Tuesday 11 October 2011

Uplifting, lulling and blessing - Shingisai Suluma

I get a lot of people saying my music has uplifted them to be better Christians, and God has been speaking to them through our music. We use the word of God to write our music, so if through the music we help others to be better Christians, then we have done our job.

Shingisai Suluma was accompanied by her husband, Steven, when she came for the interview in October 2005. Just then her album Tatenda Taona released in 2004 had peaked at number one on the radio charts where it held on for 20 long weeks.
Tatenda Taona was her sixth album after Zvanaka (1995), Huya Ishe Jesu (1998), Mumaoko (2000), Nokuti Wakanaka (2002) and Fara Zvakadaro (2003).
Both Shingisai and Steven are soft-spoken. We sat in the Herald’s conference room, a big cold room where editorial meetings are held.
I learnt on the day that Shingisai had been condemned to death by her doctor and when she got off the claws of death, she penned all the songs on the album Tatenda Taona.
“I wrote the songs on the album after coming from hospital,” she told me, “The song Tatenda Taona is basically about my gratitude. I am saying we have seen your power and we are grateful.”

Below is the interview:

There is something universal with music, love, pain, laughter and death.
When music is played in a foreign language, it arouses interest in people who do not understand a single word of the language. That is the same with emotions when two people from different cultures or races meet. That too is the same with pain – everybody feels it.
People weep when they lose their loved ones. They all laugh when something humorous is said and they all tap their feet or nod their heads when a gospel track is played.
While Zimbabweans may not know what inspired Shingisai Suluma to produce her latest album, Tatenda Taona, it is clear from the response the album is getting that they feel the same way she felt when she sat down to write the songs.
“I wrote the songs on the album after coming out of hospital where doctors had condemned me to death. But God raised me from the dead and gave my life back to me.
“Most of the songs on the album are, apart from thanking God, celebrating my decade off making music. I was passionate when I wrote all the songs on the album,” she said.
For Shingisai making an album is not a one-day affair, “It takes a lot of time, commitment, creativity, personality and individuality to make a quality album. For me, it means thorough preparations which start with writing songs. I think my style of music makes me appear mature. It is slow and infectious.
“When compared with others, my style is similar to country music while others play gospel linked to sungura or kwasa kwasa,” she explained.
She said her music is original because she composes it unlike others who are still stuck in borrowing from hymns and dirges.
“Other gospel artists are still borrowing from hymns and dirges but my strength comes from my originality and creativity. I also believe that sticking to one album per year pays,” she further said.
Her musical career started in earnest in England in the early 90s where she had gone to study for BA Honors in Art and Design.
“Although I come from a musical family – my parents used to sing in the church choir – I was not interested in music when I was forced to sing in the choir.
“In England, friends whom I sang in the choir with recognised my talents and encouraged me to take up music full time. I did and recorded the album Zvanaka while I was at college. It was not popular probably because of poor marketing,” she said.
When she returned to Zimbabwe, Shingisai did not give up, instead she formed the 16 member Joy Street Choir to help her revive the England dream.
Together with her husband, who engineers, produces and shots her videos, she started slowly to climb the musical ladder.
“It was not easy when I did my second album Huya Ishe Jesu since we had to record it elsewhere and find other people to do everything for us.
“Record companies had no confidence in us and as such were not interested. It was only after the success of Mumaoko that they started showing interest and the desire to work with us,” she remembered.
The popular track Mirira Magwanani is taken off the album Mumaoko.
Today, Shingisai is lucky to have a studio in her home where she does all her recording as well as help others to realise their dreams.

About Shingisai
Shingisai was born into a musical home. Her father was a pastor. By the age of eight she had already joined her family singing in church.
By the time she turned seventeen Shingisai was leading the church choir in praise and worship. She knew she was called to be a worshipper. With her two sisters Tutsirayi and Nyasha they formed an acapella trio and performed at several concerts and church functions.
Shingisai recorded her first album in England where she was studying for her first degree, in 1995. That marked the beginning of greater things to come.
Shingisai married Stephen Suluma who is her music director and producer. God has blessed them with two daughters Tashinga and Tiara. Tashinga loves to play the keyboard. By the age of 7 she was performing at school and church. Tiara has already started singing praise to God.
Shingisai has recorded eight albums and has won several national awards in Zimbabwe. She is currently living with her family in the USA and studying.
Recently Shingisai and her team realised that many people are failing to access her music. They decided to transform their ministry into a listener supported ministry. Downloads of her music are available free on this website. They displayed confidence in you the listener and supporter of her music that the ministry can be sustained by your voluntary contributions. Please partner with them and make a contrubution towards this great work.

