Zim's afro-folk queen aims big

HARARE - When Netsayi Chigwendere left Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom slightly over a decade ago to study television production , she had no idea she would return home as an afro folk musician.

“I had gone to UK to do a Masters in film producing and ended up singing in bands with my friends,” said Netsayi.

“I was invited to sing backing vocals on a two month tour of Australia and started writing my songs.”

The couple of months Netsayi spent on tour in Australia inspired her to take her music craft seriously.

The afro folk musician, whose idol is Chimurenga music superstar Thomas Mapfumo, began to work on developing a distinctive sound which blends jazzy vocals with mbira-inspired grooves.

Netsayi’s unique sound, which sometimes adds a subtle lilt of reggae, a sudden crack of hip-hop rhythms, fuses traditional and modern instruments.

Her 'contemporary folk’ music which is based on folkloric music of Zimbabwe earned her recognition in the UK while at the same time giving her a passport to some of the world’s greatest arts festivals.

“I got a chance to perform at WOMAD festival and my best friend was in the organising team and she started managing me and helped create networks. She introduced me to prominent people in the European arts industry.”

Netsayi made a grand entrance on the European music scene when a demo that she had recorded for a song titled Tatters was played on BBC radio 1.

“My entry was big! I had recorded a demo for my song Tatters in 2005 and was thrilled to hear Trevor Nelson play it on BBC radio 1. I have performed at London Jazz Festival, Spitz, ICA, Royal Festival Hall and WOMAD.

“I went on tour with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and those guys are so humble, professional and seasoned. It’s important in this industry to see people who conduct themselves with dignity; one doesn’t often get the chance to spend protracted time with very successful musicians so I absorbed a lot just from being in their presence daily.”

Having made reasonable success in Europe, Netsayi quietly returned home in 2010 determined to make a mark in her homeland.

She waited for a full year to putting in place a strategy after which she assembled a band called 'Black Pressure' which has become popular with Zimbabwean music lovers.

“When I returned I spent a whole year chilled getting basic things in order. I met Raymond Mupfumira and he helped me meet other musicians because I had been away for ten years and my work was only released in Europe.

“I wanted to concentrate on traditional instruments and the sound I am releasing now is more relevant to my audience here,” added Netsayi.

The talented singer/song writer’s latest album Monkey’s Wedding has received glowing reviews outside Zimbabwe. Monkey’s Wedding, Extended Play Mineral-X and Chimurenga Soul constitute her discography.

“My third album has received five star reviews in the Guardian, The Times, The Voice, Trace Magazine and I have done a lot of live radio shows and got signed to a recording label called World Connections,”  said the rising star.

Netsayi’s performances are packed with song and dance which borrows heavily from local traditions and cultures.

“I had a lot of dilemma deciding to play traditional instruments because I feared people around me would have mixed feelings about some of them.

“I had to overcome my fear of traditional instruments and now play mbira, hwamanda and guitar. I also play mbakumba, mhande and chinyambera.”

She strongly believes that unity between artistes and policy makers could yield a viable arts industry that contributes to the nation’s revenue.

“The arts industry has been misunderstood in Zimbabwe. I feel there is a lot which needs to be done among artistes and policy makers to professionalise the work that we do as artistes.

“A lot of work needs to be done. Other countries take art seriously and realised long back that it contributes gross domestic product. Mali, Nigeria and South Africa have realised it.”

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.