A Fusion of Travel and Music : In Conversation with Gemma Griffiths

By Juliet Mashiri

Gemma Griffiths is a name you do not want to forget. The musical sensation shot to fame when her collaboration with Winky D, “MuGarden,” broke the country’s record for the fastest YouTube views in Zimbabwean history. The song made it to number 1 on the Afrobeats chart on Kiss TV UK shortly after it’s release. Now the songbird is expanding her horizons and giving us a front-row seat to her authentic sound.

On the heels of her recently released music video ‘Ndinewe’, NZiRA travel had the opportunity to speak to Gemma Griffiths about her highly anticipated debut album, her experiences and her 500-day journey across Africa.

NZIRA: What inspired you to go on this trip?

GEMMA: I did not really know what I would experience, all I knew was that I wanted to travel as much of Africa as I could and meet as many creatives and musicians along the way. I grew up in Zimbabwe, and I love my country, I wanted to discover and get to know the countries I visited. I wanted to learn from these places, their energy, their rhythms, their vibes and from the musicians themselves. I wanted to write an album. Ndinewe, released on  May 1st, is the first track of the album, the first one from the journey, and has footage from all 10 countries that I travelled to.

NZIRA: What were some of your favourite highlights of the trip?

GEMMA: There were so many, but places that stood out include the Bwindi impenetrable forest which was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The Quirimba Archipelago in Mozambique, a chain of tiny islands in the Indian Ocean, Spitzkoppe. Massive desert boulders in Namibia, and the Mazumbai forest in Tanzania.

To be honest, a highlight for me was waking up every day and deciding where I wanted to go that day. It was incredibly freeing.

NZIRA: Being on the road for 18 months must not have been easy. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

GEMMA: Haha, definitely not all roses, you’re right. It’s a lot of work living in a vehicle, packing up and unpacking constantly, lots of heavy lifting and reorganising. The long drives would sometimes be exhausting, but we settled into a good routine most of the time. Adjusting to the new road rules and system in each country just took a bit more awareness, as did making sure we had all the correct paperwork for every place. All these things just become a part of the journey, and were very much rewarded by the places I got to see!

       NZIRA: I am sure the trip also allowed you to go on a journey of self-discovery. How did you manage to incorporate this into your new music?

GEMMA: I wrote about it 🙂 I wrote about the places, my feelings and my growth. I definitely discovered a lot, and I feel like it shaped a big part of me over the past year and a half. I feel a lot more certain of where I want to go in life.

NZIRA: With notoriety, comes an invasion of privacy. How have you managed to stay true to yourself, whilst at the same time establishing a genuine relationship with your fans?

GEMMA: That is definitely a challenge you face as you grow in the public eye, especially with music, which is such a personal thing to write and then to release to the world and their opinions. I’ve been lucky that my fans are incredibly supportive and loving towards me, it’s a huge encouragement. I do try to take the time to switch off, away from the internet as often as I can. The trip helped with this especially crossing borders, being out of range, these moments meant that when I was in comms with my fans and the internet, it was always intentional. I had to go out of my way to be reachable.

NZIRA: Last but not least, what is your hope for this new album and will you be taking any such trips in the future?

GEMMA: I hope I make something that resonates. I have a dream, to make music that connects people- that’s been my goal for the longest time. I would love to see people from Zim, and Tanzania both listening to this album. People from Malawi and Uganda dancing to the songs. That would be phenomenal.

More travelling? I’m not even CLOSE to being finished 😉

You can connect with Gemma on the following platforms:

Website – https://www.gemmazim.com/

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD_0CGAjgZRfTs5uG2r3lGQ

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gemmagriffithszim/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/gemmamusic_/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/gemmamusic_

iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/gemma-griffiths/1151836706

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