He’s already a rising star in Yellowknife’s music community, and now he’s about to make a splash at the city’s premiere music festival.

Munya Mataruse will be performing on the main stage at Folk on the Rocks (FOTR) on the last day of festivities: Sunday, July 17.

It’s a big leap from the more intimate shows he’s been playing since arriving in Canada.

“I would say this is one of the biggest events I’m going to play,” he says.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Mataruse moved to Yellowknife in 2020 to find work amid the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the music scene was dormant at the time, once he was able to perform again, his popularity in the community quickly took off.

“I was really, really surprised, to see how people were responding to my music,” he says.

Musically, Mataruse creates a fusion of traditional and contemporary, African and Western. Rooted in Shangara and other styles from his native Zimbabwe, his music incorporates elements of jazz and other Western influences into a unique style. His music features the mbira, a traditional handheld Zimbabwean instrument featuring metal tines that are plucked with the fingers. Because this instrument is limited to only a couple of keys, Mataruse also uses the guitar to expand his horizons.

“I’m just trying to focus and target a bigger audience,” he says. “I don’t want it to be 100 per cent African; I don’t want it to be 100 per cent Western. I want it to be in between so that I can cater to a big market.”

Mataruse got his shot at the main stage when he performed at the Folk on the Rocks Main Stage Showdown in June. Despite the fierce competition, the panel of judges was swayed by his performance and his interaction with the crowd.

“The competition was really tough. There were some good musicians,” he says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, we’ll just see what’s gonna happen.’ But I wasn’t expecting to win. And I won.”

For his main stage performance, Mataruse says he’ll be making use of his trademark audience interaction.

“I’m not the kind of musician who goes on stage and when they do their performance, they don’t even communicate with the crowd,” he says. “My kind of style is I engage the crowd. And I know several people that have been buying tickets, because they really want my style, so they’re expecting it. So I’m going to continue doing the same style. I think this is kind of my niche.

“This is actually a perfect opportunity for me to market myself out there, so I’m really happy.”

Tickets and a complete setlist are available on the FOTR website at www.folkontherocks.com.

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