Manzini: Nothing much seems to faze her!
Unflinching to the current global status quo that has crippled world economies, resulted in the loss of millions of jobs, not to mention the lives as well as the disruption to life as we knew it, she is totally unwavering in her faith that there will ultimately be a breakthrough for the Coronavirus pandemic cure.
She could easily be described as a woman with a stubborn faith. Stubbornness isn’t typically regarded to be a good trait, unless spoken about in relation to faith. Tenacity, a never-giving-up attitude is a good thing—a very good thing. However, this kind of stubborn faith isn’t the one that borders on stupidity but on divine wisdom.
A woman with tons of this particular faith is Zanele Cele otherwise known as Symphony. The gifted, talented, amazing performer’s bold confidence is inescapable from even her mannerisms and disposition. This artist is another example of a strong, empowered female who refuses to conform to anyone else’s standards. And even more than that, she is vocal about what she believes in.
She admits that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted not just her life but her career as well. The music industry in the kingdom and internationally has been hit hard by this health crisis. She reveals that she has especially felt the pinch through the postponement of a couple of international gigs she had lined up. She also divulged that because of the pandemic, her travelling plans also needed to be shelved.
“It has definitely affected the gigging side of it but all is well,” she adds. However, she still remains extremely optimistic that things will look up. “As you know the year only just began three months ago and before, a lot of us could kick off our projects, COVID-19 came in the way. But to me, it’s still a promising year. God is faithful,” she says. She states that despite the global changes that have been instituted across the globe, altering the lives of millions, no glaring changes in her hustle have been made since the outbreak.
“Not much really, I wouldn’t say I have made any changes. This is apart from going back to the drawing board. For me, this has made me revisit my vision. I’m adding and subtracting here and there. We want to return even stronger,” she explains. She strongly believes that through hell or high water, she will achieve all she set out to in the year 2020.
Her goals checklist for the next quarter includes dropping new music and also one or two music videos this next quarter. “This year, by God’s grace, I’ll be recording my second album and while at it, releasing singles a couple of music videos. The plan was also to travel a lot more, but we shall see,” she further says. Already hard at work regardless of what is playing out around her, she has collaborated with MBO on a single titled, ‘Emadlelweni’.
The duo is absolutely blown away with the positive feedback received from a local audience. “We were amazed at the response we got from the people. Emadlelweni is literally Psalm 23 as it is, fused into an Amapiano beat. We wanted something that would be relevant to almost everyone one and it worked out perfectly,” she went on to say. Laden with undisputable aura of star quality…
A rarity with a kind of talent, presence and charisma that can be said to be unforced and unpretentious. In what has historically been a male-dominated industry, women in the Eswatini music industry like Symphony have turned the tables and are heavily influencing the music industry with new sounds, styles and aesthetics. Their contributions to music as well as their creations have earned them much deserved recognition the world over.
In the absence of many female role models to aspire to, women in the music industry have created and popularised their own individual identities – breaking records, destroying barriers and changing the entire landscape of music as they do so.
Symphony exemplifies a few of the women in the music industry in Eswatini who have trailblazed their way through their careers and carved out their own paths in music, inspiring whole new generations of female musicians. Small wonder that her professional career has burgeoned. She has shared the stage with some of South Africa’s musical greats such as Lira, Jonas Ngwangwa, Mahotella Queens, Khaya Mthethwa and Joyous Celebration among others.
Not only does this singer-songwriter have the voice and the looks to back up her musical talent, but she also has that indescribable ‘je ne sais quoi’ that hoists her a level or two above most other extremely talented local acts. Proud of her Swati roots and cultural heritage, she has managed to keep her sound original, although, she draws inspiration from international artists. Every now and then an artist joins the ranks of musicians whose caliber puts them in the league of the finest.
Symphony supersedes that, she is simply on another level.
The singer-songwriter is a lyrical genius who draws on consciousness and does so with a ferocity that is almost unparalleled.
