Popular gospel diva Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave is relishing her recent Musician of the Year gong that she scooped at the Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards (Ziwa) held in Leicester, United Kingdom. According to the awards organisers, Zvakavapano-Mashavave’s award was meant to recognise the new generation of female musicians who are pushing boundaries in a range of musical genres like jazz, gospel, soul and acapella. The 35- year-old singer has proved to be a serious contender in the gospel genre with 14 albums under her sleeve and has performed at big concerts both regionally and internationally. Off the stage, the Makomborero hitmaker is also involved in various charitable activities. The Standard Style reporter, Winstone Antonio (WA) caught up with Zvakavapano-Mashavave (FM) and below are excerpts of the interview.
WA: Congratulations for winning the musician of the year award at the recently-held Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards. How did you feel winning such an award?
FM: I feel honoured and excited to be finally recognised in my profession. It is, however, my hope for women to make it too even where our male counterparts are involved. I do not get so carried away with awards though, because I believe in my best shot at everything, even when it does not prove to be the overall best sometimes.
WA: How many awards have you won in your musical career?
FM: I have been a nominee in so many categories on almost all Zimbabwean award ceremonies held in the past 16 years. But I have not been so lucky as it turned out that there were better artists than me. To date, I have won the National Arts Merit Award, dancehall award and this latest one from Ziwa. I also have complementary ones from Christ TV and Zimpraise Choir.
WA: You always say you have been misunderstood. So who is Fungisai?
FM: It is about my multi-faceted personality which some people may fail to understand. I am a sum of a degree in Sociology, a diploma in Marketing Management, a certificate in Fashion Designing and Christianity beliefs. As a result, I am many things in one and others get confused when they see so many attributes in one person. For example, when I apply basic marketing management principles to my music career, as was the case in the Red Rose Entertainment Shingisai Saga, I was misunderstood based on socially constructed misconceptions of what a Christian artist should be. While others mistake Christianity for dullness, vulnerability and stupidity, I find joy in applying my academics for the development of my career like everyone else. I always uphold and defend my dream even if it means going against the norm because I know that time vindicates truth. This explains why it’s now almost two decades of going strong against all odds.
WA: What type of music are you into?
FM: I cut across genres to cater for a diverse audience with varying music tastes, but I am rooted in Zimbabwean traditional sounds — Chimurenga and Chikende. God blessed me beyond measure such that I am comfortable with any beat and I am not afraid of adopting and adding any new and trendy beats to my catalogue. My beats, therefore, vary according to target audience, so does my message which can be social or religious/ Christian depending on the social context of my appearances and performances. I have learnt to diversify due to the exposure I got over the years. For instance, I had a situation when I was invited to a Buddhists-sponsored event by the First Lady Grace Mugabe when she was breaking the ground for her children’s home in Mazoe. Then I sang the song Mbiri YaJesu, but I then realised the importance of embracing and accommodating human differences. That is when I started appreciating the need for universal social messages like Mwanasikana Munhu, Zuva Rabuda, Hupenyu Inguva Pfupi and Haiwa Kunyeba, among others. I now design my performances modestly according to the social context and this has made it possible for me to be relevant to varying audiences across all demography. However, whatever and whenever I sing, I always maintain the positive message with the aim of impacting positively on my society across all demography
WA: You have recorded 14 albums; what are the names of the albums?
FM: Sure, I have released 14 albums to date, namely Tinokutendai Ishe Volume1, Toita Zvedenga, Makomborero, Ndiye Jesu, Tichamuona, Tawananyasha, Zvirevo, Wenyasha Ndewe Nyasha, Chandisimudza, Social Facts 1, Social Facts 2, Huya Uone Zvakuitika and Greatest Hits.
WA: Which one can you say is the best of all the albums?
FM: Every song is inspired by God and unique in itself. Every song is meant to address different social and spiritual topics, hence I cannot compare them as they save different purposes. All of them are my brainchild and I will compare them to my physical children who all mean the same to me.
WA: Where is your strength as a musician?
FM: The combination of my compositions and the voice texture which is unique only to me is what I will always thank God for. That is what makes me different from any other artist.
WA: If you had not chosen music as a career, what profession would you have preferred?
FM: I am multi-talented. Given my social sciences and marketing management background, I am positive I could find myself in any career setting and still make it to the top. My interests range from music, fashion, marketing, public relations, international relations and anything that involves human interaction.
WA: You once declared that you would never share the stage with secular musicians or collaborate with them. Interestingly, you have recorded duets with Tuku, Jah Prayzah and dancehall singer Killer T. What made you change your mind?
FM: There are some things that we subscribe to due to immaturity, lack of exposure and social coercion. Gone are the days when my speeches were written or influenced by individuals’ tastes and expectations. I have since gained self-confidence enough to uphold my dream and stand for what I believe in. I have learnt over the years not to discriminate against fellow workmates on gender, ethnicity or religious basis. I am now convinced my Christianity should not be a reason to look down on others. The music industry is a workplace like any other where people from diverse backgrounds have to work together for the development of our nation. If none Christian nurses and teachers can work together, I see no reason why musicians should be limited and crucified for the same. When doctors do not ask for their patients’ religious backgrounds before attending to them, I do not see why musicians are expected to. Our educational systems at Zimbabwe College of Music do not group candidates according to religion, hence I see no reason for creating such artificial boundaries in the workplace. I think these were just socially constructed misconceptions of what an ideal Christian artist should be and I fell victim to the pressure.
WA: When you collaborated with Killer T on the song Vanondibatirana some music followers attacked you on different platforms including social media. What was the idea behind the collaboration?
FM: Music is showbiz, hence all business principles apply, just like in all other businesses. I am a sociologist and marketing management graduate and there is nothing new about my basic business approach to my music career.
From time to time, I simply reflect on my product life cycle, review and adjust it according to the dynamic nature of my target audience. Society’s tastes and preferences change over time and one has to keep up with the pace in order not to become obsolete. In the same manner big companies rebrand the same product over time, I have also repackaged the same message differently to appeal to changing, differing music tastes. Based on the dynamic nature of society, I have always been innovative with my music product and that is why my music career has never and will never fade unless I willingly choose to graduate to another different level.
WA: There have been reports that you might quit music at the end of the year to pursue other dreams. How far true is that?
FM: Ha ha ha, that is not true. It is not quitting as such because quitting means to leave permanently. I am just considering expanding this brand through diversifying. I can never quit music; I will just concentrate more on other business ventures. I have always been innovative with my creativity and I am going to take it to another level where music will remain more of a hobby than my main trade.
WA: You are a family person. How have you managed to balance the two?
FM: Favour from God. I am blessed with a very supportive husband who endures all the hiccups that come with my fame. Moreover, I have a supportive family that helps me out whenever the need arises.
WA: Any words of advice to upcoming musicians?
FM: Self-confidence and believing in oneself and God is the only way to succeed in any career path one chooses. There is no need to pretend to be someone you are not. If you love yourself and what you do, it will be much easier for society to follow suit.
WA: What is your parting shot?
FM: I am grateful to God for my courageous spirit and everything I have accomplished. It is Him who has seen me through all the highs and lows of my career. I am grateful to all my fans for their love and encouragement which boosts my confidence and keeps me going.