Ryan Koriya : Dispelling African Stereotypes (1)

October 13, 2021 CULTURELLE Episode 23
Ryan Koriya : Dispelling African Stereotypes (1)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ryan Koriya is an artist who wears many many hats. He is a musician and composer born in Harare and now based in Ibiza, Spain where he is developing various music projects under his own record label Runway Vertical Records. He is also business marketing and branding consultant, who helps creatives and entrepreneurs around the world succeed in today's fast-paced digital world.

As well as founder of ZimXcite, a Zimbabwean culture fashion brand, that promotes a fun spirit of inclusion and global diversity, inspired by all things Zimbabwe. Also in development is African Astronauts, a multi-media project to help empower and unite Africans the world over by providing a platform for Africans to tell their own stories. 


Instagram: https://instagram.com/ryankoriya

Instagram: https://instagram.com/zimxcite

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zimxcite

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/RyanKoriya

Resources mentioned: 

Zimbabwean Artists Playlist: 


CD Baby Free Artist Resources


Ari Herstand's Take Music Industry Blog


Damien Keyes Music Industry Education


Burstimo Free Music Industry Advice



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Intro : Yo! Welcome to the party! Hello! Makadini. Salibonani. My name is Vongai and you’re listening to ZimExcellence, a weekly celebration of Zimbabwe’s changemakers and trailblazers. So here’s the secret y’all Zimbabweans are actually DOPE AF and it’s just time that we recognize it. So grab yourself a plate of sadza, grab that Stoney ginger beer and let the party begin!

Vongai: Hello, hello and welcome to another episode of ZimExcellence. Today my guest is someone who wears a many many hats. He is a musician and composer born in Harare and now based in Ibiza, Spain, where he is developing various music projects under his own record label Runway Vertical Records. He's also a business and marketing and branding consultant who helps creatives and entrepreneurs around the world succeed in today's fast paced digital world. During the pandemic, he founded ZimXcite a Zimbabwean culture fashion brand that promotes a fun spirit of inclusion and global diversity, inspired by all things, Zimbabwe. Also in development is African astronauts, which is a multimedia project to help empower and unite Africans all around the world by providing a platform for Africans to tell their own stories. Please welcome Ryan Koriya. 

Ryan: Wassup everybody. Whoa, hey, ho. Nice to be here. 

Vongai: Yes, yes, yes. So like I said, you wear many, many hats. And I know there are definitely some hats I missed off of the list. You are the truest example in this 2021 of being a multi-passionate, that's what I believe. How'd you feel about that? That description multi-passionate, that adjective?

Ryan: I love that I'm going to actually adopt that. Thank you very much. Yeah,

Vongai: Some people say multi hyphenate. Because like no multi passionate, it's just like,

Ryan: Multi passionate. Yeah. Yeah. You've hit on the magic word. So I have different genres. Right? So two genres I'm in musically, one of them is acoustic folk music. But the micro niche I have coined is passion folk. And then the pop that I do, I call it passion pop. So multi-passionate is just great, because that's what I am, I'm just I am/ Ryan is a passionate individual full stop. So whatever he's working on, or whatever he's into, he's going to be passionate about it. And that can obviously be different things.That's what I really think is not so crazy an idea to be honest, as a human being. I think we are multifaceted creatures. It's okay to grow up being a goth at school and being into Nirvana, and then your 25 year old and then, you know, being an accountant and going, that's totally what I'm passionate about. And then being in your 30s. And going actually are now a hippie, like, you know what I mean? Like, as long as you can you I say, Do you. 

Vongai: I'm just like, follow the wave of like, what your intuition tells you to do, even if it doesn't make sense. So one thing I did leave off this bio, when I condensed it is, you actually did the music for CookOff, which is Zimbabwe's first ever film on Netflix. But we'll get into that later. I always like to begin with talking about people's origin stories. So Ryan, you are a ZimExcellent superhero, because I'm a nerd. And I like superhero analogies. And every superhero has their own origin story. You were born here in Harare. And now you live in Spain. I'd love it if you could share with us a little bit about your origin story, so that the listeners and those unfamiliar with who you are, can understand how you got from point A to point B. Take it away.

