Taps Mugadza: ‘Expect to be moved'

At Bradley Fair Concert

Written by Joe Stumpe

Taps Mugadza possesses more than just a soul-stirring voice. His life story is pretty remarkable, too.

Given up for adoption when two days old, Mugadza grew up in an orphanage in Harare, Zimbabwe — the southern Africa nation’s capital and largest city — and later a home for older boys. He never met his parents or any other relatives, but he found another kind of love in music.

When he performs at Bradley Fair’s Summer Concert Series on June 14, you’ll hear him interpret hits by artists such as Adele and U2. But listen closely to the words of his original songs, and you’ll hear something else.

“I think they’re going to go through a journey of my life,” Mugadza said in a telephone interview last month, during a break from recording sessions and concert appearances. “I kind of speak about it, then tell my story through the songs. Expect to get moved, to get inspired about your challenges, whatever they are.”

Mugadza is far from a household name, but give him time. His YouTube covers of Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” and Labrinth’s “Jealous” each racked up more than a million views.

Mugadza says that like most people, he would have preferred growing up in a traditional family. He was treated well at the orphanage and boy’s home, but at 18 faced another challenge when he “aged out” of the latter.

“I had nowhere to go, but thankfully my youth pastor took me in,” he said. “I house-hopped until I got a chance to come to the United States.”

That opportunity came through Rock of Africa, a Christian relief organization with which Mugadza had been volunteering. “The head of the organization asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to go to America to see Disneyland. That was why I came over.”

Mugadza said he was “jet-lagged” — and perhaps a little too old — to enjoy the theme park when he actually visited, but he found another reason to stay in California: the Musicians Institute, a college in Hollywood. Mugadza obtained a student visa and graduated with honors from the school six years ago.

He’s been performing, writing and recording music full-time since then. Mugadza said his biggest musical influences are solo performers such as Adele and Tracy Chapman, ‘80s rock and English music. African music plays a role, too, in the form of chants in some songs.

While his covers have drawn the most attention, Mugadza said creating songs like “Waiting For You” and “Wanna Hear Your Voice” are even more important to him. “I’m definitely a songwriter. I have to express my childhood through my songs. It’s quite therapeutic.”

Mugadza is finishing up his second EP, which he’s calling “31 Denbigh,” the address of the St. Joseph’s House for Boys in Zimbabwe where he spent the years 9 through 18. He has shows scheduled in South Africa, Jamaica and Miami this summer.

The Bradley Fair concert will be his second time in Wichita. Last year, he spoke at the Wichita Children’s Home, then performed a show here.

“I’ve been working with a lot of organizations to try to bring awareness to kids aging out of orphanages when they’re 18,” Mugadza said. “A lot of kids are left without the tools. They’re 18 and they’re supposed to know what to do because they’re ‘adults.’ Really they have no clue.”

“It’s not just an African problem, it’s around the world.”

Bradley Fair Summer Concert Series

June 7 — Jessy J, contemporary jazz saxophonist
June 14 — Taps Mugadza, pop and soul singer
June 21 — Jonathan Fritzen, keyboardist on 10th anniversary tour
June 28 — The JT Project, sax-and-keyboard duo
July 5 — Joseph Vincelli, a Bradley Fair favorite, followed by fireworks display

All shows start at 7:30 p.m. Chairs may be placed on the plaza each Thursday after 6 a.m. Wine, cocktails and soft drinks are available for purchase.

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