..manager reflects on journey to BET award
Zvikomborero Parafini, Entertainment Reporter
South Africa based Amapiano Queen, Sha Sha, has been nominated for the BET Viewer’s Choice International Act award.
Sha Sha is the first ever Zimbabwean to be nominated for the annual event which celebrates music, film, acting and sports excellence by athletes and artists of colour.
H-Metro yesterday spoke to the songstress’s manager of five years Fungai Kush Zvirawa who reflected on the journey of how Sha Sha became the Amapiano Queen, infiltrating the South Africa market and how to improve the appeal of Zimbabwean music to get to international markets.
Below is the Question and Answer between H-Metro and Sha Sha’s camp:
Q: Who is Sha Sha?
A: Charmaine ‘Sha Sha’ Mapimbiro is a singer/song writer who is from Dangamvura, Mutare. She did some of her schooling in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
She has been an up and coming artiste for some time but I think it’s fair to say she’s not up and coming anymore as from 2018 when we got her signed to Sony Music and secured her publishing with Universal Publishing.
She has made her way and worked really hard in South Africa to dominate on the Amapiano scene.
I think that’s what probably broke her into the South Africa and SADC market due to the popularity of the Amapiano genre.
How she got scouted is a really amazing story, you know how God brings your breakthrough through the law of attraction.
She was in a taxi with a Zimbabwean driver whom she was speaking to about her music and he told her that he knew DJ Maphorisa and then he gave her his number and that’s how she blossomed.
Sha Sha and DJ Maphorisa met in SA, and with my push we managed to get the deal with Sony and it has been history ever since.
She’s usually in-between Zimbabwe and South Africa and obviously with all that’s happening in the entertainment scene she’s been busy pushing her content which is her EP Blossom.
Q: How has it been like managing Sha Sha and how are feeling about this nomination?
A: It’s been a journey, it stemmed from a long time ago, myself, Audius Mtawarira, Yagi Dojo were quite pivotal in the early days of her career where we worked together to come up with a plan for her at Blindfaith studios.
Obviously with our network, I used to manage Audius as well, we agreed to push Sha Sha.
The interesting journey came when Sha Sha and I decided that we had spent a lot of energy which wasn’t yielding expected results.
We knew what we were doing but we weren’t fully seeing the results as we were hoping balancing that with the energy we were pushing in. During that time Sha Sha she had performed at HIFA, Shoko Festival, Unplugged and the Big Chill but it just wasn’t translating to the numbers we knew we truly deserved.
We pushed her to explore the South African market and it really worked out.
We had the challenge of exploring an unknown territory but we had the support from the likes of Taponeswa Mavhunga she’s well known within the major label sector industry, the guys from the state ANASHE also helped out pushing her, we united and said lets go for gold. It’s been a fun, testing journey, sometimes you don’t have the finance, for flights, food but you just piece together and move on.
Q: What does this nomination mean for Zimbabwean music?
A: I think this is a huge opportunity for breaking barriers for Zimbabwean music.
When I select artistes it’s very important to have a crossover appeal. One of the strengths I saw in Sha Sha was the crossover strength, her ability to speak in Zulu, Ndebele, Shona and English was so important because I have a lot of artistes who have wanted me to manage them and I had to make a decision.
I ran with Sha Sha first because in my own capacity, I didn’t have the strong network in South Africa, so rather than going with five, let’s have one flagship to open up barriers and that work I have done. I am now looking at prioritising the artists I put on hold and then more.
Q: What do you think of the appeal of music in Zimbabwe, why is it difficult to break international markets?
A: I think everyone seems to work in silos and I think people need to unite. We have enough of a population to be famous, but we still need to bridge our industry, the music industry is in silos and people need to seriously come together so that we can fully maximise local.
We have enough bodies locally, so someone like Enzo Ishall shouldn’t be able to walk into a supermarket and not be mobbed. I think Zimbabwean music is enough for Zimbabwe, because when I look at Davido he’s winning just because he is Nigerian and Nigeria alone is pushing him.