Ryan: Oh my gosh. The Ryan Koriya origin story would probably have to be this crazy.

Vongai: It starts with a trailer. It's like dun dun this summer. 

Ryan: Exactly. [movie trailer voice] This summer and for the next 17 summers so we can fit everything in. Strap in everybody, it's going to be quite a ride. How did this young boy from Harare, Zimbabwe, in the neighborhood of Belvedere. Who went to Belvedere Junior School, and struggled financially from the beginning. [ends movie voice] Like school fees was an issue. Get to the point where he's traveling around the world and playing music to many people and just bringing love and passion. How did he do that? I think the origin story really is that like I come from a born free as we joke about it, right? A born free generation. Born in 1980, which is weird to say. like Zimbabwe 1980 and your birthday 1980 from a perspective of growing up in a country that was so brand new, and so full of hope, and so full of diversity. And as we called ourselves, the rainbow nation, I really will always appreciate that being able to grow in a country where I went to school with people who. Race wasn't an issue and my parents. It was very different. Our parents generation didn't grow up like that they grew up segregated, for the most part and that's a reality that really does help shape your future. You know. Because we are the first generation of. For example, going to Prince Edward Wright, which is my high school and as an adjudicator, because I also dedicate the National Institute of Allied Arts, the Eisteddfods . And so recently, I went to Eisteddfod as an adjudicator. And I remember I took some P.E boys with me to this cello class from one of the guests, adjudicators, and they were just vexed with me that. They were like, “Sir, you just walk into the room” because we were late. “And you just walk into this like little recital, you know, with so much confidence and like, has all these white people and you just carry yourself like,” and I'm like, What you mean and then having a conversation with them and realizing that they can count how many white people are in Prince Edward have one hand. Now when I grew up, it was so diverse in many ways. So that for me I think is really interesting is that I come from a pocket of Zimbabwean history that is quite unique unto itself. Origin story for Ryan Koriya, born in Harare at Mbuya Nehanda hospital, as many of us were.


Ryan:  As many of us were, my first few years were in Southerton, which is a southern suburb in Harare. And my gran ithat's where she lived. And so my mom at one point, because my mom was young when she had me like she had just turned 19. So we only moved into our home in Belvedere when she was 21 and then when I was about three. So my first years I think, would have been in Southerton, and then in Waterfalls Park Town where my dad's family were based. And then we had our own home. I remember being this kid who was always entertaining already. Like I used to, like do all these accents for everybody. Allo’ Allo’ and Mind Your Language.

Vongai: [gasps] I love Allo’ Allo’.

