Women must stop crying foul: Masike

HARARE - Award-winning musician Hope Masike’s ability to seamlessly blend diverse styles such as mbira, jazz, reggae, blues and samba, has won her fans in Zimbabwe and beyond.

The daring mbira player and vocalist has collaborated with all manner of musicians to create captivating new sounds.

The Daily News on Sunday’s Tarisai Machakaire spoke to the mbira diva recently in an attempt to know what makes her tick.

Below are excerpts of the interview.

DNS: Where did you grow up? Do you think these areas had an impact on your music path?

HM: I grew up in Highfield and for a few years I lived in Khami in Bulawayo, and yes the environments I grew up in have had an impact on who I am today.

Because I went to schools which did not have music as a subject, sometimes not even as an extra curriculum activity, I only started learning how to play a music instrument after my “A” Levels.
I went to Mbizi Primary in Highfield and Moray Primary in Bulawayo. The best music experience I had during my school days was in a percussion band.

I went to Danhiko Secondary for my “O” Levels. I had an amazing four years of living and learning with pupils who were physically challenged.

There wasn’t much of a music culture there as well. Then I went to Malbereign Girls High School where I met a lovely Art teacher called Miss Kabwe who groomed the artist in me.

DNS: At what age did you learn to play the mbira?

HM: I started learning mbira only after “A” Levels. This was when I was studying Fine Art at Harare Polytechnic.

One of our lecturers’ friend used to fascinate us because he used to play mbira as he walked down the corridor past our class.

One day we asked him to teach us mbira (three of us) and to our surprise he agreed. I had my first mbira lesson from this kind man.

We called him Sekuru Romeo and I never knew any other name beyond that.

DNS: Tell me about your secondary school days and what you aspired to become before you woke up to find yourself being an internationally acclaimed mbira princess?

I wanted to be an accountant but my art teacher took me to apply for a place at the art school way before my “A” Level results were out.

So I fell in love with art and joined the fine art school. I then had an encounter with mbira while at it and never managed to make time to study accounting.

 I also practised as a fashion designer. It was during this year that I met and designed outfits for great musicians such as Dudu Manhenga and Chiwoniso Maraire.

DNS: Were there particular people who inspired you to take up mbira?

HM: I remember meeting Dudu Manhenga for the first time. I remember her saying “she was a 50-year-old trapped in a twenty-five-year-old body”. She was a mass of burning passion.

I also remember Chiwoniso Maraire speaking passionately about her mbira which she said she kept in a very special place at her home and what her father taught her.

I did backing vocals for Dudu for a month or two before I formed an Afro-Jazz band where I only sang and played no instrument.

I first saw a nyunga nyunga (mbira type) at the Zimbabwe College of Music in 2007 and learnt it faster than other mbiras.

DNS: Did you have the support of your family when you decided to take up mbira?

HM: I must say I have an exceptional family; big and very supportive. My first loyal audience were chairs and my family. I was fortunate to have an educated father.

He was also a very good painter. Even though my grandfather was a well-respected AFM Reverend and we were a very Christian family, my father let me pursue my mbira passion even though one or two people wanted me to try Accounting or nursing.

DNS: How was your first album received by the market?

HM: My first album is one of the most precious gifts I have had from God. I was so naive music-wise.

Up to now I am not sure where I got the guts to actually spend all my hard-earned fashion-designing money on an album.

My band and I were so raw, untamed and very zealous.

I knew I had something different to offer and Monolio Studios did try to capture that.

Without much knowledge of music, the music industry itself and without much of a plan, I did an album.

DNS: When was your first international tour? How many countries have you been to because of the mbira?

HM: My first outside gig with mbira was with Umoja. I remember that “ndakaona pfumvu tsvuku kuti ndiwane passport” (because I faced a lot of difficulties to secure a passport).

I travelled to Norway with a group of other young artistes from Zimbabwe. This was my first flight out of Zimbabwe .

I got to play on an international stage with artistes from other countries. Remember I was just a talented young girl from the ghetto.

Meeting people from other countries and actually working with them was very new for me. But Umoja helped me place a dear value on my traditional values and the power of collaborating.

After Umoja in 2007, I decided to take mbira seriously, along with other traditional music styles.

DNS: How has your collaboration with Monoswezi helped expand your music career?

HM: I went to Norway in 2011 after spending after struggling for a long time to get an opportunity to tour with my local band. Me and my band never got the chance to go on a tour.

Instead, I met four young men with whom I shared interests in Jazz and African music. We met during this exchange programme called Fredscopset. We played around with our instruments and liked what was happening.

So we recorded in 2011. This album only got released this year 2013 on the London label, World Music Network.

Monoswezi is a highly experimental outfit.

We are not restricted by any definition of music style. We just do what we feel like doing with our music.

No gig is ever the same as the other, because our songs draw inspiration from the moment.

DNS: Do you have any icons that you attribute your successes and growth to?

HM: I attribute what I have managed to become to many artists. Locally, Mai nababa Charamba for helping me read the Bible by merely listening to them; Dudu Manhenga-Muparutsa for clever branding;Leornard Zhakata for his humble humanity;Chiwoniso for the talent; Oliver Mtukudzi for his resilience;Steve Makoni for intelligent humour; Edith weUtonga for playing the bass guitar-an instrument considered unconventional for women; Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana for the lovely voice; Winky D for singing for the masses … the list is too long.

Internationally I have always loved Salif Keita, the golden voice of Africa and many more.

DNS: What are your ambitions? You seem unstoppable especially after scooping the Nama.

What should Zimbabwe expect from Hope?

HM: My ambitions are as many as the stars in the African night skies.

What I can assert for sure is that I have been testing the waters, soon I shall dive. The Nama was an honour I will forever cherish.

Unstoppable and unapologetic for it is what I intend to be all my life. I have a calling which I am yet to fulfil.

DNS: What kind of dishes do you prefer?

Haaaa, inini here? Hameno kuti sei mutupo wangu usiri shumba nekuti nyama ndinoifarira samare. (My totem should have been the lion because I eat meat a lot)

DNS: What informs the way you dress?

I strive to dress the way I want to be addressed.

DNS: Apart from music what else do you do?

HM: I am a full time artist doing all sorts of artistic work and I am also an art administrator. Whatever form of art and culture you can think of, i am involved in it one way or the other.

DNS: Any boyfriend, fiancée, marriage plans or children?

HM: I am spoiled for choice! Or at least that’s what many people think.

It’s actually not like that at all. Pane mukomana wandinofarira, but iye haandide. So until I meet someone else anondidao, wandinodao …!

DNS: As a young lady who has been quite successful what is your advice for other women?

HM: I once had a lecturer who used to say “there is one thing common between a fool walking down the streets and Bill Gates; they both have 24 hours in a day”.

I am fast getting to a point where it’s embarrassing to keep crying foul on injustices that were done against women or even those that are still being done.

A good number of us haven’t really been oppressed or suppressed, because we never rose up, so there was never anything that suppressed us.

This is the age when the African women must rise, grab the bull by the horns and stop complaining.

Fight off injustices in your space; claim it, unstoppably and unapologetically!  - Tarisai Machakaire

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