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Bringing Ndebele sounds to life - Interview with Uzanele
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
September 23, 2009

This is an Inzwa feature. Find out more

Read Inside/Out with Uzanele

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UzaneleWhen did you start singing?
I've been singing my whole life. In my family, everybody sings. They might not want to sing in public like I'm doing right now but everyone sings.

Who or what inspires your music?
Definitely my sister. She's an anchor in my life.

Would you say she's your mentor?
Yes. Big time. And she's a bully as well.

Have you found yourself being compared to Dudu?
People have tried. But the nice thing about us is that while we have the same forceful nature, we're very different when we approach music.

How do you feel about being compared to Dudu?
It's maddening sometimes, and it's boring sometimes. But I still go back to the fact that Dudu and I are very different. The way she is, how she commands her presence on stage, is because she has done a lot in the music industry to get there and say ‘I deserve to be in the music industry so look at me.' I'm not a Dudu-let, or a Dudu-wanna-be. There are some girls out there, who I can name who are Dudu-minis. [laughs] who really want to be so much like her.

What specifically makes your music different from Dudu's?
Dudu does sing Ndebele, but I'd call her music fancy. She sings those high-complicated notes that people like. But I want to be rich and almost raw. I want to be very traditional. Dudu sings traditional music, but she'll fancy it up, she'll jazz it up.

What sets you apart from other musicians?
Right now where I am it's my Ndebele background. No one has taken time to really explore Ndebele culture of the music and sell it. I think that is my one Nca! that I have right now. When I break out, I'm going to be somebody bringing something very different to the music industry. Listen Listen

What themes do you explore in your music?
Love. But I don't want to be called a gospel artist; I really do not want to be called that. But I sing and say to people you know what, if you have this love you'll be like Christ. Listen Listen

What would you say your style, or musical genre is?
I'm a contemporary urban afro-jazz artist, with Ndebele traditional sounds.

Would you encourage other young people like yourself to enter the music industry?
Yes, if they have the voice, if they have the passion to do it then go for it. I advise anybody to do what they want to do, what they feel in their gut. That is the right thing for them to do.

In your work for Inzwa, you have interviewed a number of artists. What would you say are the qualities that have made them succeed?
Looking at the music industry in Zimbabwe you really need tenacity, you really need focus. I think the people that I've interviewed have all said, one way or another, ‘you know what, I'm going to persevere, I'm going to stick to this.' And they've consciously decided ‘music is what I want to do', and the go and do it. Listen Listen

You have now done a few shows at the Book Café and the Mannenburg. What has the response to your shows been like?
People say that I'm someone worth listening to. I've spoken to people like Penny Yon and the big guys there at the Book Café and they've said that doing my music is something worth pursuing. I shouldn't die down like some other female musicians in the music industry. They've showed so much potential and then they've just evaporated. As for the crowd, inini, I'm loved! I'm loved even before I go on stage. And I've grown. I've done two shows already as Uzanele, and people say they've seen growth in me.

Do you have plans to record an album soon?
Soon yes! I will.

Where do you see yourself as an artist in the next five years?
I want to see myself touring because it opens doors for you, going out and showing your music, not only in Zimbabwe. As an artist, I also want to be pivotal in making sure that in the music industry there are proper structures that we have to follow. You can get somebody who's a producer today and they're a marketer tomorrow. I want to make the entertainment industry into a real industry.

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Audio File

  • What sets me apart
    Language: English
    Duration: 32sec
    Date: September 23, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 506KB

  • Themes in my music
    Language: English
    Duration: 41sec
    Date: September 23, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 649KB

  • Quality for success - tenacity
    Language: English
    Duration: 20sec
    Date: September 23, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 325KB

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