Ryan: right? And Mind your language was on TV. And I used to do all these [does Indian accent] very good Indian accents, making the whole family and laughing so much, you know. So they always said Ryan was this entertainer and you make us laugh. And you were a natural entertainer. In that sense. I think that's where it started. But I was all the acting first. But an uncle told me recently that he remembers me being a very young, and they put me in the back of their VW Beetle or whatever and going, you know, drive me around. And I would know all the words to Phil Collins on the radio, like so apparently. I don't have the memory. But apparently, I was already into the beats of the music and singing. But my first real memory of really reacted to music is when I was probably about 4,3,4. And I just remember thinking, I love this stuff. And the first song that really spoke to me my heart in a way funny enough, was the Rolling Stones. And it's weird because as we're recording this, they've just lost their drummer. Like Charlie Watts has literally passed I think over the last 24 hours. And that's so sad to hear, because those guys have been through a lot. And they've gone through a lot. And I've always been in such awe of them. Because a lot of our pop stars, a lot of them didn't survive for very long. These guys, they had a secret, whatever it was, they were like going you know. So a song called Angie really spoke to me. And I think it makes sense because when I listened to it, I'm like, of course it's got that soul vibe, it's got this emotion to it and just like stuff, it just really goes deep. So I really feel like that's my first strong reaction that I remember to music and me going I got to learn how to play this over and over again. And I did at that age I remember just go and get the vinyl put it on the record when my parents were at work and I'd know how to put the needle on some number whatever it was, and I play the song. So by grade one apparently my mom said that the school came to her and said listen, your son is a little performer yo so we recommend you enlist him in Speech and Drama we've got a really great teacher lessons and so I started doing Speech and Drama lessons with Beryl Pollard was her name and she would literally scribble and scratch all these poems with red ink and go “No longer pause here and say this like that.”  So I had really good speech and drama training from very early on. And then I fell in love with music even more because we had this amazing school choir and you know in assembly on a Wednesday or whatever it was we had to go into the school hall as junior school kids and sing these cool songs and hymns and whatever. And we had an amazing choir mistress Ava Rogers like shout out to Ava Rogers. Like a lot of people listening to this will know exactly who Ava Rogers is. And she's this incredible teacher who's literally taught most of us. Belvedere Junior School, Hartman house and many other schools I know she's been involved with musically. Reps Theater. She's done amazing things music direction. She's a musician herself a beautiful voice. She was in a girl group. I'm going to try and remember what they were called, something sisters, and they did amazing stuff. They did TV adverts. So she was literally at the helm and got like, can you imagine like hundreds of school kids to sing in unison as the the music director playing the piano, assisted by Mrs. Marshal I believe was the other teach I remember. And so for me, that's where I feel like my origin story already began. I already knew I was into the arts because that's what I strongly resonated with and reacted to. So by the time I got to high school, I was able to start playing classical music. And that for me is I think, a very good origin story. Form one, Prince Edward High School, you know, you're there with your oversized blazer, your kid all these big testosterone, you know, led teenagers looking down at you grunting and you're just going, why am I here? I still remember, I want to share this story. My last day of junior school, when we used to sing the Lord's Prayer, [sings like a child] “Our Father who art in heaven.”

Vongai: [laughter] I am triggered. 

Ryan: Right. And then you get to Prince Edward. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a harrowing experience just to get there on time on the first day, because the school bus was late. ZUPCO, thanks for getting us late. Anyway, you arrive and you're shoved into the front of this mass of like, whatever it was 1300 boys, and you've got all these teachers staring down at you. And you're just like, what have I landed in? The army? I'm a bit intimidated here. Right? And then yes, this is my first memory of Princeton in High School. Yhen all of a sudden, because everyone was silent, right, first day of school of the year. You just see a prefect got ‘STAND!’ and then just the shuffle of feet. And then Mr. Barnes is coming. The legendary Mr. Barnes is walking on the grass from his office to come and take an assembly and the arrives and is like “Morning, gentlemen” and hear them say “Morning Sir”. Just rumbling at you. And you're thinking, Oh my God, intimidated. And then he says let us say the Lord's Prayer. And then all the Form 1s start going [sings liked a child] “Our Father who art in heaven” [laughter] It was the most funniest thing ever. Obviously, all these teenage boys, we don't. Even Mr. Barnes said, it didn't say let us sing the Lord's Prayer. He said let us say the Lord's Prayer. So everyone's just like, [bass voice reciting] Our Father, who art in heaven, Rumble, Rumble, Rumble, la blah, blah, blah, blah, thy kingdom come.  Amen. Whoosh. [to represent boys sitting down] And you're just like, Oh, okay. So yeah, high school. I mean, that stage, obviously, you know, I'm like, still new to high school. And one day, they said, if you're interested in playing the violin, we have violins available. And we have violin lessons available because we have a teacher who's doing an exchange gap from England. So go and see her at breaktime at the school chapel. And I remember her. Her name was Roxana Saraby. And I went to see this woman, and she, let me hold the violin. And I was like, I'd love to play this. And I started playing the violin. And I absolutely loved it to the point where every break time I was in the music room playing the violin, because I couldn't take it home. Obviously, it's expensive instruments, and you had to prove your dedication. So the violin and I quickly got married, if that makes sense. I was spending every moment of free time I could with the violin at school. And because of that, I excel because that was second term Form 1. And at the end of first term Form 2, I already got awarded half colors for music.

Vongai: What does half colors mean? 

