The Sunday Mail
“…I’m certainly better than her. My shows attract at least 10 paying fans while her gigs are only graced by fellow artistes, band members, waitresses and journalists. Anotoda kubikirwa doro uya kuti zvifaye (she needs a cleansing ceremony for things to work for her),” said one female singer in a light conversation about the difficulties music divas face, especially with regards to live performances.
Despite dissing each other in private and presenting a united front in public, Zimbabwe’s music divas are one exciting lot — they yearn for success and have an enormous fighting spirit within them.
But that is not the subject matter of the day.
Getting a breakthrough in the cut-throat music industry is one thing while maintaining relevance is another. There are singers that are popular for their high rotation on radio stations, yet they have little or no presence when it comes to live performances.
Conversely, there are those that have a robust live stage presence and are darlings of many while they have no songs played on national radio.
Below, we randomly look at a few divas that have emerged, prospered, stagnated or drowned over the years.
The stagnant & once upon a time squad
It once was a taboo to discuss female musicians without mentioning names like Lady Squanda, Bounty Lisa, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, Lyn “Eriza” Magodo, Pauline Gundidza, Pah Chihera and Tererai Mugwadi.
But the only “lively” thing that Lady Squanda’s fans currently remember about their icon is her 2016 assault of comedian Tinashe Matika aka Skimbo. The chanter fled the country after the criminal incident, fearing arrest. She, however, later sneaked back into the country but has been more or less dormant since then.
As for Bounty Lisa, her career appears like it was “bedroom inspired”.
The chanter’s nasty break with live-in boyfriend, Soul Jah Love, did not only shatter her heart but creativeness as well. Soul Jah Love was her music pulse and it will probably take great effort for her to bounce back from the music boneyard.
And our beloved gospel sister Zvakavapano-Mashavave has thus far tried all sorts of theatrics to stay afloat.
Talk of collaborations with dancehall sensation Killer T and the controversial 2016 announcement that she was “not a gospel musician and never wanted to be labelled such”.
To her credit, the antics have in the past helped keep her in the limelight, but the “Vanondibatirana” singer’s fountain of tricks seems to have finally run dry.
For Tererai Mugwadi, it is not just about being quiet musically.
The “Waenda” singer has in the last decade or so made headlines with off stage antics, including alcohol abuse, violence, a sex-tape and other related problems. The good thing is that Tererai has finally realised that she is now in the doldrums and has decided to quit music.
Eriza blew hot after featuring on Jah Prayzah’s video which carried the same title and that was it. Afterwards, she went on to release some personal projects. It was all to no avail.
And it does not get better for another one hit wonder — Pah Chihera. Pah Chihera is a gifted singer but things are just not happening for her. She has struggled to outgrow her wizardry on the six-year-old “Runonzi Rudo” featuring Prince Musarurwa.
High-flying and difficult to define divas
In this category names that quickly come to mind include that of Janet Manyowa, Diana Samkange, Selmor Mtukudzi, Miriam “Sasha” Lishomwa, Tamy Moyo, Mai Patai, Ammi Jamanda, Ammara Brown, Sandra Ndebele, Cindy Munyavi, Hope Masike, Kikky Badass and Tariro neGitare.
Most people still wonder how Manyowa has on several occasions walked away with gongs at different awards ceremonies. What is certain is that the gospel musician, just like her counterpart Mai Patai, has a healthy fan base. Their followers are not your usual live show enthusiasts. They are individuals that support their artistes through votes in competitions of any sort, through social media mostly.
In the last five years, Manyowa has won numerous awards ranging from Nama, Permican, Zima and the Star FM Music Awards, etcetera.
Another difficult to ignore character is the late Dr Oliver Mtukudzi’s daughter, Selmor. The Afro-jazz musician has been in the music industry for the past 10 years, made a name for herself through hits like “Nguva Yangu” and “Hangasa”. But things have moved a notch up.
Selmor is currently one of the most sought-after performers in the country. She is playing before healthy crowds at her recently introduced “KwaTuku” gigs.
Tamy of the “Ndibereke” fame is one of the in-form young female artistes. The 21-year-old is currently riding high on a wave, one that we certainly could not do justice explaining in a few paragraphs.
The demise of mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire created a vacuum that has been discerningly eyed by transformed singer Diana “Mangwenya” Samkange. Her latest offering “Kumanginde” might not have thus far produced an outstanding hit but the traditional album has created a new wave for the “Kumagumo” singer.
It has rejuvenated her music career, particularly on the live gig front.
Corporates as well as music promoters now have renewed interest in Mangwenya.
Then Sasha currently has a single track titled “2 Timer” while she is putting final touches to her debut album “Mutsindo”.
The pint-sized mbira diva, who is inspired by the late Mbuya Madhuve, is no push over when it comes to live performances.
She regularly captivates patrons in and outside Harare with cover versions of yesteryear hits from both living and fallen legends. The coming in of a new album will most likely spur her music career to a new high as it might expose her to national radio audiences.
In the same league with Sasha is Ammi Jamanda. Both ladies rarely have their music played on national radio but they have a heavy presence during live shows.
Enter Hope Masike, Cindy Munyavi, Ammara Brown, Kikky Badass and Sandra Ndebele. These women are a rare breed. They have ways of capturing unique audiences and reinventing themselves periodically.