By Godwin Muzari
When Sandra Ndebele launched her new single ‘Ingoma’ at City Sports Bar on Friday, she took another step of a music journey that has had mixed fortunes.
‘Ingoma’ is a duet with Mzoe 7 and the two are on a campaign to market the new release that will be on Sandra’s upcoming album.
She said their City Sports Bar show is their first event in Harare to announce the project after a successful Bulawayo campaign.
Sandra takes the campaign as a bright light in her music career that has had its highs and lows.
Going down memory lane, the musician recalled how she became one of the few lucky musicians to hog the limelight in the early days of their art.
With only one album to her name in the early 2000s, she shook the showbiz scene and became a centre of attraction.
She also got a good share of criticism as people felt her dances were obscene while her dressing was said to be too revealing for public appearances.
But Sandy braved the waves and pushed her art through.
Male fans would flock to her shows to see her in action, obviously lured by her seductive style.
She got contracts to share the stage with big musicians of the time and toured many parts of the country gracing big shows.
The early fame was exciting, but it also had its challenges.
One of her worst moments came when she had a show in Chinhoyi with Alick Macheso.
“It was in 2004 and promoters were jostling for my signature yet I only had a few songs to my name. Actually I only had two hits ‘Malaika’ and ‘Mama Mama’ from the album ‘Chaya Chaya’. The songs were really doing well, but I could not sustain a long slot on stage,” she recalled.
“It was ok when I just had short performances, but the show in Chinhoyi was a different case. I went on stage ahead of Macheso and had to perform for some hours before he came. I played all my songs and started repeating the hits because I had exhausted my playlist.
“People got impatient and started waving me off the stage.That was the time when fans would regularly break into that popular tune ‘Macheso, Macheso mai mwana’ whenever they wanted him to come on stage.
“That night I had a nightmare on stage when people began singing the chorus to chase me off the stage. I felt so ashamed and could not continue. I got off the stage and began crying. Macheso saw me weeping back stage and he comforted me.
“He told me to be strong and advised me to start practicing cover versions of other musicians’ songs to prolong my performances. That night his words only made me cry harder because I saw it as a sign of failure. I wanted to pull out of our next show in Kariba.
“That night I cried in my blankets. It was only the following morning when Macheso’s words of comfort began to make sense. I resolved to continue with the tour. In Kariba he shielded me by coming early on stage.
“I gained confidence and the following week we started rehearsing for cover version performances. Things began to change and I also got experience with time until I could do shows on my own. More albums also meant more songs to perform and I have been enjoying the journey since then.”
Sandra says the music industry taught her to be strong because she was implicated in numerous controversial stories.
“I was accused of many things and I had to develop a thick skin, because some of the claims were damaging.
“When things began working well for me in the industry, I went on my first holiday in South Africa and spent some time there. My absence raised suspicions and upon return I was confronted with reports claiming I had gone to SA for abortion.
“The other time some reports claimed that I was HIV positive when I had shed a bit of weight. I was also linked to many prominent men as people claimed I was in love with them. I accepted these situations as the challenges that come with my type of art and I moved on.”
Sandra’s arrival on the scene was emphatic to the extent of being nominated in the same category with Alick Macheso and Oliver Mtukudzi for the Best Live Act award at Zimbabwe Music Awards.
In 2003, she won the Best Female Artiste award at National Arts Merit Awards and, since the beginning of Harare International Carnival, she has scooped the Best Carnival Act award at all her appearances.
She became a prominent feature at national music galas where she stole the limelight on numerous occasions.
Because of her resilience, she got many endorsement deals and is currently ambassador for Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, National Blood Service Zimbabwe, Mpilo Hospital and Suzuki.
Sandra has toured various countries that include Russia, Germany, Canada, Japan, China and United Kingdom among others.
The artiste values her traditional roots and besides her band, she also leads an all-female group Intombi Zomqangala that seeks to promote local culture abroad.
She said her collaboration with Mzoe 7 is one of the projects she has lined up with a number of artistes this year.
She has been travelling between Harare and Bulawayo every week to map the way ahead of her new album that is expected in October.
Sandra said the busy schedule between family, business and music often keep her away from the studio and this year she is working hard to have a new release.
She also has to spare time for her studies as she recently enrolled for a Marketing and Public Relations programme with a local college. The Chronicle