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one another - Interview with Hope Masike
Zanele Manhenga, Kubatana.net
September 09, 2009
music as opposed to being a doctor?
I'm a doctor too. Music is therapeutic. Life kind of directs
you to know where you are headed and what your calling is. When
I was young I used to sing a lot. In my family every other person
used to sing. We used to sing hymns, choruses from church, different
things. Everybody used to sing. But I was one of the most musical
people in my family. And in a way, life directed me there. It was
like, not exactly that there was nowhere else to go, but it was
the most obvious thing to do. In school when we did art, I almost
always had the best painting or the best drawing. I wasn't
in many choirs in school because the schools I went to didn't
have choirs. But really in my life, it's been music, art,
fashion designing and stuff like that.
did you decide to go professional?
There isn't exactly a mark, some point in my life where I
drew the line and said ‘now I'm going professional'.
I've always been doing music. But there was a point where
I didn't know that there was that line between doing it professionally
and not doing it professionally. I grew into discovering that there's
a professional side to this, and deciding that I'm going to
make a living out of doing music. So I started doing it professionally.
genre is your music?
From what I have learnt here at school when you talk about genre
you talk about what I am addressing in my songs. Which is pretty
much determined by the lyrics or the mood of the song. Most of my
songs are about love; we can't run away from that. Humanitarian
themes also: speaking against wars, just being a good person in
society. In three words that's how I would define my genre.
The style of music I do now is mostly traditional and jazz. Traditional
because when I came to school I started studying ethnomusicology,
and naturally we started learning mbira, marimba blah blah, and
blah. And then jazz because I've always loved jazz, I've
always listened to jazz and now I'm studying jazz, funny enough.
So yah. The style is a fusion of mostly afro music and jazz.
did you release your debut album?
On the 5th May 2009.
do you do your performances?
The Book Café mostly because I have a permanent spot there
on Tuesdays, and Ubuntu Restaurant. The rest is corporate gigs mostly.
And when I travel with a certain program or for a certain festival.
That's mostly what I do. The most permanent is the Book Café.
are these festivals?
I'm a member of UMOJA Cultural Flying Carpet. UMOJA is a cultural
exchange program with Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Netherlands,
Norway, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar. I think that's pretty
much it. So what we do is we have two main camps every year, one
regional and one international. We go and we share ideas. Obviously
from a cultural perspective. So what you have to do is exhibit your
culture from your country. The current culture and all the other
cultures you have had. So lets say its Zimbabwe, you'll present
hardcore mbira music, hardcore marimba, and then you find sungura
in the presentation also, and you'll find a bit of jazz because
its part of or culture. And then after the presentation we do workshops
where we teach each other about our cultures. And then after that
we have a main performance where we bring everything together from
different cultures. Different countries. Well, that's about
UMOJA. Certain other avenues have also opened up through UMOJA.
Certain people see you there and they invite you for their Festivals.
Like quite recently we
were invited to the Royal Netherlands for the UBUNTU Festival. Because
the guy who was directing the Festival, the Artistic Director, is
also the artistic director in UMOJA. So he got us the jobs at the
UBUNTU Festival. And UBUNTU was amazing because the Europeans love
my CD; its sold better than here.
blame the people in Zimbabwe for not appreciating your music?
Here it's not even on the market yet. I can't even start
comparing here and the Netherlands. But in general it's much
easier for the guys over there to pull out 10 euro for a CD. Whereas
people here have a lot of other things to consider before they start
considering buying a CD, especially when they can just burn it and
just get exactly the same copy. Over there there was a point when
I ran short of CDs, and a woman came up to me and said: ‘May
I buy your CD?' and I said ‘I don't have any more'
and she said ‘Ok with your permission may I please burn the
copy from someone else but I still have to pay you.' And I
was like ‘No, you're burning and it doesn't matter
and you can't pay me for burning'. But she was insistent,
and she was like ‘no no! I'm feeling bad that I have
to burn but please just take the money.' That's kind
of different from here. People will just burn it. They don't
really respect buying the original and having you [the artist] benefit.
measures do you think should be put in place to make sure that Zimbabweans
appreciate their own?
To start with, I'd say it begins with our economy. You compare
Zimbabwe and the Royal Netherlands and we are miles apart. Like
I said before, people here, our priorities are different from people
in the Netherlands. They can afford to invest in original CDs. People
here really don't invest in even getting the actual music
that you like. How many people go to the shops and get the artists
that they really like. Like they say ‘I'm looking for
Salif Keita' and you buy the CD. People don't even think
do you think is the reason people don't buy original CDs?
Because of their priorities. You are thinking about bread before
you even go to what music you want. You are thinking about how you
are going to pay school fees for your children, before you even
get to buy a CD. In general the money people are getting where they
work, most people, and the money they need, they spend per month,
really don't tally well. The money that they're getting
is really much less than what they actually need. So priority wise,
already we are different from people in Europe. And then secondly
us artists, we need to brand ourselves in a professional manner.
