Get to know Feli Nandi the songbird to watch out for: Pics. In a wide-ranging interview as part of the Her Own Words series on YouTube, she opens up on why she joined the band and her experiences on stage. Feli Nandi has been a backing vocalist for Ashton “Mbeu” Nyahora’s Mhodzi Tribe over the last two years, during which she has realised the fruition of a dream that could have been aborted.
Scaring her fears
Nandi had to scare her own fears before she could join a professional music band.
“My perception of the music industry before I joined… I was really scared. If I decided to take this as a job, as a career, who was going to listen to me? I have seen social media being very cruel. I was scared, very much,” said the married mother of two boys, who has also made her mark as a fashion designer. She started singing in church at three with her mother’s encouragement.
She said her mother had always played a supporting role even as she had her own fears about the path her daughter chose to pursue. “She was afraid of the unknown, the music industry and its reputation,” Nandi said.
Making it in music
Nandi said it was not easy, particularly for women to make it in music because of society’s often negative perceptions. “We have very powerful women in Zimbabwe that have made it but the music industry looks like can be very difficult for a woman to really hit it up there,” she said.
So, what has been her secret? Her husband’s support. “One of my greatest strengths is because I married my greatest fan, a supporter. My husband supports me so much. He allows me to do this. I count myself a very blessed girl,” she said.
She, however, said some relatives did not understand the set-up and had different opinions about her profession. “Some of the most successful female names that are powerhouses have backbones, they have their partners, you look at Selmor Mtukudzi, Mai (Olivia) Charamba and Janet Manyowa,” she said.
A dream deferred
Although Nandi started singing early in her life in the church, with dreams in music, circumstances forced her to shelf the dream for a while. “I married very young, had a baby at 21 and totally, left singing until I turned 25. It was heavy, becoming heavier… I told people around me I was not happy. I wanted to sing,” she recalled.
Nandi said her encounter with Mbeu at a Norton wedding a few years ago changed the trajectory of her life and pulled her back into music. “I was not enjoying it. I just wanted to go home. My sister said before you leave, there is a guy I just want you to see singing. I said I was not interested and wanted to go home,” she said.
But after Mbeu’s performance, Nandi went up to him and told him she wanted to sing with him. Stunned, Mbeu asked her a volley of questions before inviting her for auditions, where she shocked band members with her singing. Initially, she was told to just watch the band perform so that she could understand the culture.
But during the first show at Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton, where she was just supposed to stand and observe, Nandi was introduced as a backing vocalist and called on stage. “My biggest fear was that people were looking at me. I was so nervous,” she said. But as she got into the groove of things on stage, she said, she realised “this is me, this is home, I love doing this”.
Sharing the stage with Mbeu
“I complement his voice … making sure the sound we are producing makes sense,” Nandi said. “I have been with these guys for two years. Literally, we perform every weekend. “I can perform in front of everybody. I work with an incredible team.”
Is it rewarding?
“For me, personally, I have gained a lot of things, I would never have got anywhere else. Confidence on stage, I can do stuff by myself right now … I have learnt how to work around a male-dominated space, something I didn’t know before. It’s been great. It’s like a learning experience,” Nandi said.
Besides the reward, Nandi said the call of duty could be very taxing. “Mhodzi Tribe is like a working … what can I say? We work so hard. It’s a team that has the same drive. Sometimes we have four shows per weekend. That can be very exhausting but because we are friends we encourage and complement each other,” she said.
Love for music
“Music is part of me. Music is a passion. I came to do this because I wanted to, I felt that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “I want to become an international soul singer.”
Source – MbareTimes/NewsDay
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