THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Inside/Out with singer-songwriter Ryan Koriya
September 09, 2011

Full interview with Ryan Koriya - Read and listen

Describe yourself in five words?
Diverse, in-depth . . . how about paradoxical? I'm the opposite of what people expect.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Decide what you want and then go for it.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
There are probably a few things on that list. But I suppose being on a train going to London, having lived in the countryside, and having no idea where I'm sleeping that night.

What is your most treasured possession?
The ability to be me is my most treasured possession. I am a very complex person, and I'm also someone who is very different. That's my strength, that's what makes me interesting.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I think as an artist that's something I know quite well. I've struggled with depression and I still do. You can imagine when things aren't going well, and you're not living the way you want or need to.
There's a song by Seal where one line goes ‘when you lose your self esteem, that's when love dies', for me when you start getting to the point where you give up, and you doubt yourself, then that's it. I mean what else can you have? There's another amazing line by Faithless that goes ‘if the sun or the moon would give way to doubt, they would immediately go out. One swallow doesn't make a summer, but tomorrow has to start somewhere'. It starts with you. You have to be as confident in yourself as you can be.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
I love aeroplanes. The other day I was at Kelly Rusike's studio, and I heard jets flying over, and I went running outside to see them. I nearly went through the window. I think people would find that strange. Flying for me is a modern miracle. I have dreams about flying . . . not on a plane, but actually flying.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Like a lot of people, there are some things that bug me. I can't really say what it is I don't like, it's more what it does to me, like sometimes I'll look in the mirror and go ‘damn!' I think it's a human thing.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Have you met me? I'm a musician . . . that can come down to buying a packet of biltong. Music is part of it. I'll go and buy a CD from my favourite artist. Nowadays we don't really buy a lot of music.

What do you have in your fridge?
Fanta grape, pine nuts, eggs. I love eggs. Mayonnaise, I prefer that to margarine. Bread. I love meat, so we're talking sausages, but not pork. It's nice to be home where I can get beef or chicken sausages. Mince.

What is your greatest fear?
Not fulfilling my potential. If I think about the stuff that I'm capable of or the things that I know that I can do given the right resources, but life gets in the way. I've been doing a lot of surviving, rather than doing what I think I'm good at. So I'm afraid that when it's all over, I won't even have begun.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
A phone, and a torch because this is Zim.

Interviewer: Why do you have a torch? It's the middle of the day?
RK: But I might go somewhere, to a dungeon, or a venue with no lights . . .
Interviewer: seriously, a dungeon is an actual possibility for you?
RK: Yes it is. Or I could be looking for something in a dark car boot. I also have three pens and a lighter even though I don't smoke, pocket tissues, an iPod, tic-tacs, car keys and a wallet.
Interviewer: The iPod makes sense, but what's with the lighter?
RK: The lighter is always a good idea, it's so handy, lights go out and immediately I can light a candle or I'm at a braai and I can light the fire. Something tells me that having fire even in this modern age is still a useful thing.

What is your favourite journey?
There isn't really a favourite journey. For me it's about the journey. I think life is a journey, every day is different, and I enjoy that.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Nelson Mandela, he's been central to modern day thinking about southern Africa. But also he was incarcerated for almost thirty years and he forgave the people who did that to him. That's a great example. I've got personal heroes, like my mom's brothers. They didn't really come from much but they've made themselves so successful and they're raising families. For me they're such great guys. And my mother, raising me, it was easy. I have musical heroes like sting, John Mayer, Seal. Not just as musicians but in terms of who they are as people. John Mayer for instance lives his life on his own terms.

When and where were you happiest?
I've been happy in different times and places. Some of the happiest times I can remember are finally getting a visa to go to the UK and being able to chase my dream. I was very excited and very scared.

What is your biggest vice?
It's being very open; people have told me that I'm too honest or open.

What were you like at school?
Very arty, I didn't do any sports. Very academic - A stream all the way. Acting, it started when I was in grade three, speech and drama, Allied Arts . . .

What are you doing next?
I'm hoping to see Kelly Rusike, because he's just moved his studio, so I want to see what he's up to. It would be nice to collaborate and work with local artists while I'm here.

Visit the fact sheet

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.