YOUNG songstress Thulani Machisa has a mission; she wants to continue from where the late veteran mbira singer and composer Chiwoniso Maraire left.
While that is a tall order, Thulani, who is currently studying music at the Zimbabwe College of Music, is optimistic that she will match the standards set by the late music star.
“I am inspired by sister Chiwoniso, she was a great composer, had a great voice and she could play the mbira instrument at the highest level. She managed to fuse traditional beats and modern instruments to perfection.
“Her mbira playing prowess was above the rest. In her music she usually exploded to the spiritual realms; songs like Amai and her rendition of Nhemamusasa are just classics. She is my inspiration and I would like to follow her footsteps; as an all-rounder,” said Thulani.
The singer completed her advanced certificate in Music in 2019 and in August she will resume studies for her degree semesters. “I have been taught how to play the mbira (nyunganyunga, nhare, njari), marimba, ngoma, hosho, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, saxophone and piano. My favourite is the bass guitar.”
Born 20 April 1998 in Bulawayo in a family comprising three siblings that include Thandekile and Thabani, Thulani is also inspired by her father, Okay, a human rights advocate and musician.
“My father is a graduate of the Zimbabwe College of Music, he has his own band, Machena where he plays the mbira instrument and does vocals.
“I have followed his progression in music and in following his footsteps I had to enrol at the college of music where I am learning about writing and reading music apart from specialising in piano,” she said.
Her young sister Thandekile is showing positive signs already. “She loves music very much but the difference between me and her is that she is more into hip-hop and RnB. She is however flexible when it comes to listening. She also plays mbira and marimba.”
A devoted Catholic, Thulani’s life revolves around two things; music and sleeping. “I’m at school from 8am to 5pm. When I get home I do my duties and then do my assignments. So there is no free time for me – so it is music and sleeping. It is unfortunate that most of the choir sessions and rehearsals at our church are done when I’m at school and time to practice is very limited so I prefer to sing from behind.”
Her mother, Candies could not escape falling in love with music, what with husband and daughter so engrossed in the art. “She supports my artistic endeavours and I am surprised when at times she tells me that ‘my bass is too much’. I am sensing a musical family here!”
Thulani is already dreaming big. “I want my music to compete for accolades; my wish is to sweep all the music awards; just watch the space.”
Thulani will be launching her EP titled My Life that comprise four songs; Gift, Ndini, Toenda and Samatenga, on 21st of this month at Theatre in the Park in Harare.
“The up-coming concert will launch my brand called Thulani Machisa. I’m going to be supported by Gary Tight, Okay Machisa and Machena, Terry (Terrence Kwenda) and Lala (Petronella).”
The EP was produced by Mono Mundu, a guitarist and composer in his own right. Thulani said: “I’ve always worked with Mono and I have learnt a lot. He has not only been my producer but also a father.”
She says the song Gift is more of a prayer. “This is a prayer for guidance as I accept the gift to sing and communicate with audiences. Ndini is a song that simply describes who I am; it explains how people view me and also my response to society on who I am. The song Toenda simply encourages people to work hard for their families while Samatenga was first ever song. I wrote it 2018 with the help of Lala. This is a praise song; praising God for all his work. I also played the nyunganyunga mbira on this song.”
Throughout the recording she was backed by Integrity Mutanga (bass guitarist), Charles Chakanetsa (lead guitarist), Tadiwa Mutetwa (drummer) and Gift Gosha (brass and backing vocalist).
To all the girl-child out there she says: “I would like to encourage them to focus and have discipline when it comes to this profession.”
Her father, Okay said he felt quite successful in managing to transmit some positive attributes to her daughter’s talent.
“She has indeed confirmed that my contributions to her music creative art have made her dream come true. We had performances together at some moments and I have realised Thulani beyond being a musician; she is a comedian, an actor and a poet. I have seen her perform at Zimbabwe College of Music and I am satisfied that she is now ready to produce and package her own creative work,” said Okay.
Okay added that as Thulani grew up, “some characteristic of a musician started to show when she was not at primary and secondary schools. We have plans to collaborate and work together; actually on the 21st of this month at the launch they are a few pieces that we will perform together.”