The Musicable project is midway through its mentorship stage, where mentors Pauline Gundidza, Vuyo Brown, and Raven Duchess are working with their respective mentees Chipo Muchegwa, Sithandazile Gumbo, and Jacqueline Mpofu – women musicians with disabilities who are either establishing or asserting themselves in the music industry. 

Musicable is a pilot project being conducted as part of POVOAfrika Trust’s increased support to communities that are often excluded from significant opportunities across Zimbabwe. For this first edition, only six artists were selected to participate, as three mentorship pairs. These artists were pre-selected from the network of musicians and artists that POVOAfrika Trust has collaborated with in the past. For future iterations of the project, the organisers intend on rolling it out nationwide, sending out a national call for participants to join the project, both as mentors and mentees. 

The ongoing mentorship activities include a range of skill-building and skill-sharing sessions among the artists, focusing on areas such as branding, songwriting, composition and production of music, vocal training, concert performance, music publishing, copyright, and distribution, just to name a few. 

Each mentorship pair is also collaborating on composing and recording a song, whose theme and style will reflect their combined talent and musical identity. The mentees have received their recording package as part of the mentorship empowerment program, to reduce the studio infrastructural barriers and enable easy access to music recording during and beyond this project. The home recording kit consists of a microphone, headphones, a pop filter, a mic stand, and an audio interface. This means the artists can easily and conveniently rehearse their music at home or anywhere they are comfortable, without facing accessibility obstacles and challenges. 

The songs produced will be presented at the upcoming panel discussions scheduled for Harare – Saturday 22 July 2023 (at Afrotopia Café at the National Gallery, Harare), Bulawayo – Saturday 29 July 2023 (at the National Gallery, Bulawayo), and Mutare – Saturday 5 August 2023 (at Holiday Inn, Mutare). 

Under the theme “Amplifying Our Voices & Our Stories to Express Ourselves as People with Disabilities”, the artists will present their mentorship journeys, with discussions to be facilitated and moderated by the Project Advisor – Disability Advocate, Soneni Gwizi. We are inviting all relevant stakeholders to attend, participate and hear about these experiences (and challenges) and be part of a conversation that will hopefully lead to more inclusion of artists with disabilities, particularly in the music industry. 

The participants have shared the following thoughts on the project so far: 

“I’m enjoying the journey that I am on with my mentor Pauline. She’s actually doing a great job mentoring me. I’m happy to be part of Musicable, I’m so glad I got considered. So far, we are working on so many activities, [like] vocal training. I’m just happy to be working with her. I appreciate her so much and value everything I’ve learned from her. This is a great opportunity, it’s a dream coming true.” – Chipo Muchegwa (mentee, being mentored by Pauline Gundidza)

Sithandazile Gumbo with her recording kit.

“So far so good. Vuyo is training me so well, and I can feel that there is something that I now know about music. This week we went to the studio and they taught me how to connect the equipment that you sent. I managed to connect and learn everything. It’s been kind of difficult without a laptop, but with the right software, I can also use the equipment through the phone, so that I can do my recordings without any problem. I’ve done the physical tutorial so now I’m waiting for the software tutorials to learn how to connect the equipment.” – Sithandazile Gumbo (mentee, being mentored by Vuyo Brown)

Jacqueline Mpofu on the mic
Jacqueline Mpofu on the mic

“So it’s been super fun with my mentor, Raven. Performing with her, shadowing her at her gig was really uplifting and empowering for me as a person with a disability. The rehearsal session and going to the recording studio was fun. By contributing a few lines to a song was just amazing. I’ve been loving the experience. Just being part of something, being recognized, and being considered for such things has been so illuminating and beautiful. It’s been really, really great.” – Jacqueline Mpofu (mentee, being mentored by Raven Duchess)

“I had only been speaking to Chipo over the phone, so last week we met and had our first outing. Chipo is a really popular person, so after that first performance together [at Mashwede], we have been offered a lot of shows. We will be doing vocal training sessions and mbira lessons and then we are starting to record.” – Pauline Gundidza (mentor to Chipo Muchegwa). 

“I think one word for me that I would use for the Musicable project is it has been eye-opening. It’s a new experience for me to mentor someone who has a disability. There’s so much I’m learning about the things I have to be sensitive to…I’m learning so much about her [Sithandazile] as a person and about her disability. There is so much I didn’t know…and it’s in the conversations we have outside the lesson or after the lesson. The things she’ll just casually be talking about…The other day we started talking about how it was really hot and she started telling me how the heat affects her…There’s so much I’m just learning about her and about artists who have this type of challenge and obviously how I can be of help once in a while. Definitely, it is just a mind shift for the future.” – Vuyo Brown (mentor to Sithandazile Gumbo).

“The Musicable project has been an exciting and very awesome journey for me because I’ve also learned to understand what kind of challenges people with disabilities face, regarding venues that are not wheelchair friendly and studios for rehearsal and recording, which also do not have working elevators and they don’t have any wheelchair friendly environment. I am honoured to have been chosen to mentor Jacqueline Mpofu. I have been mentoring her on such topics as branding, building stamina, vocal exercises, stage presence, how to make a set list for a performance, how to compose a song, and how to write lyrics.” – Raven Duchess (mentor to Jacqueline Mpofu).

Musicable is funded by the Sound Connects Fund, an initiative by the Music In Africa Foundation (MIAF) and Goethe-Institut. The Sound Connects Fund is made possible with funding from the ACP-EU Culture Programme, a project implemented by the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and funded by the European Union (EU). The Fund is also co-funded by Goethe-Institut and Siemens Stiftung.