Shingisai Suluma, now one of Zimbabwe's top gospel singers, admits it all may never have happened without the persistance of her parents. On a tour of the United Kingdom, her first trip to the country after 14 years, the star speaks to New Zimbabwe.com about her reluctant rise to stardom. This is The Truth About: Shingisai Suluma
Born: February 28, 1971
Home Town: Born in Gweru but from Mutasa, Manicaland
Marital Status & Children: Married to Stephen Suluma with two children Tashinga, 11 and Tiara, 5

It has been said that you are a born performer. What got you hooked on music so early on in your life?
My parents were musically-inclined, they both sang in church. My sister and I would find ourselves also being made to sing. When you are from a musical family, they want you to follow that and we found ourselves doing hours and hours of rehearsals at home, and singing in church on Sunday whether we liked it or not. I was around six or seven years when I would get up and sing in church. Now, seeing what music has done for me, I am thankful and appreciative of my parents’ persistence.
Did it cross your mind back then that you would grow to become the superstar gospel singer you are today?
I never imagined it! The idea of recording music really never crossed my mind until I arrived in England in 1991 for my university studies [Art and Design BA Hons]. It was through the encouragement and insistence of friends that I recorded my first album Zvanaka in 1995.
Your husband is your current producer. When did you start working with him?
He did not come on until the second album. He worked with me on the second CD Huyai Ishe Jesu, and we have gone on to record seven albums in total, including the latest Ndewake which we are launching on the UK tour.
You are currently based in the United States. What took you there?
I left Zimbabwe in September last year because I had projects in China where I taught English for three months. My husband had organised further studies [Masters in Divinity] in the United States so when I finished in China I joined him. I’m also beginning studies for a Masters in Marriage and Family Counselling next year.
How much song writing do you do?
My husband and I do the song writing, individually or jointly. Sometimes I come up with the tune, but I must say he does most of the writing, he has the biggest talent. It’s easy for him because he plays the instruments.
What’s your favourite musical instrument?
I have tried the guitar but found it very difficult, not least because I love my nails and so pulling strings presents problems. I have recently been playing mbira – which also tests my nails but I’m better at it. We want to add mbira to give our music a traditional Zimbabwean flavour for our American audience.
Which Zimbabwean musicians to you look up to?
It’s got to be strictly a woman! Before I started singing, I used to look up to Mai Wutawunashe, and I also admired Olivia Charamba and wanted to be at her level. I have also learnt some things from Fungisai [Zvakavapano].
Do you remember your first show?
It was on the first week I arrived back in Zimbabwe in 1996. I was invited by the late Brian Sibalo who had got a copy of my first album and wanted me to come on as a support act at the Sheraton Hotel [now Rainbow Towers]. It went well although I was nervous to sing for the first time before a big audience. It was overwhelming.
What’s the nicest thing ever said to you by a fan?
I get a lot of people saying my music has uplifted them to be better Christians, and God has been speaking to them through our music. We use the word of God to write our music, so if through the music we help others to be better Christians, then we have done our job.
Have you ever been bitten by an animal?
Never, but I exercise caution around dogs. I try to like them which probably has spared me a biting.
What are you most afraid of?
Mosquitoes! I hate mosquito bites. I think I have been stung by mosquitoes more than any other person I know. I don’t know why they come after me, I wish someone can tell me. I seem to be a favourite of mosquitoes. My father suggested I must swallow mhiripiri (chilli) but that’s an unproven theory I suspect.
What was your worst job ever?
When I was a student in England I worked at an old people’s home. I was on a scholarship but I was required to pay may way around in living costs and that was about the only job I could do without a qualification. That’s got to be the worst.
You worked as a teacher when you returned to Zimbabwe from England?
Yes, I taught art and design at three different schools in the late 90s and after 2000 -- Oriel Girls High, Alan Wilson Boys High and Eaglesville Secondary School. The salaries were ok then, but things were changing until they finally became unbearable with the economic and political developments.
What’s the scariest thing you have ever done?
Rowing in a small boat on Lake Chivero. I can swim but I was extremely frightened … there was something just dangerous about it.
If President Robert Mugabe was to ask for a single piece of advice from you, what would you tell him?
I would tell him that if you love the Lord, and if you serve the Lord, then you will have eternal life.
What was the last book you read?
This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.
How do you start your week?
I go on my Facebook and e-mail to respond to e-mails. I also plan rehearsals with my group and as a mother and wife, I have to do some house work and prepare the kids for school. It’s hectic.
Who would you most like to meet – dead or alive?
Cece Winans and Shirley Caesar -- two musicians that really inspired me.
In your opinion, what’s the best song ever recorded?
Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, but then he did a lot of amazing songs. Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You comes close, I want my voice to be like hers!
Which song from your eight albums do you like the most?
I would say Nanhasi and Mirira Mangwanani were well received by the public and you somehow find yourself leaning towards saying there must be something special there. Personally, Ndopaanouya and Zvaachakuitira (Tatenda Taona) are both songs that speak directly to my heart. I would have to pick those two as my favourites.

No comments: