Controversial artist Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave has shockingly revealed that she is not a gospel musician and never wanted to be labelled as such.
In fact, the artiste who recently collaborated with Zim dancehall chanter Killer T, on a song called “Vanondibatirana” says, “I have been trying to untangle myself from this maze”.
Are these revelations true? Is this not an act of desperation and survival tactic by a fading artiste? Whatever the case, Fungisai has never been the one to shy away from controversy. In the formative years of her career, sixteen years ago, she caused a stir with her sense of dressing, which most Christians found offensive or rather un-Christian.
Later on she proclaimed that she would never share the stage with secular musicians let alone collaborate with them but made an about-turn when it suited her. She offended uncircumcised men when she called them “useless” a few years ago and now she is distancing herself from gospel music. She has had several spats with fellow artistes and promoters alike and she always speaks her mind.
The mother of three, says when she decided to make music her career, she did not plan to sing gospel music exclusively but was forced into it by a producer who believed it suited her style. She says she has been battling with the norms of society ever since she was labelled a gospel artiste back then.
“Problem yangu inenge yemakaradhi. Unogona kukwana kuma blacks wokwana futi kumavheti asi kwese usinganyatsotambirwa (my problem is like that of mixed race people. They can fit in with both races yet they are not quite accepted). What do I mean? The church loves me so much … but they only want me for crusades where they want me to bring the house down with good danceable music to wow the crowds.
“When it comes to serious worship, they doubt me and they do not fully accept me. They do not think I’m spiritually there. They are like ‘but Fungisai was singing at Luciano’s gig last night wearing salt and pepper jeans – is she serious?’ And on the other hand secular musicians also have their reservations about me. They say ‘ndewechurch (she is a church person)’. In the end I do not quite fit in.”
Fungisai’s latest effort “Social Facts 2”, a seven-track album, carries only one gospel track. The rest are love songs and other social commentaries riding on that deep traditional chimurenga beat popularised by Dr Thomas Mapfumo.
Her favourite instrument, mbira, dominates the entire album and Fungisai does not make any apologies for it.
The “Makomborero” singer says while most people see this as rebranding, it is not so. “This has always been in me. I think I’m mature enough now. There was a time when people decided things for me. Now I can defend my beliefs and stand for myself. This is who I am. I haven’t changed.
“I do not want to be locked up in some … you know sometimes it is like I’m being punished for believing. I do not have to denounce my Christianity before I’m accepted as a professional artiste. Give me a stage anywhere, anytime with anyone,” she said.
Fungisai says she regrets letting other people run her affairs and decide what music she would sing.
“I have regrets, of course, because I had this Fungisai that I had in mind when I started music. I put my destiny in other people’s hands. They decided what kind of an artiste I was going to become,” she lamented.
“When I approached the studio for the first time, I had my social songs on one hand and my gospel songs on the other. The producer said I was feminine and people would accept me if I sang gospel. For me I was like okay, because I got to sing and it complemented what I believe in as a child of God.
“However, I did not know what they were doing to the brand. Before I knew it the producer had turned me into this preacher girl. Which is something I have carried for a very long time. I have tried to be that girl but it has its setbacks. I’m limited as to who I perform with, where I perform and what to perform.”
The musician’s website and social media platforms proclaim the artiste as an Afro-contemporary artiste — a direction she confirmed she has recently aggressively embarked on.
“I have a dream, which still has to come true. I want to be an influential artiste on the world music front. For me the key thing is I’m an artiste. Before we talk about which religion I follow, my belief systems and so forth, I want to be in music for the music.
“…at the end of the day I want to perform any music that is of value to my society. I have always been determined to be myself. People have this Fungisai; the ideal person and I always have to fight to say there is the ideal me and the real me. I wish for people to understand and accept the person that I am, not the person they want me to be.
“Look even at the video of Makomborero, I would wear my leather boots and cap, and people would say, what, munhu we church. You will find that I have teamed up with Tuku (Oliver Mtukudzi), Jah Prayzah and now with Killer T. You find people saying ah munhu we church. Handisimunhu we church ini (I’m not a church person). Everyone has got their own church where they go to. Music is a profession for me and that has always been my approach and that is how I want to be understood.
“But there is always this stigma surrounding gospel musicians. If you say music is my profession it is like you are a sinner. My friends, the people I identified with at school, they are doctors. I was intelligent. I could have chosen a different career path but I chose music as a career so that I could sing anything.
“When I look at people like Lira and Zahara when they come here to perform I beat myself. Because I know I could be them or even better. I feel I can be very competitive and be on the same level with them but the challenge is the moment you are labelled a gospel artiste you are tied down, you can’t do this, you can’t eat, you can’t breathe, you can’t rest like that, you can’t go there. I love Christ but that should not be used to limit my creativity as an artiste.
“For instance, nurses or doctors, it is a profession, and they are working. There are no Christian doctors or Christian nurses, a doctor is a doctor.”
Fungisai says for years she has tried to show people who she really is but has always been misunderstood.
“My beat is chimurenga and chingende. I have been trying to untangle myself from this maze that I found myself in. But then you hear that Fungisai we church avekuenda ku Jazz 105, Fungisai has performed with Joe Thomas.
“As you can see, the inner person in me is battling the norms of society. Right from the onset you would hear that I have performed with Bongo Maffin, I would perform with Luciano with all that smoke. It has always been like that. It is not that easy but I have managed to say this is who I am and I hope with time people will love me for the person that I am, not the person they want me to be.”
Fungisai, however, says she remains a God-fearing Christian who is inspired by the Word.
“However, everything I do, everything I sing is inspired by God. But because I love God I do not have to be singing about God all the time. We have to interact with society.
“I’m passionate about music. I have a gift of writing music and performing the songs. That is what has kept me afloat. If I stop singing I’ll die. I am not afraid to express myself. But the norm is if you are like me people will attack you for that. I’m a free spirit, I have a strong character and I believe in standing up for what I believe in.”
The “Handina Kururama” singer had a message for her fans and music lovers in general.
“I want people to know that I am an artiste and I love God. But I chose music as a career. Music came first and then the ministry. My love for Christ should not limit my creativity as an artiste. I wish for people to understand me from that perspective.
“I pray for such a time when everyone will be able to understand that as Christains we can be different … I want to be able to perform like any other artiste under the sun.
“I just want to be an artiste with no prefects, no boundaries. People expect to hear that I do music to preach to many people bla bla bla. I am in showbiz, I’m a brand and I will not limit myself to a certain social group. I want Muslims, Hindus and Christians alike to all enjoy my music.
“I am revisiting my old material. The music I was told by my producer back then to throw away. In 2016 I want people to know that side of me and I want to explore it. I want to be more visible. I want people to understand the artiste that I am.
“I want to be anywhere and everywhere. Killer T and I will be doing shows together. I have already started responding to some inquiries. I believe God does not have a problem with it,” she said as a parting shot.
Fungisai was born on January 27 1981. “Social Facts 2” is her 10th album. She has travelled and performed both regionally and internationally. She is involved in various charitable activities and sits on various boards. She is married to Courage Mashavave, a banker, and they have three kids, Tawananyasha, Matipanyasha and Wenyasha.