Diana ‘MaNgwenya’ Samkange - 'Kwayedza'

Artist: Diana ‘MaNgwenya’ Samkange
Album: Kwayedza
Label & Year:  MaNgwenya Music inc, 2016

Diana Samkange. Photo: Facebook
Diana Samkange. Photo: Facebook
Zimbabwean musician Diana ‘MaNgwenya’ Samkange quietly released a new album titled Kwayedza on 12 August in the UK. It was very brave of her to settle for the same date on which her fellow countryman Jah Prayzah released his much-hyped (yet average) album Mudhara Vachauya. One wonders whether Diana wanted her album to compete or just retired to fate. Most female musicians have for long complained that they do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, especially with regards to live show promotions and media visibility. My argument has always been that Zimbabwean female musicians are not doing enough. But here, Diana outdid herself and gave us a decent album. This is why even without much promotional effort the offering’s best songs are already radio staples. 
 

The title-track and first song on the eight-track album is ‘Kwayedza’, a spiritual jam which sets the tone for this mature offering. Showcasing the performer’s sheer musicality, the number has a deep message which addresses  the realities of many people in Zimbabwe. It is influenced by mhande (a Zimbabwean traditional dance) and speaks of a new beginning, where one is aware of their enemies but takes the most difficult yet peaceful decision of maintaining their silence and peace. Of course silence is golden in the context of dealing with personal issues but I have to say it’s disastrous when dealing with national issues.

This is probably why Diana adds her voice to the call for a better Zimbabwe through the song ‘Rugare’ (prosperity). In the song she laments, calling to the ancestors to intervene and forgive Zimbabweans for their wrongs. This sombre song resonates very well with the current violent protests happening in Zimbabwe, where some people have desperately resorted to ‘chaotic’ means in order to bring change in the country. One hopes the song gets the airplay it deserves and that people will be encouraged to continue with peaceful demonstrations that will force the government to address people’s pleas.

The genius of the third track ‘Matero’ is in its simplicity. The song is not congested with unnecessary instrumentation. Like every other song on this album, ‘Matero’ is laden with meaning. Not to suggest that Diana copied here, but one cannot help but notice at least the similarities of her style with that of talented Zimbabwean artist Victor Kunonga

One of my favourite songs on this album is ‘Mationesa’, which was released early as a promotional single. On this one Diana and talented producer Munya Vially laced a fast paced composition which has the potential to appeal both to sungura fans and her usual audience. What I did not like, however, is the song’s video. Given the upbeat tempo and energy the song has, MaNgwenya should have delivered a serious dance performance in the video or at least hired a professional dance crew like IYASA. An energetic video gives viewers a clue of what to expect at an artist’s live shows. This is particularly important considering that musicians generate more revenue from live performances. In Zimbabwe musicians hardly make anything from music sales because of the ravaging effects of piracy.

What I find particularly striking is Diana’s effortless singing. She has a beautiful, sexy voice which brings something different to mbira music. Her calm, velvet voice is soothing and I should mention in the same breadth that she has a very beautiful showbiz face. I have often argued that modern day mbira musicians might fail to break into regional markets because they are not allowing their (our) music to speak to other musical languages. For me, the easiest way to do that is to realise that good vocals are a universal music language. Diana’s sultry voice certainly makes it easy for anyone to fall in love with  mbira music.

By branding herself as MaNgwenya I wonder if Diana is making a marketing decision to be seen as a spirit medium or if she is genuinely linked to the cosmos? For now what is certain is that her star is on the rise and Kwayedza is one album I would not hesitate to buy.

Kwayedza will be available for purchase on iTunes from Thursday 1 September. Otherwise if you are in Zimbabwe you can find it at New Look Music Shop in George Silundika Avenue, Harare.

 

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