by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Caesar Mafuta

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Caesar Mafuta

Zimbabwean-born Tāmaki Makaurau resident Caesar Mafuta writes afropop-infused RnB that stays true to his roots while being easy on eclectic international ears. His second single No Wahala (not to be confused with 1da Banton’s hit of the same name) follows a similar recipe, with a mélange of languages reflecting on homes, old and new. NZ On Air Music put the sweet treat on the menu of their NewTracks compilation this July.

What is your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Caesar Tafadzwa David Tinashe Mafuta from Auckland, New Zealand – born in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

When I was in Year 9 I had a full year of taking music as a subject, and this had a really big influence on how I viewed music. I played the drums and sang lead vocals at that time.

Any other projects that we might know you from?

My Debut single Far Away (Kure Kure) which was released on April 14, 2023.

What’s the background story of how this song came to be? 

It was a Tuesday afternoon, after having the most tedious and agitating day ever. I was sitting in my car about to pull out of my driveway to head to the studio and I got the news that my studio session had been cancelled which annoyed me. Five minutes later I got an International call from one of my producers JahBless, mind you, he’s from Abuja, Nigeria which is an 11-hour difference, so it’s like 5am for him! The first thing he said to me is, “Caesar, I’ve just made a beat and the only artist I can hear on this beat is you, do you want me to send it through to you?”

He sends me the beat, and as I’m listening to the beat the frustration and agitation from my day just flow out of me as I’m singing the melody and just like that, after one take I had the majority of the track recorded! Later on I realised that every annoyance and discomfort of the day had prepared me for this moment. It came so perfectly that I was left speechless with a full song recorded in just under 30 minutes, which did influence the record title. No Wahala means ‘No Problems’, as a reminder to always be in harmony with the flow of life. The record was mixed and mastered by John Garcia at Parachute Studios, and produced by JahBless.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

It hasn’t changed a whole lot, I still have the same basic routine of writing music. Which is ‘Feel. Form. Finetune’. It is the same process I was taught to use when I first started writing music.
I first feel the music before I write to it, as I believe the feeling is the audio currency of music. If I don’t feel it, I can’t expect anyone else to.
Forming is the stage where I attempt as many creative approaches towards the music, making sure to go out of my comfort zone within each recording session.
Finetuning is the process in which I force myself to give the highest level of both recording and deliverance on my behalf, and if I’m working with a producer I expect the same from them.

What made you decide to stick with your name as artist name?

Using my real name meant being my authentic self to the public, which only made sense to me. Having supporters know me by my real name gives our connection a more intimate feeling.

Aside from this release, what’s been the highlight to date?

To be honest, my highlight so far has been previewing my afrobeat te reo track Aroha and seeing how positive the results have been. New Zealand seems to be resonating with my sound, which is amazing to see.

What makes No Wahala stand out for you as a single?

It’s my first music video, so Gael Lanigan (director) and I decided to go the extra mile in hopes to set a new standard for afrobeat music in Aotearoa. Including the fact that everyone that was involved in the music video was Kiwi.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The second part of my verse which is delivered in my native tongue Shona. I love singing in Shona, it allows me to express emotions on a deeper level.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I would like them to recognise the pioneering stages of afrobeat music in Aotearoa.

How do you generally work out what track would make a good single?

I always go with my gut feeling, it never lies. I also have a small panel of listeners I share my potential singles with and I consider their feedback.

Who else is in your team? 

My audio engineer is John Garcia, his ability to understand my creative vision each and every session we have, blows me away, he’s a very talented and experienced audio engineer. Matt Philips is currently my creative advisor and stylist. He’s constantly pushing me to outdo myself when it comes to delivery and quality of work.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I am currently in the works of fine-tuning my afrobeats te reo sound in hopes to create a new and authentic fusion between my African culture and the Māori culture.

Can you please name some other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song?

  • Waguan: Tino
  • Spencer Coyle: Somebody to Love

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others?

I haven’t applied for NZOA funding just yet as I believed it was first important for me to put out some work independently to showcase my potential. I would say keeping in line with your vision is the best thing, once your vision is recognisable to the public without explanation then doors open up as everything has its own timing.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I keep up with NZ Musician and UndertheRadar quite a lot, there is so much going out there, and I’m only really concerned with how the NZ music scene is going. There is a lot of talent here to keep an eye on!