This opportunity is good to unite Zimbabweans for their talent, Sha Sha is pushing Zimbabwe, and she has a track called Mutare, what more do we need if she’s recognising that she’s from Zim. Artists need to take time and look at their craft, invest in their craft, and to think if they can crossover and appeal in Malawi, Taiwana, America. Davido sings in his language but there’s a bit of English. What are we doing with the actual craft, are we putting the mbira, the drums, to have that Zimbabwean identity and signature. Artists need to work with the right people, the decision for us was Zim’s not working for us and we need to be linked with major labels.
Q: What needs to be done or improved to penetrate international markets?
A: First of all, key industry stakeholders need to be connected that means if you are a promoter, be professional about it have the right equipment, if you’re a promoter have a nice area for your artists don’t let them stand with everyone, treat the artist right. The artiste has got to be on time for their performance then people need to get paid. Consumers of music need to buy music on the relevant platforms and not support piracy. Sha Sha’s music sales are based on digital sales that’s not piracy. We as listeners of music and concert revellers need to pay as well. Our industry is there but needs to improve, first at home.
Q: What’s the importance of networking in showbiz?
A: It’s so important, wouldn’t have gone this far without the skill of networking. The skill is humility, knowing where your limit is, learning and not being shy to call out for help. Research is also important know who you’re talking to, go online check who’s at this label, who can I get there, is there a manager are the promoters, how am I looking on my social media profiles.
Q; How was it like penetrating the SA market, what challenges did you face as foreigners?
A: We’ve been blessed in South Africa because of the cushioning from the label side, it hasn’t been too hectic. We have been focused, because of the networking we have invested in over the years, we were quite clear of the strategy. The challenge was finding the right deal, we hopped from Ambitious to Universal then we concluded with Sony and Blackboy.
Q: Would you say Sha Sha is more celebrated in SA than in Zimbabwe?
A: That’s a tricky one to answer. Sha Sha’s fan base in Zimbabwe exists however because of the stage we decided to move to and focus our energy on South Africa was a point which needed time for her to be physically away so with the breakthrough in South Africa, South Africa has sort of taken over. When you see Sha Sha perform she has a fan base here. Unfortunately what happened with her time in South Africa, we had a line-up of gigs in Zimbabwe, 2020 was the year we were saying we are back to give time back in Zimbabwe because the love has always been there. The radio stations in Zim have been supportive so we can’t say SA loves her more but it’s just an unfair advantage because we haven’t fully explored Zimbabwe as we would have. I think with this nomination, we have a good angle to get back that attraction, we haven’t pushed her in Zimbabwe and we have pushed South Africa because of the hype and really when you have Maphorisa, Mlindo, Samthing Soweto, those are big names she has worked with.
Q: Is this Sha Sha’s first award nomination, has she won awards before?
A: This is our first BET award, we have been nominated for a Zim Achievers Award which were postponed because of Covid-19.
Q: What does this nomination mean for brand Sha Sha?
A: This nomination is huge for brand Sha Sha, from her eyes, I spoke to her again this morning and she said I have won already because I have been nominated. Sha Sha is very humble, so she is elated because she was nominated. I look at successes of Wizkid and Burna Boy when they were new international acts that were nominated at the BET, I saw significant change in their careers. This is a really good position for breaking boundaries and really good for her brand.
Q: What does it mean to you as her manager?
A: It means I should keep going, I started a long time ago and it’s a huge achievement to say I have a BET award nominee. I have put my heart and soul, time and money in this so it means it’s worth it and I want to do more.
Q: Who are you choosing to manage next?
A: I need to do my level best for Silent Nqo. I believe in him so much and I will push as best as I can after this. I had it started as I said it earlier, it’s been tough it pains me actually because I love is music his character and he has an X factor, he is just talented. Coincidentally we share the same birthday maybe that’s why.
Q: What advice would you give to up and coming artists who want to penetrate international markets?
A: Continue with the dream, dream it, believe it and you gotta achieve it.
The hardest thing is to believe in yourself, a lot of people have that challenge because it’s to do with confidence and then you have to implement it to achieve it.
You can’t implement something you don’t have an idea for, this didn’t come over night it’s been sweat, blood, tears, and fights along the way. Believe in yourself, don’t quit, never quit, anything is possible, with all that we did, its being at the right place at the right time so keep going.