Female artistes fail to measure up

HARARE - Female musicians are struggling in a big way to give their male counterparts a good run for their money.

A case in point is the annual Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50 which featured only three female artistes.

Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, at position 10, was the top-placed female artiste with her duet with Killer T titled Vanondibatirana. The second best was Agatha Murudzwa who claimed position 19 with the song Zvakatirongera while rookie Prevalent Sithole, at position 35, was the third best female artiste on the strength of the song Inheritance.

The poor performance on the charts by female artistes was not restricted to last year. Over the past decade men have dominated the prestigious annual chart.

The artistes who have claimed the top position and the associated prize money include Leonard  Zhakata, Pengaudzoke, Marko Sibanda (late), Simon Chimbetu (late), Charles Charamba, Alick Macheso, Hosea Chipanga, Cephas Mashakada (late), Joseph Garakara, Tongai Moyo (late), Gift Amuli, Freddy Manjalima, Jah Prayzah and Blessing Shumba.

Fungisai believes the playing field is not level. She wants the top three women on the Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50 to be given prizes regardless of their position on the annual chart because “patriarchal social structures” favour men.

“I just wish they could recognise the top three female artistes too. It’s not because we aren’t good musicians but it’s rather unfortunate that we have no time to mobilise people’s votes because we are busy with household chores,” said the Makomborero singer.

But Fungisai’s suggestion has been opposed by fellow artistes who include Zimbabwe Musicians Union (Zimu) president Edith WeUtonga.

The Mukaranga singer, who is arguably the country’s best female bassist, is against preferential treatment of female artistes.

“I think we are all musicians when it comes to radio charts. The issue of quotas or gender holds no water here; it does not apply. Rather, it is our duty as artistes to market our music to the public. We need to mobilise our fans to vote for us, that’s all,” said Edith WeUtonga.

Female artistes’ lack of consistency and visibility appear to be at the centre of their failure to make a mark in the male-dominated music industry. In 2012, Cindy Munyavi and Clare Nyakujara co-founded the Kumabhebhi Concerts which sought to provide a platform for female artistes. Sadly, the initiative was discontinued after a couple of years.

Cindy told the Daily News on Sunday that the Kumabhebhi Concerts died due to lack of resources.

“Funding was the main issue. We got to a point where we stopped

approaching organisations for funding and resorted to funding ourselves,” she said.

Last year, Cindy and Clare tried to revive the initiative but they only managed to hold just a single show.

Apart from the defunct Kumabhebhi initiative, several leading lights among female artistes have fallen by the wayside due to either misfortune or self-inflicted transgressions. A good example is Afro-jazz star Dudu Manhenga whose career went off the rails in a dramatic way after she was involved in a fatal accident with a cyclist in 2010. From that point until she was convicted for causing the death of the motorcyclist in 2013, the talented Bulawayo-born artiste became less active on the music scene.

Dudu’s music career now appears to be playing second fiddle to her new role as a pastor with Jubilee Christian Centre under the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe Church.

Another female artiste whose career is dramatically losing the spark is Zimdancehall star Lady Squanda. Since she was recorded on video assaulting comedian Skimbo Ziso, the award-winning Zimdancehall star’s career has never been the same again.

Thanks to the Skimbo debacle, Lady Squanda was kicked out of the Bodyslam Madirirano United Kingdom tour in September last year by music promoter Simbarashe “Bodyslam” Chakare.

To make matters worse, the Squanda Fire Ndini singer failed to turn up for a concert which had been billed as “The Return of Lady Squanda” hosted by City Sports Bar in December last year.

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