ON the 10th of May, the luxurious hallways of the five-star Royal Garden Hotel in London’s Kensington district will reverberate to the sumptuous voice of Zimbabwe’s queen of Jazz, Prudence Katomeni Mbofana, who headlines this year’s Zimbabwe Achievers Awards (ZAA) ceremony.
Prudence, who needs no introduction to the legion of music lovers in the Zimbabwean community in the UK, having virtually grown up in the public limelight, will join a stellar cast of performers that are billed to perform at the premium red carpet event, which is now its fourth year.
This will be Prudence’s maiden live performance as a solo artiste in the UK, and the ‘Baba abhoyi’ hitmaker is excited to be travelling to share her art and her passion with her compatriots. She will play music from her long and fruitful musical journey, including her eponymous album ‘Prudence’.
We caught up with the much-travelled songbird for a quick chat about her upcoming performance.
Q. You’ve been in the national spotlight as a singer and actress ever since you were virtually a child. What drove you to become a performer?
Prudence: I have sung for as long as I can remember and even when I did major movie gigs in my youth like ‘More Time’ or recording with Albert Nyathi, I never took music very seriously. But I can say events that followed after meeting (husband, jazz DJ and broadcaster) Comfort and words he said got me thinking that I could actually take this as a profession.
Q. What were your musical influences growing up, and who do you credit for the decision to settle for your favoured genre of jazz?
Prudence: I grew up in a musical family. My aunts on my maternal side sang a lot in church; my dad as well, he loved his music! He had an amazing collection on genres ranging from Rock, R&B, Soul, and Reggae. But during a school holiday in high school (Prudence attended Girl’s High in Harare) I was listening to Radio 3 back then and at lunch time the Hit Man played Ella Fitzgerald live in Berlin. I loved her, I loved her music, and the rest is history!
Q. You’ve worked with some big names in the Jazz fraternity, from Jazz Invitation to The Cool Crooners; what was that like?
Prudence: When I recorded with Jazz Invitation I found it hard to try and communicate my creative contributions towards the project. So when I got the opportunity to record and travel with the Cool Crooners I often observed how the musicians worked and asked questions where I did not understand. From that journey, I made the decision to get formal education in music. (In 2009 Prudence graduated from the Zimbabwe College of Music with a BA in Jazz Music). On the journey through my music degree, it felt like something was being unlocked inside of me and with that I could now direct a musician or an engineer during a recording as the ideas cascaded out of me.Advertisement
Q. You took your time to record your debut album; how would you describe your music and its messages?
Prudence: It’s from my heart and carries my comment on activity in my society. A lot of my songs are about life. But the love songs are in there as well
Q. You’ve toured quite a lot outside of Zimbabwe; which have been some of your favourite venues?
Prudence: Mmm! Where do I begin; I have performed at so many beautiful venues and the performances have been equally beautiful. One that comes to mind at this moment is a sold out show in Guadeloupe, a French Island close to Cuba. The very stage had just hosted Angelique Kidjo, a hard act to follow, but we sold out and if we did not have a tight schedule we would have had a second show. I also had an amazing show in Norway in December 2010 with a beautiful audience and fantastic musicians. Unforgettable!
With the Cool Crooners we performed at Olympia in France amongst African legends in music: Manu Dibango, Maria and Amadu, and many others.
Q. Is this your first performance in the UK, and how do you feel about performing for the Zimbabwean community here for the first time?
Prudence: It is my first performance as Prudence. I have been there before with Jazz Invitation and also as a backing singer for Tanga wekwa Sando. I am humbled, it is going to be a prestigious audience, and my aim is to do my work to the best of my ability as I do always. And I hope it will be a memorable one both for me and the audience.
Q. Finally, you’re a family woman – a wife and mother; how do you balance these roles and still make beautiful music, and what tips would you share with other sisters who are sometimes forced to defer their dreams and park their talents to pursue family life?
Prudence: It is hard work. I have no formula but what I know is that I have family and friends who have a lot of love and would drop everything if I needed their help. Special mention goes to the father of my four boys, my mother-in-law who is God-sent and my best friend forever, Grace Tineyi Chakabva.”
The ZAA ceremony has become the standard platform for the recognition of outstanding achievements in all walks of life by the Zimbabwean community in the UK. Bringing a touch of class and glamour, it stands as an illustration of the resilience and hard work of Zimbabweans, who have quickly risen from the margins of their adopted society to becoming a strong and self-assured community. Tickets are available from the ZAA website for a limited time only as sales will be closed several days in advance of the event. In a break with previous years, the ZAA has taken over organisation of the awards afterparty, which will also be held at the Royal Garden Hotel until 4 a.m. With spectacular views of Kensington Palace, which was the late Princess Diana’s official residence, and the magnificent Kensington Gardens, the hotel provides a fitting aura of splendour to what is set to be a night of memorable celebration.