Godwin Muzari Arts Editor
For a long time, songstress Diana “Mangwenya” Samkange has been vocal about the exclusion of female musicians from big shows.
When Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo travelled for his homecoming bira in April, Mangwenya questioned why promoters had not considered female singers on their line-up of supporting acts.
Mukanya was coming with a team of female backing vocalists and dancers. Magwenya queried why women were only being included as backers at such a big bira when there are many talented female band leaders in the country.
Her voice was heard and she eventually got a slot at the bira to showcase her prowess.
Recently, Mangwenya made another important observation when she noted that South African songstress, Busiswa, who is set to stage her show in Harare this weekend, will share the stage an all-male line-up of local performers.
Winky D, Andy Muridzo and Mathias Mhere will support Busiswa during her tour.
Mangwenya’s passion, like any other active local female musician, is to be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts.
There are many female musicians who can stage good acts yet they remain at the periphery of showbiz when they could outshine some male singers that have become regular supporting acts at big shows.
Mangwenya does not only speak for herself, she pleads for inclusion of female musicians in general. As the chairperson of United Women in Music, Mangwenya’s voice represents many female musicians.
Many other female artistes have also raised their concerns over the issue. They have loudly called for recognition.
And their voices have just made another impact. They have attracted the attention of Jive Zimbabwe, a promotions company that organises themed events for artistes.
Jive Zimbabwe has organised an all-female concert set for PaDziva near Dzivaresekwa along Kirkman Road on September 29.
At the show, Mangwenya will lead a list of other female performers that include Ammi Jamanda, Tendai Chimombe, Tete Pipilo, Queen Kadija and Vedu.
Running under the “One Big Party” banner, the event has been planned to celebrate women musicians in the industry and many other female singers will be part of the festivities.
It has been deliberately coined to include various genres. Mangwenya and Ammi will bring in their contemporary style. Tete Pipilo and Tendai Chimombe will represent sungura and a bit of jazz styles. Queen Kadija comes from the Zimdancehall terrain while Vedu, an all-female ensemble, will throw in Afro-fusion mixes.
Mangwenya is happy to be part of such a party.
“This is what we have been pleading for. We do not want to be spoon-fed, we are not crying for sponsors to take care of us. All we need is space to prove our capacity. Women have been left out of many big events yet we have so much talent in showbiz. There are so many talented female musicians in the country. There are many energetic female performers local showbiz,” said an elated Mangwenya.
“As an organisation, we are trying to engage relevant authorities that can push for policies which favour the inclusion of female singers at big events.”
Tendai (daughter to the late James Chimombe) is equally elated about the event and promises a memorable act.
“Since the demise of national music galas, there has been a serious decline in participation of women at big concerts. During the time of state galas, we knew that many female musicians would be on stage with their male counterparts. It is no longer the case,” said Chimombe.
“We are professional musicians and we are ready to perform for many hours at big stages. It seems some organisers have been made to believe that female musicians are rarely available for concerts because they have to grapple with family and motherhood issues.
“Of course, some songstresses are in that bracket but that is not the case with professional musicians. When it comes to being professional, we put aside other issues and treat our job like anyone else working for other sectors.
“Some female musicians actually work with their husbands as instrumentalists or managers. In such circumstances there is no conflict of interest between work and family obligations. Even those who do not work with their husbands get good support from their families. Gone are the days when marriages would mean end of careers for female artistes.”
Chimombe said she will perform her songs like “Manje Manje” and “Siyana Neni” in addition to her father’s hits that include “Jemedza”, “Siya Waoneka” and “Zvazoitika”.
Jive Zimbabwe director Benjamin Nyandoro said they are working hard to put together a big party for the female singers.
“We heard their concerns and came up with this idea. We hope other stakeholders will take similar approach and address such issues.
“We know there are a number of initiatives meant to promote women’s aspirations, but very little has been done in the arts sector. I hope many people will come to support these performers at ‘One Big Party’. It is a noble cause,” said Nyandoro.