Fungisai: Zim gospel’s rebel without a pause
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.