by Roy Moussa
Women remain a minority in the Chadian music industry. Nevertheless, the few who are present on the local music scene shine with their talents and know-how. Their presence can also be categorised in two major periods.
1960-1980: Singers and griots
The first period is characterised by the valorisation of traditional music, during which renowned female singers emerged, among them Djingayam, Morsile and Maman Eldjima. The latter released an album in 2007 that was produced by Yoka Production. The album is also the subject of a documentary film directed by Zara Yacoub, director at Dja FM.
These singers have benefited from extensive promotion on Radio Tchad, which until today continues to broadcast their music. These poetesses are known for having drawn attention to problems faced by Chadian society, with their songs offering advice to the public.
Haoua Ngaba is another female singer who made a huge impact during this period. She is also considered a benefactor to the Chadian music industry. During the inauguration of a bar in 1968 one of her guests was the first president of Chad François Ngarta Tombalbaye. Ngaba has produced and managed several Chadian bands and hosted big African names such as Franco & TPOK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau & Afrisa International Orchestra as well as Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville ensembles.
Other names form this era include Achova of The Voice of the Ouaddai, Zenaba of Echo Tchad, and Faly Falola.
2000 to present: the new generation
The second broad period of Chadian women in music is marked by the advent of information and communication technologies as well as the emergence of local radio stations, recording studios and foreign television channels. The younger generation of female singers are now exposed to a wide range music genres and videos from around world. This a surge is being seen in the musical environment for young budding artists as well as radio and TV presenters who are involved in the promotion of local music and talent.
In this current era, some women have carved a path of their own styles and distinguished themselves locally and internationally. Although there isn’t a great number of female music celebrities in Chad, it is worth mentioning a few who have made a lasting impression on the music scene, both at home and abroad
Mounira Mitchala was part of the group H'Sao, which is now based in Canada. She patiently carved out her place in the music scene before reaching wide popularity. A winner of the 2007 RFI Prix Découverte (RFI Newcomer Awards), she was subsequently awarded the VISA for Creation prize by Culture France for her debut album Talou Lena. In 2012, Mitchala recorded her second album in France. The 12-track album Chili Houritki was published by Editions Africa Nostra and distributed by Sony Music Entertainment Africa in the same year. Mitchala performs and tours around the world throughout the year and is known for her distinct vocal style. In 2012, she won the Best Female Artist of Central Africa award at the Kora All-Africa Music Awards in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. She was then awarded in the ‘Best Artist Francophone’ category at the African Francophone Awards South Africa (AFASA) in 2014.
Another prominent female musician in Chad is Menodji Clarisse, aka Melodji, who is the lead vocalist of Matania, a group comprising five young singers. After the group’s participation at the CEN-SAD Games in Niger in 2007, Melodji conquered the Chadian music scene. Amid this success, she released her solo album Tah Hor Ndal in 2014. The album was nominated at the Cameroon Academy Awards the following year. In the same year she was also a finalist at the RFI Prix Découverte.
With an imposing voice and a unique musical style, Matibeye Géneviève was coached by Gabonese singer Annie-Flore Batchiellilys. She became famous in Chad and in the countries of the sub-region. She won her first award at the Dari'Awards, which was followed by a World Music Award at the Njamvi Festival in 2015. In 2016, she received the award for Best Performance at the Bikutsi Festival in Cameroon. She was selected by an international jury in the song category to represent Chad at the eighth edition of the Francophonie Games (Les Jeux de la Francophonie), which will be held in July 2017 in Ivory Coast.
Audrey Linda Shey has been present on the Chadian scene for years but is now living in the US where she is pursuing an international music career
In addition to their talents as singers, these artists have the capacity to mobilise Chadians through awareness campaigns on issues such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and women’s and children’s rights. Many of them are ambassadors of organisations such as Unicef and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Other women who have opted for a career in fields related to music include promoters Sarah Noudjalbaye, Motta Blandine, Clémence Adnely and Madji Bandoum as well as sound and lighting engineer Déborah Honmal Ngakoutou.