Ryan: Half colors. It’s really strange. I didn't even understand what it was to be honest, at 14. But it's like an accolade that you get almost like a, you know, a valedictorian kind of award where people with colors are usually the sports captain for rugby, because he's, you know, been exceptional at his craft. And so he gets a different blazer, the cream blazer, you get like a nice tie that says you are an honest student at your craft, if that makes sense. So I got half of that to say, Oh, this is already something that's very promising in this, you know, kids career, and usually you would only get half colors when you are about Form 4. So 16/17, you know, colors tends to go to the older pupils. So for me as a wet nosed 14 year old who just turned 14 in Form 2 to it was weird. I was like, Oh, I get to wear a different tie and a different button, the same blazer but a different badge that says half colors, or meant half colors, so does a really, really amazing thing to get. But because I don't even know I wish I could find out. But I don't even know if anyone's gotten colors that young ever in the school history, the 120 years of school history, because it's not what you do. You get it when you're older. Maybe if you're 13, and you're a national chess champion, or something that you would get half colors right or colors. So that's what happened beginning of Form 2 And for me, it just started to make me realize oh, okay, I obviously have something here because the world around me seems to think so. And that same term, which is partly why I got the half colors, or most of the reason why is because I had represented the school at the National Eisteddfod that we had. And I was the only people if I remember correctly in the entire school that got a gold certificate an honors which means 90% plus. So I think that was it was like wow, he's literally brought our own our only gold home. So of course he needs to be, you know, rewarded for that because he's very talented, very promising, and certainly the beginning of his career, which is how I got on to get a scholarship from the school for cello and for violin at the Conservatory which is the Zimbabwe College of Music.

Vongai: Oh wow. Like I didn't even know we had a Zimbabwean College of Music but like that is super impressive and that's how you're able to then keep affording music lessons as well and arts lessons.

Ryan: Absolutely. And that's a big part of the story you bring up because it's true First of all, the Zimbabwe College of Music is very important because it is what would you would call the National Conservatory because it is the National Institute for learning music but it's also very importantly attached to and part of the Zimbabwe ethnomusicology center. . So they are one of the same and that's important to know and to note that there is that focus on ethnic music and you know, the traditional instruments and so that's all happening right there next door to the rainbow towers and the Zanu PF headquarters like that corner they're not far from Prince Edward actually.

Vongai: I love that you just brought in politics.

Ryan: Not even like that's literally the building next door and just name dropping the buildings. That's that's the neighboring and and then on the other side, is the museum, then what's called the National Yeah, I think it's history museum, or whatever it is, our museums, is also there. National History museum or something. So that's where it is. So people to understand that there's actually that happening right there. And it's an important part of our cultural history.

Vongai: Sweet. That's amazing. I'm gonna take it back to something you said, AGES ago, but just so that no one tries to come at you and cancel you. So Ryan is allowed to do an Indian accent, I am not allowed to do an Indian accent. Why? Because Ryan is actually half Indian.

Ryan: So I am part Indian, it's not even harder to get no gets complicated. My grandfather was half Indian, on my on my mother's side. And then my dad's side, Koriya is actually from India. So our mixed heritage, and that's a whole other, you know, racial conversation but like our. As coloureds, and that's the other thing, another story to talk about that but the word car, just say it now the word colorued for us as a community. It's something from my perspective, is that we are proud to call ourselves colored because you know, as people of color, colored means you're mixed. And whereas, you know, in America or the UK, it may mean something a bit more sort of derogatory, coloured people are very proud of their identity. No, I'm actually mixed and I'm okay with that. I've got Black in me, I've got Indian who me in my case is other people have white, other people have Chinese, we've got so many different mixes. So I've quite liked that term as to go, Hey, you just have different ethnic backgrounds within your DNA. And that's totally cool. And I think that's rad. That's cool, no matter what, you know, what kind of mix it is. So, for me, that's the whole identity crisis I had growing up because I didn't know. I'm quite dark, you know, and actually, even that I refer to myself as a dark coloured which is people forget that, like, you've got to remember, Indian can be dark, too. You know.

