Mary Stokes | Thursday, 30 April 2009


2009 looks to be a busy year for London-born Zimbabwean singer, Netsayi. She's performing at the Shanghai World Music festival in May, touring the UK with the world famous a cappella group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, in the autumn. And to top it all off her album should be out this summer.

"We wanted to leave some space between finishing the album, making sure it was all ready and then starting to gig. But this opportunity came up and I couldn't resist. It's just a great chance to play a really rootsy set and for me that's the most fun."

But for now there's a chance to sit and enjoy London in the sunshine, having just performed at the St George's celebration concert in Trafalgar Square.

"I was quite excited when Serious asked me to do this gig. I feel I have a natural affiliation with folk, and so it was really nice to feel like I was playing to, what I felt was, a natural audience for me."

"Even though there were possibly 8,000 to 10,000 people out there, it was much nicer for us to play with a kind of intimacy. I felt that people were really listening."

But while today was a celebration of all things folk, in the past she admits her music has been a nightmare to pin to one specific genre: "There's this whole debate about whether it's world music. It's too jazz to be world, it's to folk to be jazz, it's too soul to be folk..."

So instead she's christened her sound Chimurenga Soul. But as the political situation in Zimbabwe worsens, her use of the Shona word Chimurenga, meaning revolutionary struggle or movement, has created its own problems.

"I felt under pressure to speak on behalf of all Zimbabweans, and I didn't really want to do that. I sort of tried to distance myself from party politics because things were changing so fast, so dramatically every single day that I didn't want the music necessarily to just be about that."

"There's politics in everything. But it's more to do with struggle – your struggle with yourself."

And it's in the individual's struggle where Netsayi finds her inspiration.

"I find real life the most interesting source of great stories. The human condition, the human psychology, the things that people do, that we all do, the mistakes that we all make, the comedy, the pathos, everything… it's in real life. It's in the minutiae of what makes us tick.. It's people really."

And with the album nearly finished, what's next?

"As a musician, you just try and play as much as possible. It'd be great to be in a routine of playing and writing, and I'm really looking forward to the chance to do that."