Zim diva dazzles Disney World

It has been three years since music diva Clare Nyakujara left the country to showcase at the Disney World Animal Kingdom in Florida, United States and she is enjoying the challenge.

The Daily News on Sunday interviewed her from her Florida base where she is raising the Zimbabwean flag high.

Clare says music is well recognised in the US as it is an industry on its own; so no matter how small or big one is, there is always room for everybody to flourish. 

“So as long as one is good they survive. The quality of life here is amazing as long as you work hard and get a pay-check at the end of the week. But it’s all hell if you don’t work hard and it is always very easy to become homeless,” she says. 

Clare performs daily, showcasing six 30-minute sets in a six-hour period. 

“Since the venue is a themed park we do not have to advertise for audiences as it is atmosphere entertainment for everybody; those already in the park would have paid for all showcases.

“I work for Zumazuma Circus which recruits African artists with talent which is contracted to Disney World Animal Kingdom and I’m contracted under the kora tinga which I play daily. 

“A kora is an African harp made of gourd and cow skin and it is 21-stringed. It is an instrument found in West Africa performed by griot tribes; but played by man only.” 

Clare says her contract is as long as it is renewed yearly and she is the only Zimbabwean in kora tinga project.

The songstress says the Zimbabwean community in Florida is large with a lot of different people working different jobs although they sometimes come together for get together parties just to catch up. 

When she arrived in the US she first took to recording a professional music CD in California’s Santa Cruz at Riverside Studios under her producer Michael Horne from Pulse Productions.

“I recorded the six-track album with American musicians and James Buzuzi, a fine guitarist from Zimbabwe which has been pushed into the mainstream of world music in America and Europe.”

Apart from the Disney contract, initially Clare also worked on a project in Missiori Branson at a festival where with other artists they had 30-minute slots three times a day. “For that initial project I worked with Buzuzi on guitar, Tendekai former Zimpraise player on bass, Joseph Aadzinga on keyboard and Jacob a drummer from Ghana. 

“It was quite a tight band I must say and we used to fill a 700-seat auditorium every day in the spacious park where other three to four American shows were also taking place.

“I also had a girls’ project where I teamed up with Eve Kawadza from Zimbabwe and Misoji from Tanzania. I played the guitar while the other girls played in runners of their choice. Again it was a 30-minute set showing a setting in an African market called the Harambe. We tried to show the world how united we are as Africans and what a normal day in an African market is like; it was more of a musical and we sang our songs.”

And she eats sadza regularly. “America’s agriculture is very expansive, so we have almost everything from sadza, cassava to anything you might think of; so we don’t really miss home foods because it is available.”

She says racism is not something people are comfortable talking about because it holds so much of bad history, “so it’s sort of something people don’t really address but yes, it exists with other people and it is often displayed openly.”

Clare says in Florida where she lives and works, the weather is more or less like in Africa. “It’s also one of the warmest parts in the US; hence Disney built all the parks here for people to take holidays away from their cold winters.”

Apart from the daily showcases at Disney, Clare is also working on her own project as ‘Clare’ and will be releasing new music soon. 

She also now owns a self-contained music solo kit that she uses for her solo gigs.

She will be visiting Zimbabwe soon although she cannot say when because of work commitments. And she was saddened by the death of Oliver Mtukudzi.

“The death of Mtukudzi came to me as a surprise and I am still trying to get the hang of it. 

“I don’t really believe it; he was a father to most of us, a good adviser and big mentor for most of us. 

“The biggest thing he ever told me was; ‘Clare you are the one who is called Clare, so do not let the band control your music. Be strong on the guitar and stand on your own.’ So here I am today, my livelihood is from a solo career and it’s working out great,” she says.

Clare was born in Harare in 1984. In 2006 she began writing her own songs, releasing her debut album Haudineyi after which she began playing nightly gigs in bars, restaurants and hotels around Harare. 

Among others, she has performed at the Shangai Expo 2010, and at the Book Café with the band The Other 4, and shared the stage with some of Zimbabwe’s finest musicians, including the late great musician Mtukudzi.

Her 2012 album Unleashed is aptly named as it coincided with her musical journey of self-discovery and transformation. 

As of 2013, Clare and other female musicians had popularised their concept of Kumabhebhi.

Kumabhebhi, which literary means a ladies’ meeting place, is a brainchild of Clare and award-winning urban grooves artiste Cindy Munyavi.

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