Vongai: Literally I mean, it like we talked about Indian people, we talk about people in South America, we talk about Aboriginals, like, you know. We all came from Africa at the end of the day. That's why it's like the motherland, the mother continent.

Ryan: The cradle.

Vongai: Yes. But that I thought I would throw that out there before people were confused and being like, why is he allowed to do this? This is problematic, but I was like, No, no, no. Like, let's let's put it out there. Yeah,

Ryan: right. Yeah, I hear you. And I respect that. Because I'm aware that there's because we just live and we just do. That's another conversation, I guess. But like we live in a world where it's so easy to step wrongly, so to speak, according to someone's perspective or so someone’s beliefs. Personally, I will say that if someone was making accents or doing stuff, I don't feel offended by that because I'm an actor. That's what actors do all the time. And like even in Zimbabwe, talking about the time we grew up in again, my best friends one was Hemal, who is an Indian, another was Reg, who's a black Zimbabwean. Another was Daniel who was a white Zimbabwean, and we all sat as thespians. And we we had accents all the time. And in class, we messed around with accents with each other. So for us, I have to say, we grew up in that way. It was normalized. And I love that because it's almost like saying, let me just flip it a bit. It's almost like growing up imagine growing up in a school and at a time were talking about mental health is just what you do. “Hey, dude, how are you today?” “Really, like, you know, oh, man, my dad beat my mom last night and I'm kind of really tripping and I don't feel good.” “Oh, man. You know what? Let's make that break down. Let's talk about it. Let's just see if we can help you out.” As opposed to that bravado of like, yeah, you're just, you know, sissy, or and you got to like, be tough, and you become the school bully or whatever. So imagine that was normal, you would be an adult going, Oh, it's normal to talk about mental health and to be able to respect people's mental health and help them with it. So I feel like the accent thing could be similar for us because we're so it's normalized for us you know.

Vongai: I went International School and that's a thing that we did all the time. But I guess it's like being outside of the bubble of international school and then being in the real world, you start to realize there is a small line between appreciation and just like slightly microaggression, appropriation or like mocking? If that makes sense. It all has to do with intention at the end of the day.

Ryan: Exactly what I was about to say to you intention is the magic word here. For a lot of things. In fact, I'll drop this as well, when it comes to things like any kind of, I guess you could call it. Prejudice, right? Racial, whatever may be gender. Like it's all about intention, I could say very nice words to you. But the way I say them, you would sit there and go, Hmm, what did he mean by that? You know what I mean? So that's what I think I think we need to not get distracted by the, the colorful flag everyone's waving, but actually think about the hand holding the flag. Like, let's go deeper here and say, Okay, well forget about what you're saying, like, but what are you really saying? Or trying to say, you know, I think that's the important thing of everything we're talking about actually here.

Vongai: So this might be a really broad question for you. But I'm going to ask it anyway. What does being Zimbabwean mean to you?

Ryan: Wow, I will start by quickly going back because I do realize you asked the question I didn't answer. Why. So as I started, you know, something I didn't finish, which was just quickly to deal with the fact that you mentioned, you know, me getting a scholarship and being able to get lessons in the music world. That's the only reason I could do music. Because coming from a family background, money was always not necessarily an easy thing for us. My parents worked very hard. And they did the best. In fact, you know, we're lucky because my education Prince Edward, you know, even that was a privilege, like, wow, I got to go to Prince Edward. Thank goodness, it was a government school. It wasn't as expensive as some of the private colleges. So I am really lucky because of the scholarships and stuff. I got to pursue my passion, which absolutely I did not, could not afford. So my parents would have never could afford my lessons for music or any of these extracurricular so they weren't included in my school education, which I'm so so grateful for Prince Edward School, it is a big deal for me. It's allowed me to become who I am today. And going back to your question, being Zimbabwean, the words that come up are unique. I think that's the first one because I feel like being a Zimbabwean means that you sit in a pocket in humanity, where a lot of people just don't know what they're looking at, and they can't really get their heads around it. Because what they know, what they think they know or what they perceive, generally tends to be way outside of the court of what the Zimbabwean that standing in front of them presents. So for me as a Zimbabwean, I am an individual within an entire countrywide culture. And so I'm not like every Zimbabwean because we all have our uniqueness. But as a Zimbabwean culture, I feel like certain things come as a very likely part of the package. And that is I find being Zimbabwean for me means I have the sense of community built into me that I really appreciate. I feel like there's a huge sense of humility that comes which I think is a little too much to be honest. I think some Zimbabweans are the kind of people around the world especially that you will find doing incredible things right in front of you and you have no idea they're doing them and -

Vongai : ZimExcellence. 

