By Kudzai Chikiwa
When Mai Patai, a gospel musician from Gweru, was announced as the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) People’s Choice winner last weekend, many quizzed how an artiste, whose brand and music was not known by many, had won.
Research, however, has shown that Mai Patai (real name Respina Patai), an almost forgotten musician who this year became the first woman to make it into the Coca-Cola Radio Zimbabwe Top 50 top three, was making strides in the music industry with her Punish the Devil album.
With her song – Anokomborera, Mai Patai, who most will remember from the early 2000s for the Mazambara hit, beat heavyweights Jah Prayzah and Winky D to win the People’s Choice Award. The question most have been asking as a result is how on earth did she beat these two artistes who fill venues and have thousands of followers on social media?
Well, for a start, Mai Patai said she was popular because of her songs which people can relate to as they are about the struggles people face. She said through her songs, people find healing, peace and love.
“I’m proud that I’m the first woman to win this award. I’m not surprised by how people are debating about it (Nama win) because they forget that the winner is determined by votes (and not just popularity on the streets or social media including the amount of airplay one receives on radio),” she said.
“My songs are popular among many Zimbabweans who’re facing challenges because of the unstable economy and natural disasters (Cyclone Idai). Through my songs, people find peace and comfort, that’s why I became their choice.”
The 40-year-old, whose Anokomborera track garnered 49 487 votes, said the debate around her victory also reflects the gender stereotypes which are affecting female musicians in the local music industry.
“My fellow female artistes should never lose hope because people out there judge us. Some say we don’t deserve to be on top because we’re women but I say, women should keep doing their thing,” she said.
Asked how she mobilised her fans to vote for her, Mai Patai, who is a member of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) in Zimbabwe, said like any other artiste, she used social media. She said she never asked the church to vote for her, contrary to what most people have been saying.
“I asked my fans to vote for me on social media and if there’s anyone from my church who voted for me, it’s because they love my music not because I asked for votes from the church,” she said.
“My strategy was using platforms like Whatsapp fan groups, Facebook and Instagram. Every day, I made sure I reminded people to cast their votes.”
The musician said having many followers on social media does not equate to votes, something that most people do not seem to understand.
“To those who’re saying I didn’t deserve to win because I’m not popular (on social media), my answer is I’m not popular to those who don’t like my music because normally people follow what they want.”
She said God qualifies the unqualified and her victory is a sign that it is God who determines who wins a battle.
“The battle is not for the swift, but the chosen ones. Before the eyes of people, I know I don’t qualify, but to God, I’m the right candidate. So if God be for me, who can be against me?” The Chronicle.