Popular Harare Afro jazz musician, Dudu Manhenga (DM) was recently in her hometown of Bulawayo, where she staged a number of shows after four years in Harare. These “homecoming” shows endeared her to her legion of fans.
NewsDay’s Khulani Nkabinde (ND) caught up with Dudu at her home in Bradfield suburb where she opened up on a variety of issues.
ND: Welcome back home, Dudu. Now tell me about your choice of jazz music when you could have chosen any other music genre.
DM: Thank you very much. I did not choose jazz music. It was not deliberate. Actually, jazz chose me. It was also because of the kind of musicians that I worked with from an early age. I later realised that newspapers enjoyed describing me as a jazz artist. When I was at school, I was introduced to township jazz, so like I said before, it was not deliberate that I became a jazz musician.
ND: You have been in Harare for four years. If you compare the kind of crowd in Bulawayo and that in the capital, which crowd would you say does it for you?
DM: I would say audiences in both towns are lovely. They enjoy the music. People are very supportive. On Tuesday last week (November 9), I performed at the Robert Sibson Hall in Bulawayo. It was during the week but we had more than 150 people coming through to the show.
Each person left with a compact disc of my music or some kind of memorabilia that was being sold. We had branded stuff like T-shirts, key rings, hairpins and leather bags. It was humbling to see that kind of support.
ND: You have worked with a lot of popular musicians from a young age, both local and internationally based. How has this kind of experience been like for you?
DM: Among the top musicians that I worked with when I started off was Tanga wekwa Sando. It was an amazing experience. He is very passionate about the musical side of things. He was trained as a musician. He was thorough as a teacher. I also worked with the late Dumi Ngulube. It is sad that he died just like that. I wish there was a way in which people get a signal from God before they die. He died when he was still full of music.
Judging by what he said to me, he had not fully developed to his liking. It is sad to lose people before they reach the fullness of their glory. His death was untimely. I also worked with Oliver Mtukudzi. What I took from him is the passion of the performance. Being with him on stage I felt challenged. I learnt to throw myself on the audience and be in sync with them.
With each master that you sit under, you take what is inspiring. In 2002, I worked with South African jazz legend Ray Phiri. I also worked with Judith Sephuma, Ringo, Tsepo Tshola and Jabu Khanyile. I’m currently doing a collaboration with a Mozambican star called Mingas.
ND: What kind of challenges do female musicians face?
DM: At the beginning of the year, we launched an association of women in arts. We have problems with some men who will say to a female musician; ‘If you want me to promote you, you have to sleep with me’. We have also lost a lot of musicians because they got married and their husbands stopped them from performing. That is tragic because we all have things to achieve in life. I want to die when I’m empty; when I have no song left in me.
I’ve clashed with my in-laws when they expect me to attend certain family gatherings when I would have signed a contract elsewhere. I cannot violate my contract so I fail to pitch up for the family gatherings at times and they are not impressed. I am lucky that my husband is also a musician and is supportive of me.
ND: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
DM: God inspires me very much. He has taught me a lot of things. I like to talk on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I’ll not be silent about injustice. My music is about things that affect people in life.
ND: What is your advice to upcoming musicians?
DM: It’s important to identify your angle, calling and role in life. You are part of the bigger picture. A lot of people are going around picking on one thing and dropping it. Identity is important. I believe we all have a destiny. Life is structured. There will be accidents that happen in your life. These shape you, and make you value life even more.
ND: Do you write your own songs?
DM: I write my own songs. I also work with a talented team that helps me to put the music together. On my first album, I worked with legendary guitarist Handsome Mabiza who used to work with Southern Freeway band.
ND: How many albums have you churned out to date?
DM: Three. Out of the Blue was the first one. I termed it that because I was virtually unknown at that time. The second one is called Jula, which means “depth” and the third is Towards Alignment.
ND: What is your comment about music promoters?
DM: I have only seen one promoter in Zimbabwe in as far as jazz is concerned and that is Sam Mataure. He puts an event together and gives you a chance to sit down and share ideas with the international musician he would have brought into the country. We have people who just take chances and call themselves promoters. In Zimbabwe, we only have show organisers.
ND: What else do you do besides singing?
DM: I am a full-time artist in every sense. I call myself a creative entrepreneur. What I do is that I hold workshops where I teach musicians about image and branding.