Ryan: There you go, right. ZimExcellence That's part of it. It's like, it's almost like you're so busy being ZimExcellence that you're not really worried about, you know, showing people or being so we're not very showy. I think that's a very big part of being Zimbabwean in my eyes. And I feel like it's something that I'm actually trying to push and and sort of pull. Yeah, just move the needle a little bit. Because if we could get just a little bit more a sense of belonging and less of that imposter syndrome, we would be far better off. So as Zimbabwean in my early 40s now. That's what I'm trying to overcome. To go you know what, I'm okay with taking the spotlight sometimes or with compliments. I've had to learn because a lot of these things I ran away from for a long time. And in fact, one of the things is now it's like feeling this discomfort of going oh my gosh, like can you imagine growing up the way I did like, you know, I was often in the spotlight and I wasn't comfortable. I was like, Oh my gosh, no, no, no, no, no, don't forget about it's not about me, like I'm trying to run away. And part of that is a disservice to the point where I'll give you a quick example, I was in Nashville, Tennessee. And I was there just for two weeks, I wanted to get out and be seen, you know, make some connections and like just for the career cos it's a very long journey I've been on and I've had to do a lot of moving around, which is really not good because you can't really grow anything if you have to keep moving. But I was there and I love America whenever I'm there things just happen and I love their culture, that whole sort of belief in the idea and believe in talent and I've always gotten positive, you know, reactions there. So from from a community slash career point of view. So I was in Nashville, and there was this amazing singer, who was on stage during a Wednesday show, I believe. And she used to sing in Fleetwood Mac because she was I think Stevie Nicks’ replacement when Stevie Nicks was in rehab.

Vongai: Oh my gosh, I'm freaking out.

Ryan: Right? She had an amazing voice. Her name is Becca Bramlett. So Becca is on stage and I was like, Wow, she's amazing. She's singing at BB Kings Club. And amazing drummer. I remember CeeLo Green’s drummer was her drummer, one of his drummers, and it was like a, it was a vibe. And I was going to watch her. So I remember the drummer said to me one day, bro, you should go and ask her to sing, man because we that's the whole idea. We're gonna get singers on stage and it’s still a new show, but we should, you know, and I was like, Oh my gosh, okay, cool. But that Zimbabwean-ness in me, I was like, I'm a bit scared, you know, to go and just invite myself on stage. You know, I think that's the the humility I'm talking about. Where you know how it is. You've we've all met those people like. Yeah, in fact, it happened on that trip where this guy who had his McCartney as a surname, I can’t remember his first name. He was like, apparently related to him, but he's literally slid across the floor to me and said, What's up, dude, Hi I’m Paul McCartney's nephew and check out my card, dude. Like, I'm amazing. We should hang kind of thing. You know what I mean? Like, opposite of what I'm about. So going to her was difficult, but I was like, hey, and she knew who I was. Because we've been chatting and I said, Listen, I'd love to join on stage with you. At some point. She's like, Oh, okay. Yeah, that sounds good. But give us a few weeks because we’re still trying to get our show together. And I was like, actually, I leave in a week. She's like, Oh, really? That's a pity. You know what I like you Zimbabwe, so how about next week, we'll try and make it happen. Okay, so give me your phone. So I was like Okay, cool. I gave her my phone. I was like, Okay, what is she doing? And then she's like, Okay, I'm gonna write in my email address, and you send me some links, so I can check you out. And then I'll see for next week, and I was like, sounds great. And then just very flippantly, you know, she was just like, so are you any good? And my response was very, quote, unquote, Zimbabwean in my sense of like, Yeah, well, you know, I try and, dude, She practically put my head off. Like, there were expletives. Like, there were there were f words were mentioned. And it was like, Yeah, don't effing waste my time. Because do you know, you know what I mean, it was like unreal. Oh, my gosh, and I knew what was happening. Because I've had to, as I said, address this and go, you know, what, you've got to show up and not apologize for being who you are. So I knew that what was going on? So I did counteract that by saying, Okay, listen, I'll be honest with you. Okay. That's just my personality. I'm not someone who's very showy. But, of course, I think we would be amazing on stage together, I wouldn't be asking her otherwise, I am good at what I do. That's why I'm here. And then she was like, oh, okay, fine. You know, if she was if she was Africa, that's what it would have been. [sucks teeth] Right. But she gave me that, look, it was the look of that, you know, it's just like, Okay, fine. Give me your phone. And then she put her email address in and then I emailed her, right. So that's an example for me of what I mean, like being Zimbabwean. It's just like this unpolished gem in many ways. And some of us have been lucky to get out there and do stuff. And I think that's another conversation altogether. But like, I found that a lot of Zimbabweans who tend to excel internationally, are the ones who were lucky enough to have some kind of heritage or ability to leave the country early, and go and do their thing. Whereas I took four and a half years after high school to get out of Zimbabwe, I was 23 when I could finally get a visa I tried for four and a half years of my life waiting to just get on my my bus to life, you know. So I think it's been a long answer. But that kind of gives you an idea of what being Zimbabwean is for me, it's like, kind of like this weird underdog, but I have a lot of faith in the underdog.

