Who is Nobuntu?
Nobuntu is a five-member, all-female acapella/imbube ensemble from the city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Their repertoire is a fusion of traditional Zimbabwean music, mainly rooted in Afro-jazz, gospel and crossover in pure voices with minimalistic percussion, traditional instruments such as mbira and dance movements.
The group [was] nominated for The Best Musician of The Year at the 2015 Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards and [is] currently the two-time winner for the Outstanding Imbube group at the 2017 and 2019 Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards.
In February 2020, Obabes Bembube, as they have become affectionately known, bagged a National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) for the Arts Personality of the Year at the prestigious ceremony’s 19th edition.
How was the group formed and what is the background of the singers?
The group, which comprises Zanele Manhenga, Duduzile Sibanda-Mothobe, Heather Dube, Joyline Sibanda and Thandeka Moyo, was formed in 2011 upon realising the existence of a niche market in being an all-female imbube group in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe as a whole.
The opportunity for women to penetrate this male-dominated genre could not go unnoticed and that was the birth of Nobuntu. Obabes BeMbube, as we are affectionally known, challenges a status quo that has been set by the patriarchal society to define imbube as a genre sung by men. We came together as young women to show that we can do this as well as men can.
Our multilingual attitude to music has enabled us to capture the audience of many as we sing in Ndebele, Shona, Tonga and English languages that are popular locally, regionally and internationally.
What is it about each member that makes the group gel well together?
Coming together to form a group, the first thing we accepted was the fact that we are all different from one another. We all have characteristics that define us as individuals yet complement the group.
Being able to embrace our individuality has been the glue to this group. It is what makes us who we are.
Zah (Zanele) is the life [of] the group, always vibrant and the loudest. She is a practical and hands-on person and someone you would say is a naturally born leader. When she enters the room, you can feel that she brings life. Her boldness stands out every time. Everyone loves her charisma.
Thandeka on [the other] hand is refreshingly the calm one and can be the voice of reason in a time of turmoil. She is the youngest of us all but rubs off easily as one of the wisest as well. She is our very own “Barbie” and loves to dress up and look gorgeous all the time.
Gigie (Heather) in another lifetime would have been a chess player. She is very calculative and analytic. She is one person we always rely on to see things from a different perspective from the rest of us. Her emotions on stage are what you get from her in real life. She is the real deal!
Joyline is the group’s sweetheart. To those that do not know her, she looks like the shyest of us all, but in our circle, she is the life of the party. A very earthy person in character, she is never pretentious. She is the one that always reminds us of our journey that started almost a decade ago.
Dudu is the chatty one. She loves to interact with people. Her warmth exudes not only in singing but also off the stage when we are alone and having “us” time.
These individual traits are what make us who we are as a group and they complement each other.
What are some of the challenges you faced when forming the group? What keeps you unified today?
Like any other group all around the world, it takes a lot of energy to form a group – worse in a genre that is dominated by men. Penetrating some avenues has been a challenge because we are considered as being “out of the norm.” Changes are always frightening, so you can imagine how many people we have frightened (they laugh).
What binds us together is the fact that in as much as we are a family, we are also at work when we are together. We set our differences aside and get on stage to give it our best. When you are part of a group, the first thing you should uphold is your professionalism. Know that you are there [to] work before anything else. Once you do that, you have individually played your part in keeping the group unified.
What is your advice to women out there who have dreams or who want to pursue the same line of work?
Do it! Don’t wait for tomorrow to follow your dreams. Being a woman is already difficult as it is, so imagine the burden of procrastinating on your goals and objectives. Dream, plan, but most importantly, EXECUTE!
On business and community work, what is your mission?
Not only are we musicians, but we are mothers, sisters, aunts and most importantly WOMEN, hence we always strive to give back to the community we exist in. One of the significant ways we have done so is through our annual Pad-Bank concert, where we host a show to solicit for donations in the form of sanitary wear for the benefit of underprivileged girls and young women.
We also host the Nobuntu Sisterhood Talks, a mentorship platform for young female artists. This program allows us to offer grooming and motivational talks for young female artists in an effort to turn their art into an income-generating entity.
Outside music and performing on stage, we want Nobuntu to be a sisterhood, a support system for the members and the community at large.
We are individually engaged in our businesses as well. We encourage each other to get into business ventures that will generate a sustainable income once music is a thing of the past. As women it is important to adopt the mentality of making our own money.
You can contact Nobuntu via:
TEL: +263 772 346-532 (Bookings)
TEL: +263772831221 (Public Relations)