It was an experience that went beyond the singer’s soulful and acoustic music set at the Berita Live and Unplugged show in Kigali on Saturday night.
When south Africa-based Zimbabwean songstress Berita (Gugulethu Khumalo) took to the stage at the Kigali Cultural Village, it was not only to belt out her songs, but also to share her musical journey and offer a glimpse into her world of fashion.
In the end, it was a cozy and intimate show, a good introduction for the songstress who was performing in the country for the first time. It was also the first time that the recently opened Kigali Cultural Village, an artistic space located at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village was staging a live music show.
The show kicked off shortly after 8:00 pm, when Eric Soul from Afrogroov, the organizers ushered Berita on stage for a candid conversation on various aspects of her music.
The singer looked regal in her striking red Xhosa duke over her braided hair won over colorful African prints, which evoked memories of former South African anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela, who passed away last month.
Later, Berita would describe Winnie as “a big friend, mother and mentor”; adding that “having her by my side has helped me so much as a young woman to shape how I want to present myself to the world”.
She disclosed that the Live and Unplugged Show was part of her self-funded tour of East Africa that had earlier seen her perform in Kampala and Nairobi, before winding up the tour in Kigali.
“My mission is to take my music to different borders around Africa. Being on the road for the past three weeks has been the most gratifying experience because learning more about my culture and my history and my people from the other parts of the continent has been something I had wanted to do for a long time,” she said.
During the conversation, she also talked about her intricate cultural roots as a Zimbabwean based in South Africa, and the challenges of pursuing a career in music.
“As an African child, you are taught to follow a certain route. Parents are risk-averse, so to speak. I think that as an artist once you discover your calling, who you are and what you’re about, there’s no stopping. That’s how I recorded my first album while in high school.”
Berita also spoke about the challenges of making music as a girl in a male-dominated sphere:
“It’s a bit frustrating to be a girl in this industry. I find that the biggest commodity now in any industry is information, and boys share information, but girls don’t, and boys don’t tell girls,”
“I’m moving into a space where I want to stop looking at myself as a girl or female artist and look at myself as an artist - period, and hold my ground against other artists, male or female. There are certain places where you get to and are undermined because you are a girl, and that is frustrating, especially here in Wakanda.”
After the conversation, she vacated the stage for Deo Munyakazi to set the scene for the musical performances with the ancestral and mystical sounds of the Inanga. However, she did not join Munyakazi on stage for a collabo as had earlier been promised.
Berita put up an intimate, up close and personal show, one that allowed the audience to digest and appreciate her music which most were hearing for the first time. She sang in her native Nbebele, English, Swahili, and Xhosa, a language whose tongue-clicking sounds and tongue-twisters left the audience in awe.
There were about 100 people in attendance but in the end, it was not the kind of show to be judged by ticket sales, but rather the quality of the experience.