Is Gospel Diva Fungisai Backsliding?
From The Standard
by Godwin Muzari, 18th February 2012
When I heard Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave would perform at Women-in-Jazz Festival I thought she had done the right thing to be in solidarity with other female musicians besides the difference in genres. Fungisai is a gospel singer but she is also a female musician, so there was nothing amiss with adding her voice to the message jazz divas wanted to put across. In fact, the event would be blessed by her gospel message.
Then I heard she would be performing at the Spar Solo Festival at the end of last year. I had not known Fungisai as a solo-performer but I was impressed by her adventurous determination to spread the word even if it meant going it alone. Never mind the fact that she would be the only gospel musician among the likes of Fred Manjalima aka Kapfupi, Sulumani Chimbetu, Steve Makoni and Edith WeUtonga.
I attended the Solo Festival and learnt she would stage her act using the mbira instrument. “That is a brilliant idea,” I told a friend who had expressed reservations on her appearance on stage with a gourd that is part of this traditional instrument.
“I remember a pastor giving a sermon that had something to do with praising the Lord with all sorts of instruments and everything that can make a sound of joy,” I defended my respected sister. My friend could not argue further.
Even though her act was far from perfect I pardoned her as someone who was still learning the intricacies of the instrument and took her failure to arouse excitement among the crowd as a sign that people were still coming to terms with her new style. Nevertheless, we applauded as she went off stage. Others did vigorously as a sign of relief that her lukewarm act had come to an end. I was among those that clapped in genuine appreciation of her effort in oder to encourage her.
But when I heard she would stage the opening show of the year at Jazz 105 I sensed something very unusual about her increasingly adventurous escapades into new territory.
Of course she had performed at the venue at the Women-in-Jazz festival before but this time it was a different scenario. She came and performed and the audience was thrilled. I watched without comment.
Then she went on to share the stage with Oliver Mtukudzi, Sulumani Chimbetu and Munya Mataruse and went on to say (about the show) that she no longer wanted to be bound by strict religious principles because she wanted to develop her career like any other artist. My alarm bells began to ring.
Her other argument was that she had to reach out to people out there and preach the gospel through music. Honestly, the setting of her act is not common.
Last week, the last scraps of my tattered resolve to justify her behaviour were blown away by information that she would return to Jazz 105 again. Her act was scheduled for last Friday.
Imagine, a gospel musician performing on Friday night in a pub before tipsy fans!
Obviously with the aid of the so-called holy waters some of her fans will be busy drooling when she sways around to her popular tune Toita Zvedenga.
Going the hosiah chipanga route
Fungisai reminds one of Hosiah Chipanga who had to justify his performance in pubs through the song Vakandibvunza. For the better part of his career Chipanga was called a sungura musician.
It is better with Chipanga because he mixes his songs with some that are not purely gospel despite calling his group Vaparidzi Veshoko and decorating his car with images of crosses and Bibles.
Even the late Cephas Mashakada was largely seen as more of a sungura than gospel musician although he depended heavily on hymns and church choruses to boost his music.
But, can we honestly classify Fungisai in the ranks of Mashakada and Chipanga considering her musical background?
I take her action as a shocking turnaround. I am still trying to understand this move before utterly rubbishing or praising it. Maybe she has a point to prove. Maybe asking her again would be the best: What is the point my sister?
Posted on February 22, 2012, in News, Opinion and tagged Edith WeUtonga, Fungisai Zvakavapano, Jazz 105, Kapfupi, Spar Solo Festival, Steve Makoni, Sulumane Chimbetu, Women In Jazz. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.