She has transcended pop star status to become a veritable influencer of all things COOL: music, youthfulness, femininity etc. Her brand has truly grown from just a few years ago.
Proud of her Swati roots and cultural heritage, she has managed to keep her sound original, although, she draws inspiration from international artists. Her songs are in Siswati exactly for that reason and for the fact that she believes in celebrating her own language.
She is also an excellent showwoman, and an extremely hard-working performer with a strong, assured voice and the right touch of sass. Soul drenched and powerful. Bluesy, jazz tinged and oozing with sheer class. Her vocal range that impresses many of her fans remains largely unexplored and it’s also her emotional power and regal insouciance that sets her apart from most. Symphony explains that her brand isn’t just about the music but also beauty and style, adding that its main objective is to empower, encourage and build people especially young women through her soulful sounds, beauty tips and makeup, fashion tips and style.
“My brand is about inspiring people, young and old to be the best version of themselves so the goal is to inspire someone,” she says.
Her talent extends to her mastery as both artist and songwriter whose message is that of courage, empowerment and reminds people of who they are because she believes that is the greatest gift you can ever give to a person. She has become a signpost of black glamour in Eswatini, always looking flat-out fabulous onstage, hair perfectly coiffed. She looks fabulous, she sounds fabulous and best of all, connects with her fans.
Her assessment of the entertainment industry in Eswatini as a whole is that the country hasn’t realized how important entertainment is to a country’s economy and because of that reason, there isn’t much that has been done to embrace it and groom the industry. She pointed out that the people of Eswatini are still learning to appreciate their own musicians, adding that foreign entertainers are more appreciated than local ones.
However, she is optimistic that things will get better. According to her, this has affected the speed of her growth as a brand. “Artists don’t always go outside the country because they have a choice. It’s because we get appreciated more by other nations,” she stated. She further singles out the issue of money as the main challenge she faces in the industry. She finds it truly demoralising that anyone who books an artist whether its an individual or a big company, always tries looking for a way to pay less. “They’d rather choose not to have entertainment in their events than to pay what you you’ve charged, yet they are willing to pay hundreds of thousands for entertainers from outside. The problem with us is we’ve sugar coated this for too long, it’s time we spoke up. Our generation is a stressed generation, depressed generation, entertainment is one the things a country must invest in,” she went on to say.
Nonetheless, it is the bigger picture that keeps her and her team motivated. She says the Symphony brand is passion driven which makes things easy and that for them, success is when after all the sweat and tears and sweat, there is an opportunity and open door. She believes the local government landscape can do and could have done a whole lot more to make it easy for her and others like herself carry out their vision and live their dreams. She points out that education system doesn’t accommodate art and that art is only taught at a very few private schools. “I don’t think our government and other private sectors are investing in arts, except soccer which is funny because there are less chances of our football boosting our tourism than music Look at how many people come to Eswatini for Bushfire. Scholarships are only awarded to doctors and engineers. Art is not recognized. It would be nice to have them support us in such things for a start,” she adds.
The status quo, however, isn’t going to stop her from realizing her dreams. She reveals that because she has a unique vision, this gives her clarity. “Being hungry to do something different helps. The internet also helps a lot in learning what’s going in other parts of the world,” she says. Her career achievements are rather impressive.
These include being elected as the 2016 KFC/Sibuko Sesive Brand Ambassador for the country’s 48th independence promotion, 2017 MTN BushFire Firefly Sound Storm Winner and being the 1st MTN SWAMA Awards Nominee 2017. She also lists the release of her first project ‘Sengikhona’ EP in 2017 and the subsequent release of her debut album ‘Sengikhona’ the following year as well as being crowned the firstever AfriMusic Winner 2018, the NACA Awards Best Young Artist Winner 2018 and MTN Swaziland Brand Ambassador 2018/2019. In addition to the awards and accolades that have come her way in just less than five years, Symphony is selfless.
She also wants to be a champion in the battle to make the world a better place, especially for her community. She is looking to establish a charity foundation in the future, Symphony Cares Foundation to give back to the community.