SHE may not admit it, but Simangenkosi ‘Mantongande’ Nkala, nee Dube, is a breakthrough gospel singer helping to fill a huge void in Ndebele music which is struggling to catch on after the golden era of Solomon Skuza, Ndux Malax, Freedom Sengwayo, Brian Sibalo, Fanyana Dube, Don Gumbo, Matonto, Lovemore Majaivana and Busi Ncube.
Mantongande, as she’s known to her worldwide following, released her debut album, Behold the Lamb of God
, in 2008. She followed that with last year’s Ngihamba Ngegunya and is recording her first DVD during a live concert at MusiTek in Dagenham, London
, on News Year’s Day.
This is the The Truth About: Mantongande
Home Town: Bulawayo
Children: Two boys Perfect, 11, and Patrick, 6
Marital Status: Married to Pastor Obert Nkala of the Brethren in Christ Church
Your debut album was released in 2008. One imagines you were already singing much earlier than that?
I sometimes think I was born a musician. I was singing from a very young age as I went through school, first at Phunyuka Primary School in Lupane and later at Mandlethu Secondary School before transferring to Entumbane Secondary School. I became active in the scripture union in school and used to sing in church [Brethren in Christ, Lobengula] with a group called Pure Joy.
Singing then was just a hobby and when I moved to England in 2000, that’s when I began toying with the idea of recording a CD.
Your fans know you as Mantongande, what’s with the name?
It’s my totem. The English meaning of it would probably be ‘long knobkerries’.
Are you in music fulltime or you have another career?
I’m currently studying at the University of Essex, while at the same time pursuing my music career. So you can say I’m in this fulltime.
Do you write your own songs, and who does the production work?
I do most of the writing and my husband also contributes. My husband does all the instruments when we’re recording. He is so gifted he can play anything. I guess it saves us a lot of money!
For live shows, however, I have a 15-piece band drawn from various churches.
How widely is your music distributed?
We sell the music online and in physical shops around the UK. We have taken orders from around the world and my CDs are widely available in Zimbabwe. A lot of people seem to have an interest in my music which is really encouraging.
Ndebele music clearly needs something of a rejuvenation. Could you be that saviour?
Some people say that, but I don’t allow myself to think that way. There are a lot of good Ndebele singers but they lack resources and recording facilities. If I hadn’t come to England, I would have probably died with my talent. There are some Ndebele musicians who sing far better than me, like the group I sang with in Lobengula, but they lack the access and resources to record and get their voices out there.
Which Zimbabwean musician do you look up to?
I grew up listening to Brian Sibalo and Freedom Sengwayo, but I also listened to a lot of South African music like we all do from our region and I have tremendous admiration for Rebecca Malope.
Do you remember your first gig?
Yes, it was at the Beckton Community Centre in London. It went really well, I guess partly because I was used to singing in front of crowds in church, maybe bigger than the one at my concert! Stage fright was not an issue, fortunately.
What’s your favourite musical instrument?
I like them all, because they complement each other. I’m afraid I can’t play any, although I’m learning the keyboard.
Which song holds special memories for you, and why?
Ngihamba Ngegunya from my album with the same title. It was the first song I ever wrote.
What do you know for sure about life?
That there is a God and people must serve him.
If you were to be 18 again, what would you do differently?
I would start my music career. I’m convinced if I had recorded earlier I would be far by now. I was a bit late.
If you had a party and wanted to invite a singer or group, who would get the call?
Rebecca Malope, she’s the queen of gospel music.
What’s your least favourite thing about yourself?
I’m not a good public speaker ... I get stage fright, unlike when I’m singing. It’s an odd thing to explain but it’s true.
How do you deal with anger, and what gets you upset?
There are so many things that can get one angry, but the important thing is to always maintain your cool, whatever the provocation.
What are you most afraid of?
I don’t like snakes, just the sight of them sends shivers down my spine.
If your house was gutted by fire and you had time to save one item, what would that be?
What’s your idea of hell?
A place hotter than fire. A burning home for sinners.
What was the last book you read?
I read a lot of books every day, but I would say the Bible because I read it more than any other written work.
If you had the power to change anything, what would you do?
I would get rid of the snow, it forced the cancellation of my show recently. I would do something just to change this weather, like Joshua in the Bible.
What do you look forward to in a week?
I just aim to have all my plans accomplished for that particular week.
What’s your biggest regret?
I don’t regret anything. If you believe and pray to God, everything that happens is his design.
MANTONGANDE: I'M NEVER GOING BACK
MANTONGANDE LIVE DVD RECORDING