With an eye on making sure musicians are given what they need to succeed in their careers, Edith weUtonga is a musician with a mission.
The increasingly popular guitarist has recently been elected vice president of the International Federation of Musicians, a role that will help her as she works towards a stimulating, fair and inspiring environment in which fellow musicians can live and work. She is also president of the Zimbabwe Musicians’ Union, which she founded and which has a brief to provide a collective voice for the country’s many musical talents.
Born in Kadoma, she received early education at Chedonje primary school in Rimuka and later moved to Bulawayo, where she attended Townsend high school. Her father was stationed at Bulawayo’s Brady Barracks, where she was able to work with the Zimbabwe National Army band from a young age.
“After school, I went to Amakhosi to train in the performing arts, and I was cast in several plays and musical productions,” she said.
She joined the all-female Amakhosikazi band as a composer, arranger and lead singer, and when the band folded in 2009 she started her career as Edith WeUtonga.
She describes this as a “rebirth after being involved in a horrific road accident.”
“I became a new person, assembled a new band and wrote new material with a new sound and new focus and ambition. As they say, for me the rest is history.
Her instrument of choice is the guitar, and it is this that has allowed her to stand apart from the throng of musical talent.
“I don’t know if I chose the guitar; I think guitar chose me, in particular the bass guitar,” she said.
“I grew up being fascinated by the baselines of the music around me. I would be humming the lines. So, one day as Amakhosikazi we were travelling from a gig in Hwange when we had a breakdown with our band vehicle. As people were lazing about waiting for repair, I found myself toying around with the bass guitar and loved it. There and then the bass and I decided we’d be together forever.”
Her career has been marked by ongoing success and by a warm welcome from an ever-growing base of supporters and fans. But she has also been focused on creating an environment in which musicians like herself can not just work but in which they can work successfully, with just rewards. This led to involvement with representative bodies that work in this field.
“I was humbled to be elected vice president of the International Federation of Musicians at the recent IFM annual general meeting,” she said.
“I have come far in my career as a musician. I started off in a solo phase in 2010 and traversed a rough path touring Africa and other parts of the world, trying to get my music to a global audience.
“Having this experience then led me to found the Zimbabwe Musicians’ Union with fellow artistes who were as interested as I in meeting a need for collective action in terms of getting our voices heard and lobbying for fair practices and a conducive working environment.”
Edith has advice for young people who want a foothold in the music business.
“Young, aspirating musicians need to follow their hearts and do what they love. It’s ok to play what’s trending to stay relevant, but it is always best to be yourself and play that which is cooking in your soul because that’s what speaks to the people’s hearts and you’ll never go wrong,” she said.
“Then surround yourself with the right people for the various roles that follow music release because that’s where the business of music begins and ends.”
Edith has worked closely with projects supported by MultiChoice Zimbabwe, and she is a keen viewer of programmes and channels on the DStv platform.
With young children, she finds herself watching young people’s channels, such as Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network.
“Henry Danger is a favoured programme of mine. My husband is a huge football fanatic, so SuperSport is another must-watch in the house. There’s a lot of competitiveness when it comes to SuperSport’s broadcasts of English Premier League matches, with the rivalry between hubby’s Arsenal and my Chelsea.
“For just me, it is The Food Channel, as I cook a lot. The show Chopped is my ultimate favourite there,” she said.
As a performer, musicians’ support base, wife and mother, she is busy and satisfied, and one thing’s for sure: hers is a name that will be on the musical horizon for a long time to come.