By Mtandazo Dube
HARARE – She has no album to her name, just a string of singles and collaborations —yet she is immensely popular.
Since her father’s death a few years ago, she established herself, first as a talented dancer and later on as a gifted vocalist and an exceptional stage performer.
Like an onion which has multiple layers — life continues to peel her off, revealing more of the talent that is obviously embedded in her DNA. Ammara Brown, just like her late father Andy, is without doubt endowed with multiple artistic talents, from music writing and singing to being a genius with any musical instrument.
But just like her father, the vivacious beauty is no stranger to controversy. One is tempted to think that like other artistes, she thrives on it, what with the admission by gospel musician Mathius Mhere that he stage managed the recent controversy involving his wife and best friend just to enhance album sales and get more popular.
So as she announced a few weeks ago on social networks that her secretive romance with Zimbabwe’s favourite bad boy Rockford “Roki” Josphats had ended, the story became fodder for tabloids, gossip columns and prime time radio discussions.
As the story was dying down, she stoked the fires, posting several posts that were viewed by most as a veiled attack at her former flame, Roki.
She set Twitter on fire with successive posts like “If your person has insane tantrums and mood swings and blames it on exhaustion or manic depression he needs God or a doctor, not you!
“If your family, closest friends and even work colleagues think your person is an abusive douche bag — guess what — he is so abort mission.
“If you begin to lose business or money because of your relationship — abort mission. If your man is constantly accusing you of cheating on him, when you are not: News Flash: he is cheating on you!
Unsure whether this was one of Ammara’s games or indeed a venting of anger, The Sunday Mail Leisure sought a comment from the diva, but she was not only evasive but dismissive as well.
Surprisingly, she turned around a few days later and extended an invitation for an interview at her home. Dressed in a short, revealing summer dress, bare feet and braless — the 26-year-old beauty opened her doors to this publication.
“I needed you guys to come and see that I’m just a normal young mother trying to eke out a living in the cut-throat Zimbabwean music industry,” she said as her three-year-old son, Khameel, ran around the house, constantly disrupting the interview with all kinds of requests and generally giving his mother a hard time.
Being a single mother.
The diva says she has made it her mission to teach her son the dos and don’ts so as to prepare him for tomorrow.
“Right now he is learning who Ammara Brown is on television and in newspapers. He knows my friends and colleagues like uncle Tendai (Tehn Diamond) and aunty Cynthia (Mare).
“Recently I took him to the Nama rehearsals — I was so happy he could be a part of it. I want him to feel it. I want to groom him and prepare him for the life differences caused by the life choices I have made.
“As I was growing up people would say ‘she thinks she is special because she is Andy Brown’s daughter’ — that is what he will face and he has to be ready. I just hope God will give me time to see him into manhood. I love him to bits.
I want my son to feel like its family time when we are in a rehearsal. He is going to become what I groom him to be. I have to show him what is normal and what is not,” she said.
She says unlike other single parents who deny their children a chance to know their absent parent; she has cultivated her son’s relationship with her father.
“His dad is an Angolan Catholic who is based in South Africa while my son like me is Muslim. But that does not stop us from communicating using Skype, Viber or whichever means available to us. I have to make sure that he knows that his father is there and loves him.
The Roki factor
With the relationship having been announced through Facebook by controversial rapper, Maskiri, it was always going to be difficult to know if it was real or fake.
“It was real,” she quipped, “If you look at my life closely I’ve never shed light on my private life.”
She says the timing of the “announcement” of her relationship with the father of five (official kids) was awful.
“The situation was traumatic. We were so new to each other as lovers. The first six months of a relationship are supposed to be easy but for us it wasn’t. We were hung out for display.
“I didn’t think that anyone would find out so soon. I expected that people would catch on much later. All of a sudden we were in reality TV — it is unnecessary pressure, people zoom in and you lose the freedom to live life as you please,” said.
“I have known Roki since I was a teenager. My dad even suspected that we had a thing for each other way back. Before he released ‘Chidzoka’, he e-mailed me to ask what I thought of the song and that’s like 10 years ago. I had met him when I was 15 at Galas.”
Ammara says Roki and her got close last year when they were brought together by a musical project.
“We got close when I was doing a collaboration with Fuzzy L, which Roki was producing. We also had a few more working relations when I became his video girl for his song ‘Number One’.
“As the romance was warming up, boom, information got out. It wasn’t even weeks — I was really hurt,” she said.
. . . the breakup
“I told him ‘I don’t think that you are built for me and I for you’.
“After all the drama I just felt like we would be better as friends and he got it. Even the way that we broke up there was no drama. I always leave my relationships in a good state so that we can still be friends,” she said.
She says the breakup has opened doors for numerous suitors who unfortunately are just pursuing her as a trophy.
“All the people that were waiting on the sidelines are now queuing up but I’m just not there. They don’t look at me as a person but as a prize. Which is where Roki was different — he still looked at me in a way that reminded me that I am a person, a normal person not some trophy.”
Ammara and Jah Prayzah collaborated on the song ‘‘Kure Kure’’ and have other works in the offing. However, their work relationship sparked rumours of an affair between the two when they first came together.
“When I was asked whether or not I was having an affair with Jah Prayzah — I said ‘I won’t justify that with an answer’ — he is married and we are not into each other that way but musically.
“He came into my life when I was planning the ‘Andy Brown Forever concert’ and needed someone who could do justice to my father’s music. I said to my manager — ‘I want to see him perform live’ — normally that is how I measure someone’s strengths.
“He is a very strong performer and I noticed that he plays mbira as well, so we just became friends. Recently he called me to say he wants an English song from me — at the same time he is writing me a Shona song, so we are cool like that,” she said.
The much-awaited album
“I have too much material that I have recorded. I think I will just release some of the music for free on the internet,” she says.
She plans to release a 12-track album sometime this year, but will drop two singles first; starting with “Havarare” an Andy Brown-inspired infusion of rock and a bit of sungura influenced by Afro-pop rhythm with R & B vocals.
The other song set to be released as a single is “Crystal Blue Moon” — a track steeped in the rich vocals of the late Chioniso Maraire complete with the mbira and the bass guitar.
“I’m working with producers and artistes from Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and a lot of local guys.”
A fortnight ago, Ammara released “Like My Music”, a collaboration with Fuzzy L.
She describes her music as “greatly influenced by Zimbabwean beats and distinctive to Zimbabwe”.
“A lot of foreigners that listen to my music are taken aback. I represent my country well through my music.”
As Zimbabwean artistes we should come together to come up with our own quality control mechanisms, perfect our culture and work on influencing policies.
“Thirty years from now I want to be a strong brand with 10 artistes in my stable, whose worries would be how to be an artiste not budgets. We can do this. The Sunday Mail