TRAILBLAZER: Thandeka Mfinyongo

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Music has always been my first love. At a young age, I became part of the church choir since I knew that I loved music. I later joined a gospel choir outside church and we recorded an album. As a woman in this industry, it is often difficult to make a name for yourself, but having foundations in both church and gospel choir have ingrained values of faith and collaboration in me. Having opportunities such as this so early on in my life have therefore proven crucial and incredibly beneficial to my development as an artist.

Photo by Sibahle Dladla

This year, I courageously released my first single called Wenza Ngabom. I say this is courageous because any musician will tell you listening to your own voice is rather strange and having to share it with the world takes a lot of bravery and confidence. I look up to a lot of strong black female artists who have made their mark in this industry and who were not just musicians but activists, such as Miriam Makeba.

In one of my visits to Madosini, a living legend who makes music out of anything, she said, “I don’t get tired, if someone takes my song about this I will make music about that”. With this, she referred to the power and resilience it takes to be an artist. As artists in this industry, we can often be exploited, and our music can either be manipulated or taken without our consent. Madosini encourages us, the young generation, to take old music and create new things out of it, calling us the “ballpoint generation”. This term has stuck with me as it suggests that we are go-getters, eager to make our mark in the world. These characteristics of our generation are so important for female artists in this industry as it brings hope to resolving the issue of artists being robbed of artistic autonomy.

Photo by Hangula Lukas

The late Busi Mhlongo, another female inspiration, managed to make her mark in the male-dominated genre umbhaqanga and made music that people still love and listen to today. Musicians like Mhlongo, Madosini and Makeba have inspired and continue to inspire me to push for my own artistic autonomy and the further development of my craft. It is also inspiring to see more young women in the industry making their mark even though it is not easy being woman in this industry. The only desire I have is to make my mark and inspire young women to know that anything is possible in this life if you are willing to work hard for it (bear in mind, us women need to work a lot harder to get there). At the end of the day, I want to write music that will last a lifetime and that will resonate with people.

*Thandeka Mfinyongo is a vocalist and has been playing bows for 5 years. After graduating with a Performer’s Diploma in African Music at UCT in 2017, she is continuing with her studies with an advanced Diploma at UCT’s College of Music. Her impressive repertoire includes performing with Lingua Franca in Chicago, USA, and teaching and performing in Mozambique with UCT iBuyambo Orchestra. Thandeka will be doing her first solo performance, entitled ‘Buyel’embo’, at the Baxter’s Masambe Theatre on Friday, 17 August 2018 at 8pm.

This section of VARSITY is a vehicle for expression on any topic by members of the UCT community. The opinions within this section are not necessarily those of the VARSITY collective or its advertisers.

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