A phone call answered from 8000km away, and a voice says that your mother has passed on. How could anyone bear that much pain, especially for a 15-year-old son?
That was what Taona Oswald Chipunza aka 'Teemak' from Zimbabwe had to endure, back in September 2012 while he was in Malaysia.
“The worst thing that could ever happen to me, happened, I could not see myself surviving in this world without my mother and I was hurt.”
As a young boy, Teemak had always been very fond of music, and he knew he was born for it. At 9 years old, he and his mother recorded an album together titledMother & Son. The album was his mother’s dream, and they both wanted to do it together. However, as things got busier and time was not on their side, his mother could not fully commit to making music with him. Nevertheless, Teemak continued on his own and started singing at churches.
In 2011, 14-year-old Teemak moved to Malaysia to pursue his studies. Apart from that, he also started writing raps as a way to express himself. He was a natural when it came to putting words together.
“I listened to many rappers who were as young as me and that motivated me to follow the passion of rap," said Teemak.
His initial stage name was actually Lil Tee, Tee being derived from his first name Taona. He recorded his first song titled Good Life, performing it everywhere as the song filled him with immense happiness. He was not just outstanding in front of a crowd, rapping his heart out; even the crowd thought he was outstanding.
As more papers were inked with rap lyrics, Teemak felt closer to achieving his dream of becoming a rapper musician, since people around him were amazed at his talent at such a young age.
In June 2012, his favourite song of all time titled My Ambition was recorded which led to releasing publicly in September. He was ecstatic about it so he sent the song to his friends, and all the way to Zimbabwe for his mother to hear it through his younger brother.
“My younger brother made her listen to it, and he said that she loved it.”
Everything was going so well for Teemak, until a few weeks later. On 15th September, his mother, Makanyara passed away in her sleep due to heart failure. With a heavy heart, he flew back to his birthplace to attend her funeral.
“I released My Ambition 13 days later after her funeral, in honour of her life," expressed Teemak.
Most 15-year-old's would react negatively to a situation like this, but not Teemak. He decided that Lil Tee was not working for him anymore, as he was getting older. In honour of his mother and her dream of recording their first album together, he decided to be Teemak, with ‘Tee’ derived from his first name Taona, and ‘Mak’ from his mother’s name Makanyara.
Since then, he knew that his mother had always been the sole inspiration to his music and the songs he has been writing.
“I feel her around me sometimes. She is the reason as to why I put my heart and soul into every single word I write.”
Teemak has achieved much success in his music career. His latest single Heaven and Hell has been on the music charts 3 times in a row back in Zimbabwe. He has also won for the Osiris International Talent in Malaysia in April 2016.
Other than rap, he also creates hip-hop music, rhythm & blues as well as soulful music that focuses on spreading the message of love.
After everything that Teemak has been through, his biggest challenge yet is having self-doubt. But with time, he learned to appreciate the talent he has been gifted, and use it to impact the world as best as he could.
“Stay true to your ambition and never be afraid of who you are. Be original as possible, because no one wants another Beyoncé or Ed Sheeran," said Teemak.
He collaborated with an award winning artist from Zimbabwe to produce a song titled 24 which will be released on 15th September, which marks four years since his mother’s passing.
Despite all that has happened to Teemak, he will not stop at nothing. Music has brought him divine peace and has strengthened him when he was weak. We can all learn from Teemak that with passion, if you put your mind to something, anything is possible.