Chose your lane or be chosen.
Facilitated by Alex Gwaze (Curator)
There are two spaces where for me it’s not surprising to walk in and find someone singing out loud: a church and a restaurant / bar. In these third spaces it’s not strange to see someone front and centre expressing themselves fully. However, there is a big difference between Gospel music and what was once referred to as “lounge music”. The sound, musical styling, audience and agenda are all different. Well maybe not the audience or the performers, but the content and context are definitely night and day, literary. Nonetheless, in my search for commonality I thought it would be interesting to put a contemporary “lounge singer” I know in a conversation with a full-time Gospel artist – and see what grey areas emerge.
Firstly let me introduce Singer and Visual Artist Knima Presh, who also goes by her real name Nomzamo Precious Ndebele. Knima is an Afrojazz / Folk Pop singer. She started singing in 2016 and she is a “Starbrite Talent Search” and “Hear Me Zimbabwe” finalist. Knima was part of the Gweru Polytechnic band alongside singer Nyasha David and since then she has released several singles that include “Just Say” and “Sometimes”. As a Visual Artist her works have been exhibited at the “9th Beijing Art Biennale” in China and the “Peripheral Chronicles” Midlands exhibition. Knima is currently the resident singer at Les Vigo restaurant in Gweru, Zimbabwe.
Next let me introduce Singer/ Songwriter, Psalmist Lindiwe Machacha. Psalmist Lindiwe is primarily a Gospel artist who is currently based in South Africa. She recorded her first album “Zulu khaya lami” in 2019 and in 2022 she released several singles as a collection. Her singles “Ngisimamise” and “Ngezi nsuku zonke” peaked at number 2 on the Skyz Metro FM Gospel chart and the former won best Gospel song at the Temsa awards. Furthermore, Lindiwe won best female Gospel artist at the aMaqhawanentaba awards and she was nominated at the Kadawa Awards.
Knima and Psalmist had never met before but in their chat they talked about drunkards, connections, South Africa, mothers, God and producers.
KNIMA: Sorry I’m so tired, I had a gig yesterday. How are you finding the SA music scene?
PSALMIST: That’s fine, don’t worry. It’s good that you are working, it’s a blessing from God. SA is good hey. I’m trying to get along with the people.
KNIMA: What do you mean by get along?
PSALMIST: I sing Gospel and Gospel has no barriers. All are welcome in the house of God. But you can’t just sing where you want, you must be invited first (laughs). So at the moment I am meeting people, building relationships, making connections – you know, getting along with people.
KNIMA: (laughs) Oh I got you now. Sorry I am a little slow today. Even in Zim, if you wanna get proper paid gigs you must be well connected. I get some of my gigs from connections. I guess it’s just about starting from where you are. Knowing some people that could connect you to those people that will connect you to some other people. It’s a people’s game this networking thing. And if you’re an upcoming artist be ready to perform at some gigs at random venues for free nje – to showcase your talent. I got a lot of gigs like that. For example I got a gig when I was busy selling a disc to someone at a free gig I was performing at. They were just passing by and saw the cover artwork. They took my number and later asked me to come and perform at their venue.
PSALMIST: What kinds of venues have you performed at?
KNIMA: I’ve played a lot of restaurants, private functions and weddings. I love it! The reason why I love to do Afro Jazz type music is because people now believe it’s music for classy, rich or mature people. Which is so different from the origins of Jazz or Afrobeat. Plus I also play the guitar which was also associated with ragamuffin folk singers. But thankfully for me today the music I enjoy playing and singing draws a different crowd here. I sometimes feel one needs to have their own targeted audience that maybe suits their personality and standards before they make their music. Because personally I really don’t enjoy playing at shebeens and taverns. I love doing intimate gigs like weddings, expos, exhibitions, corporate events, and private bashes.
PSALMIST: I have never performed at a tavern but l think l must try it.
KNIMA: What? Are you serious?
PSALMIST: The word of God knows no barriers plus drunks support anything they hear.
KNIMA: (laughs) Yoh you are brave! Some of them could feel like you are disturbing their vibes (laughs).
PSALMIST: And reminding them that God is everywhere (laughs). But seriously I do get your point but for Gospel l think it’s not for saved people only. Those seeking escape in taverns need the love of God too.
KNIMA: You are serious neh.
PSALMIST: You play a lot of restaurants. Do you sometimes feel like you are disturbing the eating?
KNIMA: No haa (laughs). Actually people enjoy watching while we sing. So I always feel like I’m giving them some beautiful moments. In fact it’s like we are sharing a moment.
