputation has since preceded him that he was not only appointed as the goodwill education ambassador by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2006 but was also named the ambassador for this year’s Back to School campaign under the Prime Minister’s office.

As an education ambassador, Gazza says his patriotism has granted him the opportunity to play a goodwill role towards the country’s academic development.

“My role and task as an educational ambassador is very simple. These kids look up to me as their role model and the things they see me do or say often inspire them. Every year, I randomly pick up schools to visit. In one particular year, I even visited 60 schools. I manage to live up to the challenge because I am committed to the worthy cause,” says Gazza.

The soft-spoken and generally humble Gazza has endeared himself to thousands of Namibian music lovers who look up to him as a major source of inspiration.

With eight albums under his belt, the Gazza Music Production (GMP) boss testifies, music has been a rewarding journey, which has paved way for great opportunities in his life.

“As a musician, I have managed to achieve a lot by building something from scratch. Today, wherever you go in Namibia and in some parts of the world, the GMP brand is well known,” exudes Gazza.

He professes: “I need to put my house in order and I plan to do so this year. I have made an extensive research and found out what people like about GMP. So I am going to concentrate on the strengths I have gathered through the years and use them to provide the sort of entertainment people want. I will also release more music.”

Gazza has staged so many shows internationally and regionally. He has performed in countries like Scotland, Germany, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, making him an iconic Namibian music ambassador.

But how have music revellers embraced his music thus far?

“Funny thing about any industry is that people will always push you to get to greater heights, yet those are the same people who will criticise you at the end of the day,” he says.

One thing that has kept him going is that he never plans what his album will sound like; rather, “I just trust God that it will be as perfect as it can be.”

He adds: “It is not difficult for me to make music because I have the talent for it. I always strive to make the kind of music that connects me to the people. That is the reason why I am a household name in Namibia today.”

The GMP boss plans to put up a fight with the Government this year, with regard to capacity-building of Namibia’s youth.

“There are certain topical issues I wish the Government would address, like yesterday. Such are centered around the music industry and youth empowerment.

“The Government is supposed to show us the necessary steps to follow for us to turn our ideas into realities. But before that happens, the Government must be able to spot trustworthiness from fraud, he asserts.

“I , however, urge the youth not to heavily rely on the Government because at the end of the day, we are the Government,” he says.

Asked about his many nicknames and what they stand for (‘Boss’, ‘Karandu’ and ‘467’) he just chuckles.

Musicians, like every celebrity and socialite in the country, often find themselves receiving the backlash from the media and fans who usually accuse them of misbehaviour being that they are public figures; womanising, beer-bingeing and illicit drug abuse. Gazza explains, pressure is usually the excuse.

“People can say a lot of things. Okandjeras from the North are said to be thieves. Hereros are said to be stubborn. Damaras are understood to like fighting and stabbing while Owambos es dom but that is not always the case.

“It takes one person to paint a bad picture of a whole group. However, where there is smoke, there is always fire. Of course, there are artists who indulge in alcoholism and womanising but let’s not paint every artist with the same brush,” he urges.

As artists, he asserts, they tend to overdo certain things because of pressure.

“It’s hard to find a business mogul, a judge or even a top lawyer without a bottle of whiskey in his office,” he says, challenging this reporter to do a research on how pressure leads to alcohol abuse.

Has the Namibian music industry forged ahead then?

“It hurts to see the kapana industry developing more than the music industry, yet ours generates more revenue, or at least it is presumed to be. The kapana vendors now have sheds and chimneys while we are still stuck at one spot.

“I would like to applaud the Namibian Music Awards (Namas), which is gradually changing in favour of the artists. It has instigated close competition among artists, which is a step forward in keeping the industry competitive.

It is now up to us to support its vision. It’s going to be a long journey with MTC and Namas but we are ready for the challenge,” he states.

Although the old English adage says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, Gazza eats, sleeps and lives music but still creates time to relax.

“My ‘me time’ is basically when I’m in the studio creating music. However, I enjoy playing video games, spending quality time with my family and partying, though I do not usually go clubbing. I like watching the sun set, so I often take a drive alone to do that. It helps me meditate before I go home,” he concludes.

Gazza officially launched his latest double CD album titled “Blood, Sweat and Tears” last month at Chez-Ntemba V.I.P Lounge with the back-up of fellow local artists such as Blacksheep, Lil D, Exit, Mekox and DJ Flava.

The new installment contains a taste of almost all the sounds that currently make people move their legs, including electro, urban house and kwaito beats.

The album was inspired by the sad loss of his fellow artists, Eclipse and Roger. Beside the curtain-raisers of the launch, he also worked with other artists on this album including Sally and Selema, as well as producers Kboss, RUK and Mad Beatz.

Perhaps the future does belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams but for Gazza, it seems that the future was crafted long before he could dream. PF