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with Penny Yon, Arts Administrator for Pamberi Trust
April 04, 2013
Inside/Out with Penny Yon
hear about how you started. . .
come from a long line of musicians; there has always been a band
in my family. My late father played in various bands and ensembles
from a young age. They first came to Mozambique from the Island
of St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean as a family when my dad was very
young and there he learnt to play piano, saxophone and violin. He
and his brother played music to accompany the silent movies in Beira.
They would go there with the piano and violin and play music for
the exciting parts! It’s a rich background that I come from.
I started piano
lessons at the age of six until about the age of twelve. I had formal
lessons and afterwards played for love, enjoyment and for myself.
At the age of eleven I started the guitar, and then when I was in
my thirties I started on the bass. I have played with a Jazz group
called, ‘Mhepo’ which was well known in the 90s and
the 2000s. Today I play with my brothers, Richard and David, who
are great musicians and we play mostly at private parties or private
occasions. I also play at my church at Fountain of Hope Fellowship
down to work . . .
I am the Arts Administrator for Pamberi
Trust. I’m involved in development projects. One of my
favourites (being a woman artist) is the gender programme called
FLAME (Female Literary Arts and Music Enterprise). It started in
2006. FLAME encompasses various activities including Sistaz Open
Mic, which has become a popular institution here at the Book Café.
On Saturday afternoons we provide a friendly space for women artists
to come out and do their thing and gain exposure and experience.
Many of the women who have participated in Sistaz Open Mic have
gone on to develop successful careers and have really moved forward
in their careers as a result of that initial exposure. So it very
fulfilling to see people moving ahead and to see women artists coming
out so strongly. When I was an emerging woman artist and still learning
the instruments and coming out to the public audience for the first
time, it was really scary! There were no support systems other than
the sisters who had gone ahead of me and would mentor me. So this
is what we try to do with the FLAME project, mentor emerging female
artists. Also there is the youth project, nurturing young talent
coming out of Zimbabwe. We have a great team here at Pamberi Trust!
times . . .
It’s been very exciting moving the Book Café into a
different home. The new venue provides spaces, which are very comfortable,
and artist friendly. Every single space that we have is designed
not only for the enjoyment of the audience obviously, but also for
the facility of the artists. We have a big stage indoors, a small
outdoor stage under the mango trees where there can be a solo mbira
player, or solo guitarist or poetry reader on a fine day. We have
spaces for film screenings and workshops and a new bookshop, which
is a great addition to our facilities. Thus the Book Café
is an arts community centre where artists gather not only to get
bookings to perform, but also a place to meet.
women artists in Zimbabwe made any strides in the music industry?
Sure, you look at the women artists now that are coming out, those
who are already established and those who are emerging onto a bigger
stage and they are doing amazing things. Back in the day, even five
years ago, there were hardly any women instrumentalists; mostly
they played piano. That is like a traditional woman’s thing,
the piano. There have been some great guitarists that have been
coming out. Now we see Tariro Ruzvidzo whose solo career is TariNegitare.
She has been doing really well and has travelled to different places
outside Zimbabwe. Edith Katiji known as Edith Weutonga plays the
bass guitar, and is a great singer, songwritter and actress. Tami
Moyo, who is just 14 years old, plays the guitar. She is so comfortable
with the guitar, and its fantastic to see the younger generation
coming up with such ease.
are the challenges women artists face?
Well of course its a male dominated industry, it absolutely is.
There are certain challenges, risks and dangers, which are unique
to women artists. For example the working hours - it’s often
a late night thing and also the environment they play in. These
are the things that have to be dealt with as a woman in a special
way and obviously different from male counterparts. There is still
the social traditional challenge of convincing elders, or parents
that it is viable employment, as well as respectable with a possibility
for growth and the capacity to earn as well.
advice to share with upcoming female artists?
I would just say guard your reputation very carefully because it’s
so easy to be categorised in a way that one wouldn’t want
to be. As a woman and as a woman artist and as a fantastic artist,
it takes hard work. The male artists also work hard to get where
they are. But women have to work even harder because of the other
responsibilities like babies, a home to run and a man that you are
going home to and all of those things. However a male artist has
more freedom to spend lots of hours in practice time, and personal
rehearsal time. You are not going to make it just because you are
a female guitar player, it must be because you are a good guitar
player. We have to work harder and aim higher because of the things
we are still up against in this day and age.
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