Zim star chases two Canadian music prizes

LONDON - With a voice that has been likened to the Legendary Luther Vandross by award-winning Canadian Vocalist Ali Matthews, Batsirai Chada’s only way is up.

The Canada-based Zimbabwean, who as a teenager was part of a performing arts training group that featured the late mbira ace Chiwoniso Maraire and internationally-acclaimed actress Danai Gurira, has made it into the finals of the 2014 Shining Star Contest, the Canadian equivalent of Pop Idol or X factor.

Chada is among 10 finalists of Canada’s premier Christian talent show whose winner will be given the opportunity to receive a full album recording deal among many other prizes.

As if the excitement of being a finalist of the 2014 Shining Star Contest is not enough, Batsi, as he is popularly known, could the prestigious Canadian “SongStudio Scholarship”.

Batsi (2nd from right) with his idols Boyz II Men.

The scholarship which is only for a week, gives the winner an opportunity to polish up their skill of song writing through workshops which are made up of professional songwriters along with familiar industry guests who speak on topics such as touring, record companies, management, Public Relations and music law. The platform is very useful for anyone taking their song writing to the next level.

For Batsi to take advantage of this unique opportunity, his video has to attract the most likes on SongStudio Scholarship Facebook page. Interestingly, the video the Zimbabwe-born musician hopes will win the SongStudio Scholarship features him singing for Boyz II Men. Recently, he came face to face with the famed group whom he says “taught him how to sing from a distance’’.

Batsi recalls how in his room in Greendale in Harare, he would practise Boyz II Men songs and knew every note.

Given a chance to meet Boyz II Men after a concert in Canada, Batsirai declined the opportunity to just get an autograph or shake hand — he wanted to show them what he could do — he sang for them.

Batsi is optimistic that people will vote for the video that captures him singing with his idols.

With both the 2014 Shining Star Contest and SongStudio Scholarship in his sight, Batsi hasn’t stopped imagining packed concert venues awash with music that moves them, stories that touch their lives, and songs that see them through the aches of daily life.

Batsi recalls his humble beginnings in Harare and how his parents left Zimbabwe to get an education in Canada in the 70s before returning to Zimbabwe to help build the country.

He said his parents’ sacrifices enabled him and his sister to live a much better life than his parents had as children.

Before leaving Zimbabwe in 1995 for Canada, Batsi worked for Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Wireless.

He jokingly states that he should have stayed, noting that Masiyiwa and Nigel Chanakira have always inspired him due to the way they scaled heights owing to their deep-rooted Christian faith.

To pursue his music dream without hindrance, Batsirai recently quit his job as an online advertising executive. While his job paid him well and was enjoyable, Batsi said he knew if he did not go back to music, he would one day regret not pursuing his dream.

His move may be risky to some, but his perseverance, has already seen him become one of Canada’s most promising music stars.

Speaking on music in Zimbabwe, Batsi wants to see Zimbabwean artistes being authentic and shining brightly, adding that LadySmith Black Mambazo would still be singing on some corner, if they had not stayed true to themselves.

“Art should be a net export — not an import. So if people leave — it is to bring art to others and raise the flag of Zimbabwe within the global community,” said the Zimbabwean musician.

“I hope the world’s art is not overly influencing Zimbabwe. Where you can find local guys trying to be American rappers... why not export an art form that is attractive to non-Zimbabweans, yet authentically and unashamedly Zimbabwean’’.

Away from all this, Batsirai is working on his own original material, which he describes as “mainstream adult contemporary”. He explains that he does not want to preach but sing songs that make people believe there is a Father who loves them.

“My desire is that the songs I sing would become your soundtrack while delivering a baby, taking a bubble bath, enduring chemotherapy, lulling your little one to sleep, dancing with daddy at the wedding and falling in love again,” he said.

Batsirai’s story is about music that moves listeners, stories that touch their lives, and songs that see them through the rigours of daily life.

*Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

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