We need to carry ourselves in a manner that says this is business
just like any other business, this is how I make my money, and I
survive. For people to respect you, you have to respect the profession
itself. We need professionalism in the industry. Which is to say
that we artists need to respect each other also. We need to make
ourselves respected by people who hire us. We need to have organizations
that stand for artists and everybody in the country needs to know
that I can't just hire an artist and offer them $50. We need
to have organizations that stand for us and protect us. And also,
I don't know which Ministry should be addressing this. But,
I'm sure we can do a lot more against piracy than what's
being done now. Again it goes back to priorities and that people
are worried about the bread and butter issues really.
music has so many challenges maybe it is not worth pursuing?
This is a National Crisis; it's not like its music alone.
So if you pack your bags and leave the music industry wherever you
go there are challenges there too. The country really has been going
down in general. Maybe now we are beginning to pick up and it will
get better. But every sector, every industry has been going down.
If the health sector itself has been going down, what of music?
So it's not about packing your bags and leaving the music
industry. The best we musicians can do is like I said; we start
trying to push the industry to improve; us the musicians, because
no one is going to do it for us. And an international tour, or just
one gig outside Zimbabwe, really opens up your mind, and then you
see that there's more to music, there's more to me than
just Zimbabwe. If it's not working here, it's not the
end of the world.
If you really believe in your vision, then nothing can stop you.
They say love conquers everything. But if you don't of course
it won't. So if you believe in your vision, it will work out.
There are challenges everywhere. The music industry just seems to
be more difficult because you are in the public eye, and people
will talk a lot about whatever happens to you, people will want
to comment on it. And then it will seem like the music industry
is really, really even more difficult. When it comes to the social
side of things and your image, it is difficult. But making it in
the music industry in general is about you having the passion and
driving your vision. Using that passion. You're going to face
a lot of obstacles. Especially if you are a girl. A lot of things
happen. But then if you decide that there are a lot of challenges
and so-and-so tried it and it didn't work out, and if you
look at someone else's failures and say ‘then it won't
work for me', it won't work for you for sure. Look at
yourself for who you are. Use your passion for the music to drive
the vision to wherever you want to go.
feel females in the industry have a hard time breaking through?
In a sense yes. Especially if you're young. Because, in African
culture, men go after the girls, it's not the girls who go
after the men. If you are fifteen, it means young boys who are nine
years old want you. The 15 year olds want you, 25 year olds want
you, 50 year olds want you, and 75 year olds want you. Whereas with
guys its bit different. As I said there are unique situations. In
general for a girl, you really seriously have to look after yourself.
You really have to look after yourself because there are a lot of
people who want you for the wrong reasons. And who'll do the
wrong things to you if you give them the permission.
have you managed to keep your band together?
In the music industry, especially in our country, there isn't
that much security when it comes to bands. The band members themselves
don't have any security in that they don't have a permanent
job in that band. The bandleader, herself, in my case, doesn't
have the security that these band members will be there permanently.
And also we can't require them to be there permanently because
art is about freedom; it's about free expression. So band
members are allowed to move on at any time they want. Also the bandleader
is allowed to say, ‘I don't want this band I'm
choosing a different path today, so I'm going to start, doing
sungura, and I'm going to recruit new band members or maybe
I'm going to do without a band'. The most important
thing is having a constitution when you start so that everybody
knows what could happen at what time, what rules and regulations
there are if you don't do this and things like that.
your stage performance
Art is really a very personal thing. It gets so personal; it's
deeper than the word personal itself. So, every performance is different
because it's determined by what kind of a day I've had
before I came on stage. It's determined by what happened backstage
before I went on stage. It's determined by the background
I've had, how I was brought up even. Its determined by the
people I have onstage, it's determined by what I ate that
day even. So it's always different every other day. Also what
kind of a performance I give is determined by obviously where I
am performing. The Book Café is half a bar, half a cultural
centre so you have to approach it with a different presence on stage
and a different presentation altogether. If we do a corporate function
and people really want to discuss business and stuff like that,
you can't be dancing Chinombera and having people shouting
‘CHA CHINOMBERA! CHA CHINOMBRA!!' Every performance
has got it's own design, determined by a thousand other things
that happened that day or that have happened ten years ago in my
life. Before I go onstage, I always tell myself and try to drill
it into my head that I'm just going to break a leg, I'm
going to totally express myself, just let it be about you expressing
yourself. Whatever I do I don't even know what I'm going
to do there, but I tell myself that ‘This is the time, you
are the queen of the stage, lead it.'
do you see yourself in the next two or so years
To be honest, only God knows that. I don't like thinking about
that too much or else I'll limit myself. What I know is that
I'm going to take a lot of music journeys, I'm going
to do a lot of exploring, I'm going to try a lot of different
things. And who knows, maybe in the next two years I'll be
a saxophonist. I don't know. What I know is that I'm
going to be doing a lot of art and I'm going to be keeping
the basic principles of art. Redefine life, look for the meaning
of everything and go with it.
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