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S1MBA Is the Gift That Keeps Giving

Leonard Simbarashe Rwodzi, aka S1MBA has spent his whole life around music. Born in Zimbabwe, where he played djembe drums and joined a marimba band, S1MBA moved to the UK aged nine when his horticulturist father got a job as a gardener. While finishing primary school, he learned to play piano, and soon joined the church band. “In church you don’t learn to read music, you learn as you go. Being in church helped me to be better as a musician,” he recalls.
He spent a lot of time practicing piano and drums; raised on Zimbabwean music like Thomas Mapfumo and Afro-jazz legend Oliver Mtukudzi as well as gospel and mainstream American R&B artists like Chris Brown, S1MBA has always been an open-minded listener. Moving to the UK exposed him to more sounds than ever before: as well as the grime and UK rap that most of his peers were into, he’d go through phases in EDM and indie rock, citing TwentyOnePilots and Two Door Cinema club as particular inspirations.
He initially studied engineering in college, but quickly switched to Music Technology his second year, he learned how to record himself properly, and began to make his own songs from scratch. While he hadn’t really thought about releasing any of the music, one song ‘The Plan’ got a reaction locally when his friends teased it on SnapChat during a studio session. When he received messages asking him to release it, he uploaded the song to a new YouTube account, unexpectedly doing 10,000 views in a week. “When I was going around Swindon people were stopping in cars, shouting my name,” he remembers.
Fans of the song soon began asking about a video – which seemed like the logical next step. So S1mba obliged, getting some friends to help him out. One of the scenes would need to be shot in a restaurant, so they reached out to Gavin Green, the owner of a Jamaican spot that had become their local hangout. Gavin was happy for them to use the restaurant, and – having formerly worked as Chip’s creative director – offered to help them make some connections in the industry. During the video shoot he called SB.TV who ended up hosting the video on their channel, doing 70,000 streams independently and becoming a local hit. The experience was enough for S1MBA to start taking his music even more seriously, and he released four more independent singles – all with videos – across the past two years.
S1mba’s music embraces his heritage and musical upbringing, you can tell that he’s of African descent, but also that he grew up immersed in UK music culture. “I took my gospel influence, but I also listen to trap, I listen to hip-hop, I listen to grime. So I infuse it together,” he explains. His infectious vocals twist fluidly between melody and rhythm, bending to whatever best suits the song.
S1MBA began to expand his sound by collaborating with co-producers last year, beginning with his biggest track to date ‘Rover’. He recalls walking to the studio space of producer RELYT and hearing the in-progress instrumental booming from outside. “I hope that’s the producer we’re meeting,” he recalls telling his manager. Once inside the studio, he worked quickly, capturing the moment and writing the song within twenty minutes. “It’s more natural that way,” he explains. “I don’t like thinking about it too much. I don’t like not having fun with it.” He released ‘Rover’ featuring DTG. Watch HERE.  Shot in London, the video premiered last year across LINK UP TV and catches S1MBA rocking it out with his crew. Rover has garnered millions of streams across all platforms to date plus playlist support from Spotify across Who We Be, This Is How We Do, Certi, Afrobashment and many more.
He’s since been in the studio with producers RymesBPM, ILL Blu, Show N Prove and JoJoF working on his debut EP, which will be packed with Summer anthems that will introduce him to a broader audience. S1MBA is ready to put Swindon/Oxford on the map for 2020. With such a rich musical DNA, his ambitions are set on a long-standing career that transcends his current role as a recording artist. “I want to be known as that guy, where music was his thing.”

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