The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
THE songbird known as Sha Sha is the main subject, the rope, in a bitter tug of war.
For long time observers of music in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, this tug of war is familiar enough. It is the same kind of tussle that has had Kalawa Jazmee supremo scrambling in the past, as he tries to clarify his true identity. It is the same tug of war that has Berita Khumalo clarifying her roots every time she sits down for an interview.
Is she Zimbabwean or South African? This is a question that litters social media timelines and even when presented with facts, the hard headed continue to fight about her true origins as if to split her in half and share her equally to both sides of the Limpopo.
This is also a debate that is reserved only for the elite — the cream of the crop. South Africans and Zimbabweans rarely bother making noise about run of the mill performers whose music does not quicken the pulse.
Sha Sha is in special and rare company. How has she managed, in such a short space of time, to win the hearts of thousands and emerge as perhaps South African music’s hottest female vocal star?
The rise has been mesmerising. Her feature on Akulaleki, a song that promises to break the New Year this festive season, saw her match Something Soweto’s equally mesmerising vocal performance over a typical neat Amapiano beat woven by the genre’s two undisputed hit-makers, Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa. She stole the show on MFR Souls’ Love you Tonight, taming a raging Amapiano instrumental with sensual, seductive vocals.
Prophets of doom might have foreseen her eventual fall when she had to carry songs on her own. It is easier to ride on the back of your collaborators’ strengths as a featuring artiste some might say.
However, Sha Sha was yet to deliver the coup de grâce. A fortnight ago the release of her eight track EP, Blossom, showed that her meteoric rise was not a fluke. The album shot to the top of the iTunes charts in South Africa and put her alongside prolific wonder kids Kabza De Small and Samthing Soweto at the top of the pile.
On the song Abondaba she showcases her versatility, riding what feels like a throwback Kwaito beat with effortless ease. A fan of 90s group Boom Shaka could shed a tear while listening to the pair of Sha Sha and Samthing Soweto demolish a bouncy beat with exciting and accomplished verses.
On Something About You, Sha Sha pulls off another Houdini act, breathing new life into a house classic that some lesser vocalist would be hesitant to touch.
But for all the high notes she has hit and the achievements that keeps piling next to her name, some will still ask questions: Who is Sha Sha?
Is she Zimbabwean or South African?
Sha Sha, real name Charmaine “Sha-sha” Mapimbiro, is a singer born and bred in Zimbabwe. Despite touting Mutare as her home town, she spent some of her life in Bulawayo and South Africa because of the separation of her family. This helped her proficiency in isiZulu.
“Well, I’m from Mutare in Dangamvura. It’s a very small city in Zimbabwe. I stayed with my aunt there. It’s a very homely place . . . home is always home and it’s really welcoming too. Shout out to my people in Area 13, that’s where I’m from.
“Because my parents were separated I’ve not only stayed in Mutare. I’ve stayed in Bulawayo and that’s where I picked up some languages and that’s Ndebele. (I also stayed) in South Africa so it’s been up and down, here and there but home is Mutare,” she said in her video profile.
While in the City of Kings, she seems to have flown under the radar. Only last year Sha Sha released her first single, Mrs Independent, with the help of local rapper Cal_vin. What Bulawayo misses out on Mzansi seems to have a keen nose for and it took only a taxi ride for the young musician, once under the wing of erstwhile crooner Audius Mtawarira, to get a shot at fame.
“I would do a lot of gigs at night and I had a cab driver and one day he asked me why I was always moving around at night and I told him it’s because I sing. Turns out he also drove DJ Maphorisa now and then so he introduced me to him. I sang for him and he liked my sound,” she told South Africa’s Independent recently.
The musician, who says she initially wanted to be a nurse, said she found her true calling after encouragement from peers.
“What made me choose the industry? Well, I feel like it was my purpose. I was supposed to be doing something else but actually in the end I decided that this is what I’m meant to do because in the beginning I didn’t believe in myself. I was a shy person and very much in my own box, in a shell.
When people heard my voice they basically were like come on, what are you doing with your voice? Come on you’re supposed to be doing something with it and that’s when I was like I have something, I feel like I should do something. I felt like it could change people’s lives and that’s my purpose I feel like that’s the right path I should be taking — music,” she said.
Despite her growing list of chart topping, dance floor shaking tunes, Sha Sha confesses that she does not like the nightlife, preferring rather to spend her nights at home watching moves.
“I don’t think I have a social life. Well, to be honest because of the travelling it’s very hard to keep track of friends and all that and so my friends and the people that I work with so we have our little braais . . . I’m a person who doesn’t like going out too much really, just here and there.
I love movies so I just watch movies. It’s unfortunate I don’t have a social life,” she said.
The self confessed fashion addict said she would like to open her own exclusive designer line in the future.