Fungi­sai: Zim gospel’s rebel with­out a pause

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Soccer Cricket Sport - Sun­day Life Cor­re­spon­dent

This week, gospel star Fungi­sai Zvakava­pano-Mashavave found her­self in un­fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings as she made an ap­pear­ance be­fore judge Ru­ra­mai Chi­tum­bura to face a charge of neg­li­gent driv­ing.

The court­room, where the bang of the judge’s gavel can see a man or woman’s life turn out for the worst, is not a place for the faint hearted. In­deed, af­ter an ac­ci­dent that saw metal kiss metal as four cars came to­gether in a messy tan­gle on Leopold Takawira Street, one would have ex­pected to see a grief-stricken song­bird flut­ter­ing about as she tried to con­vince every­one of her in­no­cence.

How­ever, Fungi­sai’s re­sponse showed hardly any anx­i­ety. Rather than the court of law where she is be­ing ac­cused, among other charges, of speed­ing through the Harare CBD, she re­sponded on the plat­form where she has been re­peat­edly cru­ci­fied in the past: so­cial me­dia.

“Yes, its true, af­ter my 1st af­ter­noon ap­pear­ance at the To­day’s Woman Con­fer­ence 2017, I got in­volved in an ac­ci­dent. The devil wanted to cre­ate a dis­as­ter and per­haps claim lives in­clud­ing mine be­fore I had re­ceived my mir­a­cle which fol­lowed the next day.

“Aida kun­di­tadzisa kud­zok­era kuCon­fer­ence but MUNAMATO waJesu Christu wakandichengeta, He was de­feated on the cross. I am grate­ful to God we are all safe. No one plans for an ac­ci­dent but ob­vi­ously the courts have a duty to de­ter­mine the cause of ac­ci­dent and pun­ish any hu­man er­ror pa- road,” she posted.

It was a typ­i­cally as­sured re­sponse by the gospel diva, who is fast be­com­ing a reg­u­lar at brush­ing off ev­ery new bit of con­tro­versy that lands on her shoul­ders.

This was just the lat­est in a long list of con­tro­ver­sies that have dogged the star. When she rein­vented her­self as a gospel singing dance­hall diva, she up­set the coun­try’s mu­sic scene in a way that few artistes have in the past.

The coun­try’s gospel mu­sic scene ex­ists like a mu­sic in­dus­try of its own, with its most prom­i­nent artistes seem­ingly liv­ing by the un­writ­ten rule that they can­not min­gle with mu­si­cians from other gen­res.

Worldly plea­sures such as dance­hall, gospel crit­ics con­tend, may poi­son the holy mes­sage and in­ten­tion of the genre. For the av­er­age gospel star, sprin­kling a few sec­u­lar el­e­ments on the un­spoiled gospel for­mula is as close as one gets to ca­reer sui­cide. Not so for Fungi­sai.

Her sud­den trans­for­ma­tion into a chant­ing, leather out­fit wear­ing gospel dance­hall goddess won her both plau­dits and crit­ics. De­pend­ing on which side of the fence one was sit­ting on, she trans­formed into ei­ther a fresh, new voice to break the bar­ri­ers that stand in the way of the genre’s progress, or she be­came just another star mis­us­ing her voice, as she be­came snared by earthly plea­sures.

What was over­looked in all of this was how brave this re­birth, car­ried out in full view of a bay­ing public, was. It was a re­bel­lion that re­ceived many re­bukes de­spite the fact that the mu­si­cal out­put from the trans­for­ma­tion saw her top the charts and leave the stages of a few award shows with a few gongs un­der her arms.

While memes flew on so­cial me­dia and holier than thou vul­tures cir­cled over her, she took it all in her stride. De­spite rein­vent­ing her­self as Phoebe as she re­turns to con­ven­tional style of old, Fungi­sai still in­sists that she was right to take the artis­tic de­ci­sions she did.

“It’s re­ally sad that there are some who feel bet­ter to think I was once lost and now I am found. I un­der­stand them and it’s ok. Truth be told, from where I am stand­ing, I ac­com­plished all my God-given as­sign­ments with my all. The peo­ple to whom I were sent, the peo­ple whom I gave an al­ter­na­tive mes­sage to the drugs, ob­scen­i­ties and vi­o­lence that was ini­tially the only op­tion they had pa new sound, the true Body of Christ knows what God has done for them through this min­istry and God has not taken away a sin­gle song from my whole col­lec­tion of 123 songs. God min­is­tered to me one morn­ing as my 8-year-old daugh­ter was singing “ndiri mboko and hand­i­ite.” To­day I am proud she has a choice to sing Amai ndakanaka nekuti mwari makanaka” and many more,” she said.

The fact that her lat­est al­bum, Heal­ing De­vo­tion, has not at­tracted as much at­ten­tion is per­haps in­dica­tive of the fact that she has given gospel the safe, non­con­tro­ver­sial ver­sion of her­self that gospel fans were clam­our­ing for.

Jug­gling the role of gospel star, a mother and busi­ness­woman for over a decade and a half, Fungi­sai has proved time and time again that she is the queen of the lo­cal gospel scene. While some­times the crown she wears might feel like one of thorns, her spirit of re­bel­lious­ness may make sure that she stays in the head­lines and reigns well into the fu­ture.

Bruce Ndlovu

Fungi­sai Zvakava­pano-Mashavave

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