PSALMIST: I get that feeling in church. It feels so good to sing for God, especially in the church choir. All those different voices plus the congregation and the band. All of us sharing our love for God with one voice. It’s a great experience cos you also learn to enjoy the presence of God and feel the power of the Holy Spirit – together.
KNIMA: You’ve just taken me back. I’m in the praise and worship at church. I grew up in a Christian background (my dad being a pastor). I’ve been in the choir since grade 3. And in high school and at poly I was in the college band. You know when I was young it bothered me singing in the choir. I wasn’t so upfront and confident about my singing. So in the choir I hid behind others voices – you can do that cos the whole church experience is communal and none judgmental. But it still bothered me because I knew I didn’t want to be seen. My dad was so concerned, he would strongly advice me to come out. But eventually I did because I loved it, I just had to sing.
PSALMIST: It’s such a great thing when parents are patient and encourage their children to explore their talents.
KNIMA: Yeah it is. It’s difficult at first but you grow each day. I remember at first my mother was like being an artist – “ndezvemarombe, you’ll starve”. Now she actually doesn’t want anyone derailing me from that line of work. Hanzi,“stick to yo lane” (laughs).
PSALMIST: That’s so beautiful. There’s nothing more powerful than a mother and daughter on the same page.
KNIMA: What’s your relationship with your mother like? Eish I can’t believe I’m asking you about your mom, I sound like a therapist right now (laughs).
PSALMIST: (laughs) My relationship with my mother is perfect, thank you for asking ma’am (laughs). But seriously, my mother knew I could sing. I would be singing hymns and stuff at home. Plus I would sing some of my songs (I usually write my songs being led by Holy Spirit or being given lyrics in dreams). Anyway, she didn’t know I was an artist until she heard my album.
KNIMA: Really! Wow. Did she hear your music on the radio or?
PSALMIST: No, it was a bit more formal. I called her after I finished my album. I hadn’t published it. It wasn’t out there anywhere on any platform. I wanted her to know and get her blessings. I told her about it and my career path and she gave me her blessing. She did not mention any concerns or things that bothered her that people often say about the music industry. She was happy and she supported me fully. I was so excited! And I released the album. I didn’t choose Gospel, it was a calling from God.
KNIMA: That’s so cool! So wow! I’m so happy for you. And for your album release too. I have a few singles but no album yet. What’s the most difficult thing about making an album. I like to know know the problems first (laughs).
PSALMIST: As a woman you face a lot of challenges as you know. For example when I was working on my album some producers did not finish my songs, after paying them the full amount. They gave me unfinished work. But I kept on going by the grace of God.
KNIMA: God always makes a path. I can relate. Getting your work from some male producers feels like you trying to avoid an obvious trap. They create problems that they probably wouldn’t do if you were a guy. I’m still trying to get my files from some producers who are either too tired, can’t find the work or have no data etcetera etcetera.
PSALMIST: (laughs) Always carry a memory stick or an external hard-drive with you when you have a session with any producer. Take your files with you before you leave the studio. People always have stories.
KNIMA: You know it can be discouraging. That’s why I sometimes just prefer to just sing live. Maybe I should do a live album.
PSALMIST: Got for it!
KNIMA: Yes we should collaborate.
PSALMIST: I’m in. You play the guitar right? Do you play any other African instruments?
KNIMA: Haa no, I only play the guitar.
PSALMIST: What do you enjoy the most about playing the guitar?
KNIMA: It’s the beautiful sound that the strings make. Plus being able to play it is so satisfying and enjoyable. It’s a blessing to have some people watch and enjoy watching you play.
PSALMIST: Playing an instrument is a great skill. but I cannot run away from singing. I will sing even Afro pop Gospel, contemporary Gospel, Maskandi Gospel, I love music! But yeah l always wish to learn another creative skill, like acting. I wanna act yazi.
KNIMA: Me too. I already paint but I would also like to do some acting and designing. I love being creative.
PSALMIST: Who are some of your influences.
KNIMA: Chiwoniso Maraire, Tariro neGitare, Msaki, Tracy Chapman. Those are just some who come to mind now – yours?
PSALMIST: Mine are Hlengiwe Mhlaba, Mai Mwamuka, Rebecca and many more. It’s interesting that we both thought of women immediately. The world is changing.
KNIMA: Yes, with God being the lead, thina silandela ngemuva.
PSALMIST: Yes dear. l wish you nothing but good luck in your music career. May God continue to open doors for you, qhubekela phambili ntokazi. You are in my prayers.
KNIMA: Thank you so much. I’ll pray for you too.
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