MaNgwenya pours out her heart

AFRO-JAZZ musician Diana Samkange — now popularly known as MaNgwenya — stormed the music scene on the back of the 75% local content initiative by government in the early 2000s, which gave birth to urban grooves music mainly by young people.

It has been 11 years now for MaNgwenya, and she is still going strong. NewsDay Lifestyle reporter Vanessa Gonye (ND) recently caught up with MaNgwenya (DS) and discussed her music and the journey she has travelled so far. Below are the excerpts of the interview…

ND: You are celebrating 11 years in music. Tell us how your music career began?

DS: I began singing at a very young age at home, school and church. It was quite easy for me to fit in because I grew up in a family of singers, my aunts and uncles, and they made music an easy venture for me. Professionally, I started singing in 2006 just after high school, in a group called 2BG (two boys and a girl), with Bloodshaw Chikosi (Blush) and Kevin Ashley. We were an urban grooves outfit.

ND: How did you go solo after that?

DS: In 2008, I began a solo career although we haven’t split as a group even up to now. I am still part of it but due to distance, we haven’t been able to record (any music as a group). I released Chitsidzo while still with 2BG, which got me a nomination for Best Female Urban Grooves at the ZIMA awards. I released my first album, My First Diary, in 2008, although it did not make it to the market. In 2010, I did another album, Kumagumo Erudo which also featured renditions of James Chimombe’s songs and in 2012 I released my third album, Kumazivandadzoka. In 2016 I released my current album, Kwayedza. That’s basically my journey in music.

ND: What treasured memories do you have from your time as part of 2BG?

DS: The memories I always keep are the times the two guys, Blush and Kevin taught me to perform on stage. I was very shy during my formative phase. They taught me how to manage crowds and handle the media. They taught me to be humble, something which many in the profession cannot do, and also, when I heard our initial song on radio for the first time.

ND: You have migrated from urban grooves, and many of its pioneers have either gone down or silent. Would you say urban grooves is “bubble gum” music?

DS: I would not say urban grooves is bubble-gum music. My theory of the Zimbabwean music industry is: it has different seasons. There are times museve (sungura) will be the in thing, and then it just goes low and another genre leads the game. I applaud the system in our country which made us get into the limelight through policies like the 75% local content, which was in practice during the time we ventured into music. It was good on our side given that attention was mainly on us hence we felt challenged to perfect our act.

ND: How has performing with a live band improved the quality of your music?

DS: Performing with a live band gives me freedom to express my art. When playing with a live band, you tell them how you want the sound to be like, according to the crowd’s preferences, something impossible with a digital soundtrack. It has helped me to show professionalism. Having a live band is the highest degree of professionalism in music.

VG: Who are some of the people that have been your greatest influences in music?

DS: I look up to people like Tanga wekwa Sando. He gave me vocal training and taught me how to handle crowds. I look up to Oliver and Daisy Mtukudzi, they keep the sanity. I also have high regard for Stella Chiweshe, for representing our culture as Zimbabweans. As you know I am an advocate for African Traditional Religion (ATR). I appreciate every person who represents Zimbabwean music through culture. I really respect Ambuya Chiweshe. I also looked up to the late Chiwoniso Maraire.

ND: Did the transformation from just being Diana Samkange to MaNgwenya come with any challenges?

DS: In life, change comes with challenges, good or bad. It is not realistic for everybody to accept. Some say I should remain Diana while some like the African focus. I had a vision when we changed from Diana to MaNgwenya. I had to follow it and here I am.

ND: Playing mbira is largely associated with people who are possessed by ancestral spirits. Is that the case in your situation?

DS: Since I am an ambassador of ATR, I respect where I come from, that is, my roots, my ancestors. I also respect the God that created me. If ancestors come in good cause, then I embrace them although I can’t fully confirm it in my case because I also have a very strong Christian background.

ND: You are on record that MaNgwenya is your alter ego. How do you separate the two? Does MaNgwenya only manifest when you are singing?

DS: MaNgwenya is my totem. Whether I am on or off stage, I am MaNgwenya, although I believe every person who expresses themselves in front of crowds has different personalities. According to me, that’s a fact because the way I express myself when I am at home is different to when I am on stage. There is Diana Samkange at home and MaNgwenya on stage. It’s a talent from God to have different personalities.

ND:
Is this real or you just took a leaf from Beyoncé Knowles who claims that when she is performing, a spirit called Sasha Fierce takes over and controls her whole being?

DS: Definitely when I am on stage I’m MaNgwenya, a whole different personality, and, yes, I feel like there is some anointing that gets to me. Yes, the idea of being another person is real.

ND:
Can you tell us more about your brand, MaNgwenya Music?

DS: MaNgwenya Music is now actually a branch of the main brand that we recently launched, Ancient by MaNgwenya. It is the mother company of everything that I will do as a musician and as a businesswoman.

ND: You have done a lot of love songs. Are these inspired by personal experiences or just what your heart longs for?

DS: Most of them, yes, they are personal experiences or of people close to me. It is also basically based on what happens in everybody’s love life.

ND: Is your family supportive of your career?

DS: They are my number one supporters. My family really supports me.

ND: They have always been complaints that music pays poorly. Do you solely rely on music for survival or you have other income-generating projects?

DS: I definitely do not rely on music although I would love to. I have other income generating projects and I have managed to merge them with my everyday life as a musician. They complement my life as an artist.

ND: There is a notion that the music world is not friendly to females. Some accuse male producers, promoters and managers of abusing female musicians. What has been your experience?

DS: The journey as a female musician for me has not been so rosy. It is everywhere because men seem to dominate everywhere, not just in music. But that is not a reason for us to be cry-babies about the situation in the music industry. All we have to do is to work. Results will come in the long run. My principle is, at the end of the day the universe gives us all fair chances in life whether male or female.

ND: Like many other musicians, you are involved in charity work. Is this from the heart or just a publicity stunt?

DS: Yes, I am involved in many charity work projects. For me, helping the less privileged is a priority and naturally, the publicity follows but I honestly do it from the heart.

ND: Finally, where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?

DS: What I am basically working hard to do is to build a very strong business empire for myself. I want to be one of the most profound forces to reckon with, gender or not, to create an international household name. Lastly, it is my wish to leave a legacy when God decides to take me to another world.

ND: Thank you, Mangwenya, for your time.