The Radio Metro Best African Contemporary Jazz Album award winner’s star is on the ascendant. Now in her final year, Gugulethu Berita Khumalo is an articulate artist who is helping explode the myth that artists are daft folk who do music as their only way out. She is in a generation that is privileged to have open-minded parents who, rather than totally banish their children from engaging in artistic endevours, advise them to get an education to go along with their ambition. Both her parents are teachers by profession who joined the mass migrations and settled in New Zealand in 2005.
On her beginnings, influences and meeting with Tuku :
“When I went to New Zealand with my family I was only sixteen, and maybe because of that closed environment, I started listening to music actively. I bought myself a guitar with money I earned from my job milking cows on the farm where my parents worked. I would throw in hints to my parents that I wanted to do music. I was also listening to the likes of Jill Scott people who in the mainstream people don’t know about. If you listen to my album, the music grows on you. I like music that makes you concentrate. But recently I have changed since meeting Baba Tuku (Oliver Mtukudzi) and did a song with him. He said to me “ Berita people don’t have too much time to listen to you so you have make music that grabs their attention fast and can last for long.” I won’t forget that. So my music is changing.
Telling her own story, Berita as she is known to many following her debut hit album Conquering Spirit, owes much of her success to her South African fans especially in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape region of South Africa is so enamoured with musician that when she was launching her debut album, the mayor made sure that the streets of East London were adorned with banners heralding her official entrance into the world of entertainment. Moreover, there is a battle over her on Facebook about her origins. The South African fans claim her as a Zimbabwean-born South African talent. The Zimbabwean legion claims her as a Zimbabwean artist at school in South Africa in the Eastern Cape, which has been her home since 2011 when she entered Walter Sisulu University to study.
“I chose a degree which I knew they would like. So I chose Financial Information Systems. I am in my final year at Walter Sisulu University in the eastern Cape. That I am there happened by sheer happenstance. By the time I went to South Africa, they were the only university that was open that had a place. Eastern Cape From W1
just embraced me as its own daughter. That is why I mentioned them when I received my award.When I got there I did not have a friend or family and they took me in. The councillor and the mayor all treat me as a daughter there in East London. They really supported my career.
On comparisons to Zahara :
Some of the things don’t matter (comparisons to Zahara). I am very new in the industry, new in the sense. I am not living according to the comparison. I am just living my dream and there is no reason for me to lose focus
On fame, family and career highlights :
You carry people with you, your relatives, your friends. I did not know people in Zhombe know that I am a musician for instance. I am for the people. The one thing I know I have is that I am a hard worker. Trying to be as hardworking as people and also believing that everything that I have is from God.
On education :
Education is a culture out of poverty. My grandmother did not go to school but she raised lab technicians, teachers. She would plant seedlings to sell at Farm and City to send her kids to school. She believed in education. So this culture of saying when a person has finished form four “apedza” is nonsense .
Faith and success:
Everything that I have asked God in the last two years has come to pass. It’s very central to everything that I do. I am singing for God as well.People out there have different hearts.
Berita was in Bulawayo a few days ago. Her mom dropped her for the interview with me. I left the interview with a deep satisfaction that the arts and culture in Zimbabwe is in the hands of youngsters like Berita. The Donny Hathaway classic song from the sixties civil rights movement To be young , gifted and black was ringing in my head when I bid farewell to this songstress. Her future looks bright. Zimbabwe may have given birth to her, but South Africa has nurtured her musically. Berita is very much a child of both countries. She embraces both elements of her background as fiercely as she sings.