Singer Fungisai Mashavave Zvakavapano is a household name. Harare News sat down with the singer and Women’s University in Africa graduate and found out what makes her tick.
How did you get into the music industry?
I started out as a backing vocalist for Taso, Elias Musakwa, and The Shalom Singers. Musakwa became my executive producer after Zivanai Masango produced my first demo project.
Tell us about your genre of music.
I cut across genres to cater for a diverse audience with varying music tastes, but my sound is rooted in Zimbabwean traditional music: chimurenga and chikende. God blessed me beyond measure – I am comfortable and not afraid of trying new, trendy music. My music varies according to target audience, and so does my message which can be social or religious depending on the context.
I have learnt to diversify because of exposure. I was once invited to a Buddhist sponsored event by the First lady when she was breaking ground for the construction of her Children’s Home in Mazoe. It made me realise the importance of embracing and accommodating human differences and I started appreciating the need for universal social messages like Mwanasikana Munhu, Zuva Rabuda, Hupenyu Inguva Pfupi, and Haiwa Kunyeba.
How hard was it for women in the music industry when you started?
There are social barriers, political dynamics, patriarchy and religious-ascribed rules that restrict the development of women in performing arts. Despite the fact that both men and women are faced with a common predicament, they have different starting points as women are constrained. What this means is the Zimbabwean music industry is dominated by male artists at entertainment centres across the whole country. As a woman, you have to be bold to challenge the status quo. At the same time, very few women manage to sustain a music career. Being a female artist is not free from social consequences like ridicule for everything and anything you try to do.
Who are your role models?
I grew up admiring Shuvai Wutaunashe, Busi Ncube, Stella Chiweshe, Susan Chenjerai Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Rebecca Malope – basically every woman who was singing on TV. Right now I admire female musicians who have challenged the status quo and succeeded in following their dreams against all odds.
How do you view the music industry at the moment?
The industry is on its knees because most of the legitimate music distribution channels have closed down. Piracy has taken over. Back then we had Spinalong, flea markets and department stores across the nation where you could buy music. That’s not the case anymore. Because of diminishing returns on music, musicians and record companies are no longer keen to invest in quality music. This has led to the mushrooming of backyard digital record companies, a decline in the quality of music and a lot of live bands failing.
Do you have any advice to young women in music?
Kungoteerera Mwari nevabereki (fear the Lord and honour your parents) is the best formula to a long, rewarding life.
Has there been an incident in your life or career where you can you say you were misunderstood?
I am a multi-skilled person with Christian beliefs. Sometimes people get confused when they see so many attributes in one person. For example, when I applied marketing principles to my music career it turned into the ‘Red Rose and Shingisai saga.’ [She is referring here to a dispute she had with promoter Red Rose about the size of her likeness on a poster for a show she was meant to perform with Shingisai Suluma].
I was misunderstood based on socially constructed misconceptions of what a Christian artist should be. I find joy in applying my academic and professional qualifications to the development of my career [she has a degree in marketing] and I always uphold and defend my dream even if it means going against the norm because I know that time vindicates truth.
How do you deal with criticism, for instance when you collaborated with dancehall musician Killer T?
I am self-aware and a very strong character who is determined to achieve my dreams especially when I am convinced that my actions are right before God and will impact positively on society. My multi-dimensional personality makes it simple for me to sail through storms. I studied sociology, marketing management, fashion design. Also being a Christian, I have a sophisticated approach to my music career.
What else do you enjoy doing besides music?
I love fashion design.
Tell us about your family.
I am a happily married mum of three beautiful angels: Tawananyasha, Matipanyasha, Wenyasha.
Where do you view yourself five years from now?
I am just about to conclude my music career actually. I hope to be done by the end of this year.
Any parting words to your fans?
I love them and I appreciate their love and support!
Image Credit: Fungisai Mashavave