In his early childhood, he actively engaged in a school band playing Ndulilu, (a local flute). In later teen years he initiated playing the keyboard and joined in the church choir. He tuned his destiny into a melodious pathway when he laid his hands on a harmonious discovery.....an abandoned saxophone that collected dust in a church......... Welcome to the world of Zaphania Melembela, a saxophonist from the shores of East Africa, Tanzania.
Rooted in a musical family of love from the Sukuma ethnic group , where traditional music is a key component of every social activity, Zephaniah completed high school and relocated to Dar-es-Salaam to pursue a new chapter of higher education.
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Education curriculums did not usually include any formal music lessons. In 2009 he enrolled at the Dar-Es-Salaam Institute of Technology and successfully completed his studies in Science and laboratory Technology in 2013.
The Institute of Technology was not a waste of time, it was strategic articulation to secure a day job and finance formal music lessons from beginner to advanced levels. The studies in technology became a great back up.
|||A career in music was something that no parent in Tanzania would wish his/her child to pursue at the time|||
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He never swayed from his passion for music, even though he had no formal music training.
The year 2012 marked an eventful turnaround year for Zephania. He met a friend from Nigeria who had a book on saxophones….and then there was a church with a forgotten saxophone that nobody bothered to learn playing.
A year of self-teaching continued with little progress. Then in October 2013, he met Frank Masamba , the famous composer and saxophonist since the 1980”s
Frank just returned from Mombasa(Kenya, where he worked as a hotel entertainer.
Zephania gained key insight into saxophone techniques and learned the foundation of African music.
This continued till 2014. He continued as a church musician and started exploring beyond church walls, engaging in music with other bands that were not in religious contexts. He also performed as a solo saxophonist at social functions.
In 2015 his formal music training continued when he engaged in music lessons with Innocent Mkuyuli, a pianist and music educator at the International School of Tanganyika.
His journey continued in music theory and practical musicianship on the tenor saxophone as a principal instrument, he continues with advancing to this present day.
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Zephania has worked with bands like the Swahili Blues Band and performed at the Sauti Busara music festival in Zanzibar. He toured internationally with the band and performed with the King of Ethiojazz Mulatu Astatke at the African Jazz Village in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2015.
He has also accompanied a Jazz Music legend Tu Nokwe from South Africa during the Bagamoyo International Festival of Arts and Culture in 2015.
The music industry in Tanzania has evolved into much more opportunities for a committed musician to lead a successful career in music. There is a calling for more instrumental and music teachers are more performers.Technology paves a way for artists to explore global markets in the music industry. Things have changed for the better. Saxophonist Zephania Malembela
He has been featured in many albums by other artists both on religious and non-religious music arenas in Tanzania and outside Tanzania. He has been acclaimed by listeners and fans to have a rich tone with a special articulation on his instrument.
Currently, he is a member of the Pentanote Trio working with a renowned jazz pianist Barikeyz Mmbaga and his young brother John Mmbaga, a drummer.
He is working on his first solo instrumental album which focuses on a fusion of native music with western and jazz tastes. The album will be released soon.
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Meet #CreatepreneurAfrica , Zephania Melembela
Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life?
What drives me is love. I am a product of love, love from the creator, love from my parents and from the society around me. All the love I received and continue to receive has taught me to value an adventure of becoming a good person and to love every human being by giving my best out of talents and potentials which are invested inside me, music being a major part of me.
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How did you find your passion and how old were you?
The passion has always been with me from the beginning. I come from a musical family, a family that for many generations has taken a leading role of music in its society. My mother, being the nearest of all other family members became my inspiration as she would sing, compose and teach song to a local church choir and she even played guitars very well.
At an age of 13 years I joined the choir she was leading and I started learning to play the keyboard and she was my first music teacher even though she had no formal music classes. She knew how chords were supposed to sound though she didn’t know how to play the keyboard.
We would search and combine the sounds of the keyboard to match the guitar chords that she made on the guitar. That is how it started and the rest is history.
What about your passion appeals to you the most?
To be relevant to my world by doing the things that complement my talents and potential endowed inside me. Music being among them. To make life a meaningful adventure for me, my family and every other people I can get into contact whether physically or through other media like this.
What drove you to make money from your passion?
I believe that someone doing his/her passion and being rewarded financially, for it is a sure way of growing the passion to its ultimate potential. This is what drives me to make money from my passion. My passion has to sustain me and to make my family’s life progressive in all spheres that need progress. This is how commitment to passion intensifies. It doesn’t make sense doing your passion with all efforts and then expect to sustain your own life with something else. This will only kill talents and potential and the passion itself altogether.
When was the first time you were paid for your passion?
It was when I was 22 years old. I had my first payment as a church musician for a church which was just being inaugurated. Later I have been able to extend my horizon beyond the four walls of the church to non-religious arenas musically.
As I said, money is just a reward. I am committed to my passion beyond monetary expectations. Making money is not a goal but money reward facilitates me to achieve the goals.
What kept you going when you thought about giving up?
No! Giving up? How can someone give up on being themselves? If someone gives up on becoming themselves then who do they want to become as a result? My passion (Music) is who I am, I have never tried to think of giving up because it is like betraying myself and trying to become someone else.
Yes, there have been challenges in the journey and they are still coming even now but I try as much to solve them. It is in solving these challenge progress realizes. I solve my challenges and try to seek other people’s help when things get beyond my capacity. I enjoy working in teams that way.
What motivates you every day to be even more successful?
To live an authentic life, to be who I am and to unleash my full potentials as a human being. Success is a process and not a destination. When I wind up my day being better than the previous day musically then I am successful and this continues that way to me, trying to improve myself more every day.
What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?
Doubt is a source of wisdom. For me, being doubted brought positive results. It created to me an avenue to question my inner man and to make a decision based on who I really am and what I am supposed to do with the gift of life I have been blessed with. Though their doubts I was able to find myself.
I will always listen to their doubts about me and I will then keep perfecting myself in order to become my best.
What advice do you give to aspiring creative is who look up to you?
My advice to them is; Look for that reason, that special purpose, that mission you were created for and then build a beautiful life for yourself and those you love around that reason.
Listen to your inner man and be true to yourself. This will lead you to living your authentic life. It is the best reward that you can do to yourself. Be determined, be dedicated, be disciplined and be willing to sacrifice for that reason. All the rest will fall in their positions. You deserve to be happy, this is the cost of becoming one.