Vongai: I'm getting two things. So the first thing I'm getting his there are so many layers to what you were feeling when you had that moment in Nashville, as artists we’re already fighting imposter syndrome and then that being Zimbabwean thing as well. So it's like a very layered where you're like, which one? Is it right now? Is it both? Is it this one isn't more this one. And then the other thing I'm getting is that I also think from a cultural perspective. The other reason why we're not showy is that then we don't want to jinx it. Because it's like someone could curse us, or like, be jealous enough or hate us so much. They'll go to n’anga (witch doctor) or something or whatever. So I feel like there's also that thing of like, Oh, I can't tell people, because then they'll want something from me or they'll not want to support me, which isn't the best mindset to have as an artist because then you keep thinking that like people are out to get you and the world is out to get you and you're just very like shut in which I think as a society, that's something that we need to work on. We need to work on supporting each other more. And that's one of the reasons for ZimExcellence, because I always find that a lot of us are whether we're in Zimbabwe or outside Zimbabwe were ignored for so long. Until let's say Ryan's won an award, the CookOff is on Netflix or something and then suddenly, it's like, oh, yes, he did it, apindi (he’s entered) he's waving the flag. He's amazing. But it's like but where were you for Ryan when he was like, you know, doing all these amazing things in high school or like when he was busking in London or whatever. I'm making up examples, but you know what I mean? We don't support each other enough. I'm trying to be like the Nigerians who are like Naija no dey carry last. Nigerians are like. Nigerians and South Africans. These are like the two main groups of people. Again, this is me generalizing, but I find that when they discover another person is Nigerian or South African, it's like instantly. Oh, we're family instantly. Oh, we're friends. Oh, I support you. Oh, let me introduce you to some more Nigerians, some more South Africans, like, Oh, this is you know, but Zimbabweans is like, I'm gonna keep it on a down low. You know, I'm gonna like, pretend I don't exist. And that's a trap. I've also fallen for, for years. And I'm just, I, it took me I think it was three years ago, I realized this is something that I done. I'm like, Oh, this is why I have no clue what's happening on the Zimbabwean community, because I've been hiding from it for so long. But again, it's also layered with the fact and this is something that you'd also relate to the whole identity crisis and never feeling Zimbabwean enough. I say this in air quotes for the listeners, but yeah.

