‘I am my father’s protégé’

10 Mar, 2019 - 00:03 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

ON August 22 1983, Oliver Mtukudzi and Melody Murape were blessed with a second daughter — they named her Selmor. Together with her older sister Sandra, the young family of four lived in Eastlea, Harare.

The girl did her grade one and two at Admiral Tait Primary School. Her dear parents then divorced, changing her life forever, as she had to move from her affluent school to the high-density suburb of Highfield where she enrolled at Mbizi Primary School. She lived with her grandmother, Jessica Mtukudzi.

Decades later, the girl is now a grown woman, a wife, a full-fledged artiste and a mother of three. She stands on the cusp of another potentially life-changing episode in her life, and career. Below is her story, in her own words. Read on …

Sometimes my father would come and pick me up after school to go for rehearsals, film shoots and musical recordings. In a way, my career began when I was only 10. I was discovered by my own father.

I did films, appearing in the movie “I Am the Future” and in a local drama series “Vana Vanokosha”. I also did soundtracks for these projects. After completing school at Sandringham High School, I went to work as a sales representative for Adam and Sons.

However, my passion would not fade away, in contrast, it increased and I became desperate to leave the job. It was a typical nine-to-five job that left me with no time to either express or prove my creativity. Fortuitously, one day I was late for work and got fired on the spot. It was then that I immediately signed up as a backing vocalist for several bands on the Harare music scene. These included Kwekwe Band, Jabavu Drive, Tanga Wekwa Sando and Pax Afro, where I met my husband, Tendai Manatsa, whom I married in 2007. We have since been blessed with three children.

In 2005/6, I joined my father’s band after one of his backing vocalists decided not to come back to Zimbabwe after a tour of the United States of America. After a year, my father told me to go and focus on my own thing and follow my own path. This happened at the same time that several of the Black Spirits band members were also let go.

From then on, my then boyfriend (Tendai Manatsa) and I, started our own band and started performing at the Book Cafe every Tuesday. In 2008, I released my debut album titled “Shungu”. The album did very well in heralding my arrival on the music scene as a solo artiste. I went on to release two joint albums with my husband titled Selmor and Tendai “Live” in 2011, which was recorded in front of a live audience at the 7 Arts Theatre in Avondale, Harare, and “Ndinewe” (I Am With You).  In 2012, my sister Sandra became my manager and in 2013 I released my fourth album “Expressions”. It featured the big hit “Nguva Yangu”, which was nominated for a National Arts Merit Award (Nama) and Zimbabwe Music Awards (Zima).

It went on to bag a gong at the Africa Entertainment Awards in America. Several other awards followed. In 2015, I released my fifth album titled “I Am Woman” with the track “Zvidikidiki” winning a Nama award for Outstanding Female of the Year, Africa Entertainment Awards USA Best Female Single and also got a Zima nomination for Best Video of the Year and ZIWA UK Best Female Artiste of the Year.

My track “Butterflies” is the sound track for the Zimbabwe International Film Festival and Nama awards nominated movie “Escape”, in which I played one of the leading roles.  In 2015, I came together with eight other leading female artistes from Africa — Judith Sephuma (South Africa), Victoria Kimani (Kenya), Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania), ArielleT (Gabon), Omotola (Nigeria), Waje (Nigeria), Yemi Alade (Nigeria) and Blessing (South Africa). We collaborated on a song titled “Strong Girl”, which was used to promote the campaign #PovertyIsSexist across the world asking the world leaders to tackle poverty by addressing gender equality.

Later that year I collaborated with Bono, who is the lead singer for the famous American Rock Band, U2, and also featured D’Banj from Nigeria, Tanzanian Diamond Platinumz and Banky W also from Nigeria.

The year 2017 saw me release the hit single “Hangasa”, in which I collaborated with Macdee as the producer and my husband Tendai on guitar. The heavens opened up for me as I released another well-received track in 2018 titled “Vakanaka Vakarara”, which comprised of three different versions — an acoustic set, a live band and Zim House mix.

I have toured countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Canada, UK and America with my band. In 2012, the relationship between my father and I became sour and for a while we were not on talking terms. Things only got better in 2016 which culminated in pictures of us together in the studio at Pakare Paye Arts Centre. Our relationship got even better after that — we worked things out and were, in fact, working on a song together when he passed away.

Eventually my dad would apologise to Sandra and I for not having been the father he had wanted to be to us. I miss him. I loved him. I wish we had more time together. But I promise to try and carry on his legacy — to tend to his multitudes of fans to the best of my abilities. But I’m not trying to be him or to replace him — I will just be me yet celebrating his artistry and his music every time I take to the stage.

There have been rumours that my mother (Daisy) and I do not see eye-to-eye, they are unfounded and not true. When we meet it is amicable, there is no fighting. I have championed and continue to work for the causes of Zimbabwe Big 5 Animals Conservation (Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino and Cheetah) and I sit on the board for Keepers Alert Organisation, which seeks to empower the youth. I’m also on the board of Afro-Jumbo Trust, which is out to help stop the poaching of elephants in Zimbabwe.

In 2017 I founded Vabvana Trust, which seeks to empower young women and girls.

My experience working with ONE.org enabled me to see certain opportunities and I felt that I had to make a difference in another girl’s life. The challenges I faced growing up in a broken home gave me the passion to want to help other girls who might be going through the same issues.

I give this context to show that I am a product of my father, that I learnt so many things from him even though I did not see it at the time, to learn on my own and chart my own path. Today, with him gone — I carry a heavy responsibility to take his legacy into the future.

Selmor was speaking to The Sunday Mail Leisure Editor Mtandazo Dube.

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