Thursday, July 16, 2009
An Innocent Interview by Dertrick Winn Jr.
Seventeen-year-old Innocent [Tswamuno] is in the Electronic Music Production track. I was in the music area of USC’s PIC room when I saw him in one of the piano rooms playing. My original intention was to just go in and hang out with him, until I realized it was the perfect setting for an insightful interview. I entered the room in the middle of his tune. Trying not to seem rude I sat down, waited a minute and requested an interview. He didn’t look up. He gracefully ended his tune, turned to face me and said, “Sure man, that’s cool.”
Innocent was born in in the country of Zimbabwe, in the continent of Africa. He grew up with poor living conditions and hard times that most of the country was going through in the mid-'90s, where music was the primary healing for all the pain. At the age of eight years old, young “Inno” taught himself how to play keys on a keyboard that his father brought home one day. “I don’t know where he got the money,” says Innocent, “But one day he brought home this keyboard, and I started to play with it, started to teach myself how to play.” Innocent is an excellent piano player, and I couldn’t believe it when he told me he had never taken professional lessons/instruction before. “Every day I’d come home and practice. I would do my work and practice for an hour or until bed time.”
I asked Innocent about his inspirations or influences in music. He mentioned moving to the U.S. and listenening to David Benoit, a credited jazz pianist, who was the first musician to receive the American Jazz Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. However, his first answer was, “My mom was my inspiration. She would always sing to me. My dad wasn’t really musical, and I guess since he was the man of the house he was always moving around, trying to hustle and make ends meet. We didn’t spend much time together since he was away, so my mom was the one who inspired me."
When Innocent’s older brother moved to Connecticut, he began sending Innocent CDs of American music. That’s when he was introduced to the style of R&B, rap, hip-hop, jazz, and others. “Back then I didn’t have a CD player, so I would go to my friends house and listen to the CDs there."
Innocent moved to America two years ago and is already speaking and reading in English just fine. He remembers when he first came the U.S, and he jokes around about how the only thing he could say at first was, "Hi." He is a very outgoing person, and doesn’t find it hard to fit in with the other campers, he is often singing and joking during down time at camp, and fellow campers enjoy his company.