Ryan: Wow, that's a it's a trifle. You know, when you talk about layers, I'm like, No, there's some layers in there. And like, you bring up so many good points, because that's exactly why I started African astronauts. It's designed to do that. And it's that picture of getting you know what, African astronauts his idea of not just Zimbabweans. But of course, it's coming from me as a Zimbabwean going I'm an astronaut. I'm out in the world, I had, you know, the ability, thank goodness and the guts to leave home to go and reach for greater things. And I'm out in space actually have a song called Drowning in Space, because I'm like, I'm in space. And I'm just like, it's just me out here, I’m like where’s everybody.  So I've got to learn how to make a space station, I got to learn how to make space food, I've got to learn how to make all sorts of stuff. But then a few clicks that way is another Zimbabwean astronaut doing something similar. And like you're saying, it's this thing of we come from this weird dichotomy where you will learn to go, you know what, I've tried to get out there to be vulnerable and ask for help. And I got, I got burned so many times. And you know, people are not always out for your for your benefit. So I'm just going to keep my cards close to my chest and just get on with it. And I'm going to build my space station. But then we have 1000s of people now building different space stations unnecessarily because if we'd all built one, we'd already have our own International Space Station. So I feel like that's part of what I'm also trying to encourage, again, talking about the mental health, which I've referenced, it's like if people can come out and say, You know what, being vulnerable and sharing is just what you've got to do. And yes, you're going to get hurt. And yes, people are going to be and that's how you get better again, all right, I don't actually share stuff with ningi ningi (so and so) because they're not here for my best interest. But I've now found my three best friends who've got my back. And they're my cheerleaders. And I always go to them. And now because of that, we've got our little ZimExcellence thing going on. But I know who's in there because I wouldn't have found them if I wasn't putting myself out there like you said. So for me, that's always been the way to go. It's like, yes, it's scary. So for me, I got on a plane with like a few $100 to go live in England with no real safety net. But I'd rather do that than stay at home go well, you know, I don't know who's going to have my back. And I don't know, I just had to go and busk and make it happen. So that's my message. I think it's like if we want to change the narrative, that's one of the things I think we should change. And I do even do things like challenge some of our, our elders, you know, it's a wonderful sort of memory I have of being in Victoria Falls with one of my friends. She had just moved back from America, amazing, amazing woman, Meredith and she was sitting with me at the Backpackers Lodge and we were chatting and then this older local gentleman came over and he was like, ‘Eh muzukuru what what’ (Hey young one) and he was talking to me about her right in front of her. And I was like, and he was like it was like this is this is this is this you know, is this your muzikana (girlfriend) What? What? And I was like, sorry, mudara (old man). She's right here. You can ask yourself, like, you know, but he was doing that thing of like, Eh sisi, do you want to be my wife and trying to ask for that. And I was like, and I challenged him on that. I'm like, I get you got to respect your elders. But I was like the certain things I will not condone. And so I'm also about that to go our heritage and our culture. There's a lot of amazing stuff that's in there. But we need to run the virus cleaning software and extract the human software that is holding us back and some of it is this misogny. And some of it is this thing of going well, if I do nothing, I'm safer that way. It's like no, nothing ever gets done that way. You've got to be out there. And of course, we're smart, we’re resilient. So that's covered but also be available and be able to take the punches because you know anyone any of our heroes right now on the big screen. They'll all tell you their stories and like mean Sylvester Stallone is a great example. He had to sell his dog remember that story that went round to sell his dog and the end of the script for for Rocky? They wanted to give him peanuts and he was like nah My script and I'm gonna be in it, but he had to go through that crap. So you know, Stallone, ah sorry Schwarzenegger all these interesting people. So why not.  Don't be afraid of it, you know, go and choose your battles, choose your pain, because that's what I'm doing. I've been homeless I've been traveling around the world with no money, I've been hustling, but I'm choosing my hustle because the reward is not going to be life changing, it's going to be for me multigenerational changing. 

Ryan's Origin Story
Being a mixed race Zimbabwean
What being Zimbabwean means to Ryan
Humility & Self-Criticism in the Zimbabwean Community
Our need for Zimbabwean camaraderie