HARARE – Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave is on a voyage taking gospel music deeper into the secular world, seen however, by critics as careless risk after she started performing in nightclubs in Harare recently.
Her arrival at the nightclubs could be viewed as risk of epic proportion spiritually and businesswise but I see things fairly differently.
As an arts writer who has seen Fungisai grow musically, she immediately ignited both curiosity and concern in me when she decided to hit the nightclubs. And so I followed her there.
First she performed first at Jazz 105 end of 2011 where she played at the Women In Jazz Festival and the subsequent gig early 2012, at the same venue, which was her own full gig.
She followed up her Jazz 105 shows with the recent First Gig of the Year where she shared the stage with Oliver Mtukudzi, Suluman Chimbetu and Munya Mataruse at City Sports Centre in Harare.
At all the three shows Fungisai received standing ovation. Fans loved her. No one can take that away from her.
What I saw at all the three gigs was not Fungisai straying, in any way, from the realms of spirituality or principles of day-to-day business.
I saw a frank gospel artist taking the ministry of God to the people. I saw a bold gospel artist breaking with tradition and taking it upon herself to modernise ways of worship in places perceived unorthodox.
I simply saw, too, Fungisai fulfilling the scriptures, Psalms 100 verse 1 and 2: “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness — come before his presence with singing.”
And when fans warmly received Fungisai, at all the three shows, I said to myself: Go sister…go for it…! No raunchy, sexually explicit dances, no naughty remarks…just the righteous message in her music.
Like angels Fungisai and her backing singers simply glided on stage shining like a constellation of stars.
Ways of worship, all over the world today, have evolved in the last century and the modern mind must adapt to the change.
True, the dogmatic mind will and cannot change but that does not mean everyone and anyone else, including Fungisai, must not choose what is right for them. Change is personal and electable.
Pastor Bonnie Deuschle of Celebration Centre in Harare has collaborated on recordings with Oliver Mtukudzi who is viewed as a secular musician so has Fungisai herself who has a record together with Mtukudzi.
Shingisai Siluma has shared the stage with Mtukudzi and has invited secular musicians to play on her own recordings.
Examples are many and varied where gospel artists and secular artists have converged and continue to do so in such an edifying manner.
On the business side, Fungisai is not taking a risk whatsoever by performing in nightclubs.
I would even advise her to spread her catchment area and book shows at places like Book Café when it reopens in March.
She must try the likes of the Village Lounge at Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton, places like Extra Mile or Pamuzinda even City Sports Bar in Harare and she will be surprised by the positive support there.
And all prophets of doom will shut-up for good.
Also Fungisai is a band leader running a business of producing and selling music for a living with several band members living off her business where she also has to perform at public shows.
And so I do not see a risk taker in Fungisai but a shrewd entrepreneur who is on the ball chasing business in all and every directions and doing so in no way anyone sensible would ever describe as deplorable, immoral, unrighteous, unholy or uncouth.
With the incessant piracy of CDs and DVDs it means record sales are compromised and unprofitable which leaves live performances as the sole cash cow nowadays and Fungisai at 31 years of age and many more years in showbiz knows that pretty well.
She is simply taking her music where business is.
By Shepherd Mutamba