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African pride

ON THE RISE: Tinashe Kachingwe

HEADLINING the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards (ZAA) ceremony in London this week, Tinashe Kachingwe is being hailed as the music industry’s next big thing.

Formerly the lead singer of the five-member girl group The Stunners, Tinashe puts her solo career into gear when the group disbanded in 2011, and has since released two mixtapes, which showcased her eclectic music style.

Lauded with comparisons to Beyoncé, the US singer and songwriter of Zimbabwean and Irish/Norwegian/Danish heritage, also boasts credits as an actress, having starred alongside Charlie Sheen in the hit US sitcom Two And a Half Men.

Now signed to major label Sony/RCA, the rising songstress is steadily planning her assault on the music world – which could be taken literally, with Tinashe having also earned a black belt in taekwondo in her earlier years.

Here, the multi-talented artist, who also speaks the Zimbabwean language Shona fluently, speaks on her African heritage, comparisons to Beyoncé and her desire to work with Sade.

Are you looking forward to performing at the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards?
I am honoured to have been invited to attend the event. My father was born in Zimbabwe and so the influence and the culture has been a strong part of my – and my two younger brothers’ – upbringing. We are a really close family and we try and keep a lot of Zimbabwean family traditions over in the US.

To be recognised by the Zimbabwean community in London is really special to me. Plus, it will be my first proper visit to the UK. I say ‘first proper visit’ because I was there a few weeks back to record, but I spent a lot of time in the studio. So I am really looking forward to it.

To what extent is your African heritage an influence on your life/work?
I draw upon all areas of my life and bring that into my work. I love creating and I also love seeing the world, so it’s only natural. I am currently recording my album and I have a lot of different influences in there from the sights and sounds I’ve grown up with in California to some interesting sounds I have come across along the way.

In terms of my life in general, we [my family] eat Zimbabwean food – my favourite is sadza and nyama with vegetables – and we use certain phrases, which brings me closer to that side of things. My name – pronounced Tee-nah-shay – means ‘God is with us’ and my brothers also have Zimbabwean names. I love the culture and just listening to stories of my family back in Zimbabwe, so it’s a part of my heritage I am very proud of.  

Are you angered by Western media’s tendency to highlight more negative than positive stories about Zimbabwe, or do you not let it bother you?
I try not to let it bother me to be honest.

How do you feel about being compared to Beyoncé?
As artists, we don’t really like to have people put us up against each other. But that said, I think the comparisons have been really great. I like her music and respect her business acumen so it’s amazing to be put in a category with an artiste whose artistry I can appreciate – but it’s not a distraction. I am just doing me and carving out my own lane. I have worked really hard to get to where I stand right now. I have literally been performing since I was born. I act and dance but right now, I am so focused on my music career and have been since I was 15.

How do you describe your music?
I am a singer and a songwriter and my music is a reflection of me. I am a dancer and actress and a creator of love and of art. My music is a product of my expression. The music I was making with The Stunners was a bit more dance/pop, and a little more PG. So when I left the group, I really wanted to be able to put something out to my fans because I had a somewhat established fan base – I wanted to be able to give them something [to help them] understand me more.

What’s your proudest achievement to date?
I think I allow myself to be me and I’m very proud of that. I started at a very young age with baby modelling, but really early on I developed a true love for performance. I have always wanted to be a singer but I wanted to wait until I was old enough to pursue that avenue. So I have studied my craft, first focusing on acting.

But as I got older, that urge to sing never went away. It has been a great transition into the major label situation. They have created a lot of opportunities for me and set me up with a lot of amazing producers so I’m proud of the sheer hard work it took to get here. It’s a fun, creative process and I am enjoying every moment of this journey.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I want to retain my artistic vision. I have my sights set on travelling the world and sharing my music with the world. I want to perform at festivals and to work with more people.
I would absolutely love to work with Sade. She is a true artist and an amazing musician. Most of all, I want my music to grow and to keep delivering quality music.

Finally, do you still possess your taekwondo skills and could you defend yourself if you had to?
Yes, most definitely!

The Zimbabwe Achievers Awards takes place at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London SW7 on April 20. For more information, visit www.zimachievers.com For more information on Tinashe, visit www.tinashenow.com

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