Zim rapper Awa up for top German festival

BY STYLE REPORTER

The star of Germany-based Zimbabwean rapper Awakhiwe Sibanda, better known as Awa Khiwe continues to shine after she was invited to perform at the Reeperbahn Festival Pan-Africa concert to be held virtually in Hamburg in July

Since its founding in 2006, the festival has featured indie, pop, rock, folk, singer-songwriter, electronic, hip-hop, soul, jazz, and classical music. The annual club festival offers upcoming musicians from across the globe a platform to showcase their talent. Some of the  world-famous artistess to have performed at the festival include Ed Sheeran, Bon Iver, and Lewis Capaldi before they broke through.

Speaking from her Germany base, the 29-year-old rapper could not hide her excitement.

“It’s quite a big deal for me because I have never performed at a pan-African showcase. It is also a perfect platform for me to network and share my music with people from different African countries who will attend or be part of the audience. It also comes at an ideal time before I release my debut album,” Awa said.

Awa’s lyrics, delivered in her inimitable rapid-fire style in Ndebele and English, address a cross-section of issues, including gender-based violence, child marriage, social and political issues in Zimbabwe.

Though she has lived in Germany since 2016, Awa, raised in Nkayi and Bulawayo, still draws from her experiences back home. “Growing up the way I did, especially in the rural area where we preserved our cultural heritage, it’s hard for you to lose it; it remains a part of you,” she said.

However, being in Europe has widened her frame of reference.

“Being here has exposed me to the experience of being a foreigner; racism, being an immigrant, and homesickness. It has opened my eyes, and so sometimes I also write about my ignorance,” Awa said.

On her rapping in Ndebele, she explains the meaning of her songs to audiences. Video audience reactions to her high-octane live performances prove that music is indeed a universal language.

Awa admits she misses Zimbabwe, but quickly adds her time in Europe has been an invaluable learning experience.

“I have learned a lot about the music industry, polished my act, and I am a better rapper in terms of delivery and presentation. I have also toured and performed in a lot of places,” she said.

Awa singles out her performance during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia as part of the all-female group GRRRL as one of the landmarks of her performing career to date.

The singer gets animated when discussing the cross-fertilised music that results from collaborations with other musicians, especially those from Africa. “I am trying to spread my wings across Africa, and collaborations introduce us to audiences beyond our home countries, and the result of collaborations is always amazing,” she said.

Her work with Ghanian Stallion, whom she describes as “an amazing producer”, underscores her point. He has already produced songs such as Ngeke Bengimele for Awa and her soon-to-be-released debut album African Women Arise, a wordplay on her name.

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