If we likened life to food, I would think that the spice is the most important component. A dish without spice is bland and boring; lacking the flavor and zest that keeps people moving forward through the less exhilarating days. Music is that spice; which is why it is important for us to understand the earthly magic of musicians. There is a man behind “The Overlooked Musician”(or T.O.M in short), and his name is Leslie Muzuwa. Zimbabwean by lineage and South African by birth, Leslie Muzuwa is a second year student at the University of Pretoria studying Business Management as well as the mastermind behind T.O.M..
In essence, T.O.M can be described as the alter ego of every child that grew up being called “unconventional”, “strange”, “weird”, or better yet any kid that was bullied. Leslie experiencing living in countries that didn’t reflect his cultural lineage, Botswana and South Africa, being chubby, being black, and being teased for all three molded him into the musician he is today. Having been a singer in the University of Pretoria Youth Choir and other groups at his high school, St. Alban’s College, as well as a member of a marimba band, Leslie has been developing his musical persona for well over six years. After listening to his only single out to the public, a creative cover of Little Dragon’s ‘Twice’ crossed with James Blakes’s ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ featuring Una Rams, I had questions.
Q: Your musical talents have been expressed in very different ways over the years, from choirs to marimba bands, what is it about what you are doing now that makes it worthwhile?
A: I’ve been really blessed to have had the chance to train in classical, jazz, and choral music, to have been a part of the UPYC choir, and other groups over the years, but at the same time I find that over the past few years my taste in music has become even more eclectic. I like whatever music I can connect to, and sometimes that’s hip-hop, jazz, electronic, or indie music; which makes being in a group difficult sometimes. As a solo artist, I am free to try whatever I want, I’m alive, and I can express myself in a way that I couldn’t before. When I’m singing, I’m at my most vulnerable point.
Q: What kind of liberation has your music allowed you over the years?
A: I have the chance to really redefine some of the things I heard about myself when I was growing up. I get to let go of everything and really get over what people think of me. I have to acquaint myself with the powerful but uncomfortable feeling of putting everything out there, knowing that there will be judgment, and convincing myself not to care enough to get in the way of my own success.
Q: Misa Narrates is all about telling stories. With any artist, there is a time when you tell your best story, so as a musician when is your music in its most pure form?
A: One of the good and bad things about where I am with regards to my music is that I am not in a rush. I make music for myself first, before I make music for others. I live by the idea that every day I am making my next best song, but I must say that my music is most pure after a heartbreak. I read once that pain is one of the strongest muses, and I honestly think that’s true. Don’t get me wrong, I write well when I’m happy, but there is something about pain that adds an element of reality to all art.
Q: You are very passionate about your music, and after having undergone so much music education in your formative years, why didn’t you opt to study music instead of business?
A: Something I also ask myself on nights when I have assignments due. It’s hard to balance something you’re passionate about with something that you feel less about, but at the same time I do want to be a businessman one day. I will study music eventually, music is all around me, it’ll never disappear. My parents are very supportive, I mean they are the ones who encouraged me studying music when I was younger, but at the same time they worry for me. They don’t want all of my eggs in one basket, which is why I am studying business before I study music.
Q: Your support structure at home seems solid, but what about your friends? What have their responses been to your music?
A: It’s really weird, because it sometimes feels like they want me to do well more than I seem to sometimes. I want to do well in this industry, but I also just want to make music. My friends are truly some of the most supportive people I have come across over the years, both the old and the new. Now, when I perform I know there is always going to be a familiar face that isn’t my family, but someone who wants to cheer me on because they chose me to be in their life and I chose them to be in mine.
Q: How did your cover of Little Dragon’s ‘Twice’ and James Blake’s ‘The Wilhelms Scream’ get chosen as your first release?
A: I think I just connected to it better and it was far more finished than the other pieces I have in my stash at home. I sing in a way that people associate with women, from what I’ve been told, but somehow when we were mixing the two songs together, Una Rams created a type of electronic beat. Una’s verse on the track was actually a mistake, but even with its criticism, that was probably the realest moment I have had in the studio…it felt right with Una on it. Musicians always talk about what happens in the studio, and my song is a fond example of how artists play around with music and before you know it someone’s in the recording booth.
Q: For whom do you think you made ‘Twice’?
A: In retrospect, of course I made it for myself, but I think I also made it for women. Like I said, people always tell me that I sing in a feminine way, but that’s probably because I have a very deep weak spot for women. I don’t see a reason for men not to connect with women on a musical level, or on any level for that matter. The first woman to lead me to music was my sister, but the woman who kick started my move into music after she noticed me playing marimba music is still involved in my life today. But after having created T.O.M. I think I make music for anyone that has ever been overlooked or taken for granted.
Q: It has been a while since you released any music, and I know for a fact that you have been in the studio, is there anything that the public can expect from you?
A: I have been feeling like Frank Ocean, in relation to not releasing music. I procrastinate life in itself and as much as I am a musician I still like to do well with my academics. I work on music every few days and then trade off for school work; right now I am refining my sound. I only ever want to release my best, and I can assure you and everyone else who has asked me that I intend to release music in winter.
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