UNITED States-based gospel musician, Shingisai Suluma was born in 1971. By the age of 17, she was the choir leader at the Braeside Assembly of Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa. She recorded the first of her nine albums in 1995 and has done several singles. Apart from music, Suluma is life and textile artist.
By Precious Chida
Suluma spent years teaching in high schools around Harare. She is married to Stephen and the couple has two daughters, Tashinga and Tiara. Suluma is one of the most celebrated musicians in Zimbabwe and has won several awards. Some of her best known songs include Nanhasi, Fara Zvakadaro and Maitiro Enyu. NewsDay Life and Style Reporter, Precious Chida (ND), caught up with Suluma (SS), who shared her experiences.
ND: Since you relocated to the US, we have not been hearing much from you. Have you taken a break from music?
SS: Music is my life. It is really not possible for me to take a break from music. The format may change, but I am constantly involved in music at any given time. Since my relocation to the US, I have been a worship leader in various American churches. I have performed in live concerts in the US, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. Over the past few years I have been releasing singles.
ND: Have you been following the trends in local gospel music? What is your take on the current gospel musicians in Zimbabwe?
SS: I’m so proud of gospel artistes that are currently featuring on the local scene, the likes of Janet Manyowa, Blessing Shumba, Mathias Mhere, Lloyd Tevedzai, Olinda Marowa and some, who I have worked with directly such as Emelda Tshuma. I believe there are great things ahead.
ND: Would you say your relocation to the US affected your music in anyway?
SS: This has not affected my music, but rather, enriched my skills level and given me opportunities to share my talent with non-African artistes. Writing and performing non- Shona songs has been another learning experience in the US.
ND: You left Zimbabwe to take up a post as a United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) goodwill ambassador. What was the experience like?
SS: My duties as a goodwill ambassador for Unicef involved raising awareness on child abuse and neglect, and I did this primarily using music.
ND: What are some of the culture shocks that you experienced upon relocation?
SS: Culture shock in the USA includes racism that seems to be a lot different from the experiences I had during the colonial era and the early years of Zimbabwe’s independence. Many Americans do not understand Africa and are dependent on often negative stereotypes portrayed by the media.
ND: You are one of the most honoured musicians to come out of Zimbabwe. What do you attribute this to?
SS: I owe gratitude to many Zimbabweans around the world who love and appreciate my songs, ministry and faith.
ND: What would say have been the greatest challenges you have had to deal with as a musician?
SS: My greatest challenge as an artiste is always trying to do better than I have done before.
ND: You started off as a teacher. What led you to then venture into music on a full-time basis?
SS: I started off as a teacher and did not stop teaching to be a full-time singer. Although I came to the US for studies, I am still a teacher and a musician by vocation.
ND: Two years ago you released a song in celebration of Evan Mawarire’s #This Flag. Can you share with us that experience?
SS: The song, Masuwo, was a celebratory song for what I believe was God’s intervention after Mawarire was released. The event resonated with many Zimbabweans, and having a song for the moment was an honour for me.
ND: With a degree in Arts and Design, English Language and a lot of other higher education qualifications as well as your music and ambassadorial roles, how have you managed to juggle all these around?
SS: God has enabled me to handle the many roles I have to play. I am strengthened by the biblical text in Matthew 11:30 that says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
ND: You have also been studying for a Master’s in Marriage and Family Counselling. What inspired you to take that route?
SS: My Master’s degree in Christian Education with a concentration in Women’s ministry was inspired by my many years of teaching and my passion for helping women and young girls.
ND: You have performed outside the country several times; can you share your experiences there with us?
SS: Performing in other nations has been a great experience for me. It is challenging, since in many occasions it requires performing without my original team, Joy Street Choir.
ND: Would you say moving from Zimbabwe has had a negative impact on your music or connection with your fans?
SS: The absence has slowed down the rate at which I produce music. Also, the condition of the music industry has not been great over the years and many artistes have faced challenges with piracy. In spite of those setbacks, I always work to find creative ways to keep music making viable. That is why my website is currently selling music downloads.
ND: Any plans of relocating to Zimbabwe soon?
SS: Home is always best. I miss living in Zimbabwe and look forward to returning once my assignment here is complete.
ND: What is your advice to upcoming musicians?
SS: So many young people are highly talented and will carry on with this work. As much as I am able, I will help those I can to grow their skills and achieve more than I did. I recently launched a mentoring programme on my website to facilitate that objective.
ND: Thank you for your time
SS: You are welcome.