Meet Ugandan Musician Zani
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First published: August 3, 2008
She goes by the moniker Zani aka Lady Chocolate however; her real name is Susan Basemera. Zani is a Ugandan singer, model and actress based in Hollywood California. The Ugandan-born singer is also the sister of Shanks Gumaras, formerly known as Shanks Vivie D, a pioneer in Ugandan music and the so-called Ugandan king of dance hall and hip hop.
Shanks Gumaras Fighting Poverty
Deriving from a musical family, she started singing as early as 8 years. With the influence of her brother Shanks Gumaras, she was able to evolve into her own as a musician. She shot onto the Ugandan national scene in 1995 when she was invited by the late Amigo Wawawa and Amos Agaba of Schweppes Uganda to join the then famous band, the Waka Waka Band where she performed and slowly gained notoriety as a talented singer. Not too long after she dropped two new singles "Sam Tonjiwanga" and "Charles Yimilila Awo," catapulting her into an overnight star.
In 1997 she released the successful album "Nakoowa." She also headlined the weekly star night special four times a week at the Sheraton Hotel, Kampala. It was while she was performing there that she was spotted by an American, talent agent Thomas Posa who, upon recognizing her talent and her potential, whisked her over to the USA. Once she was in the USA, she worked with several artists and producers including Jimmy Jean Louis, Janet Jackson, Nelly, Shanks Gumaras King Nat Jr, Ogopa Deejays, Jerry Jackson, Andre Manga, Nguma Lokito, Wikilo, Monitor, Lokassa Yambogo, Longombas, Shanks Jr, Sam Vod, Mayamba Mayinga, Vivian Ndouro, Tim kizito, Mbou Gabs, Trent Jackson, G.Black, Thump and many more. The chanteuse professes that her musical styles include hip hop, R&B, African jazz, dance hall, reggae, soukous, socca, raggaeton and zouk.
Zani has appeared as a cover girl for the Immigrant Magazine, African Vibes, and Trends Magazine among others. The singer who dropped off the Ugandan musical radar is back with a bang. Signed to Afromerica Records in Hollywood, California, she has released a new album with popular catchy singles Kikambwe and Sembela, both songs showing how much she has grown.
Jane: Who is Zani?
Zani: Zani is an African artist born in Uganda, resides in USA and loves music.
I heard your Afro-pop single, Kikambwe. How are you fans responding so far...?
I am getting positive reviews... they are loving it.
Ndoowa by Zani
What about the songs Ndoowa and Agaba Bintu? When were they written and what were you thinking of when you created them?
I wrote Ndoowa and Agaba bintu in 2001. Believe it or not, I released both in 2007 but tell you what? One thing I've learned in the music industry is that if music does not rot... You can release it at any time. Sound depends on the ears and ears depend on sound. Ndoowa is an imaginative love song. Agaba Bintu is a song against HIV.
Back in the 90's you released a single called "Sam Tonjiwanga." Was there really a Sam? Where was your head space then? What were you thinking when you created it?
See there was no Sam like there is no "Ndoowa." Sometimes you use your sense of imagination to come up with a story that can make a song.
And the song Sembela? I think I can safely say that is my favorite.
Thanks for liking the way I write. I appreciate your support in regards to it. Sembela is a song which I re-recorded. It was by an old band called Super Rocket. I've always liked it so re-recorded it. I am really glad that people are loving my version.
Again in the 90's you were part of the Waka Waka Band? What was that experience like and where did the band perform?
I loved working with the Waka Waka Band at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala. I can never forget those days, because those were some of the most favorite days of my life. I enjoyed that time. The late Amigo Wawawa, the band leader of Waka Waka at the time, invited me as a guest singer one night when the band was performing at the Sheraton. I went and sang one song. I was blessed because the audience loved me and that's when Amigo suggested that I should become part of the band.
What were your favorite moments with the band?
(Pauses) My favorite moments...All the band members were extremely good people, we were like family. We played good music, had arguments, the drama, the crowd, the tours, it was all fun. Most of all Sheraton was really fun. The crowd was of a different class and very accommodating. We performed there for 4 days a week. We were treated so well for the length of our time there. We had the best boss, who as I mentioned earlier was the late Mr Agaba Amos. He was the owner of Kampala Bottlers (Schweppes.) Everything was smooth, but then again life goes on.
When did you decide to pursue music?
I was in the music business from the age of 8 but I decided to pursue it professionally at the age of 18.
Your older brother is the well known dance Hall and Hip Hop artist Shanks Gumaras, also known as Shanks Vivie D back in the day. How did he influence you as a musician?
I am glad I have Shanks as a brother because he really inspired me though there are many others who don't want to admit that he helped them and inspired them to start their music careers. I will admit to it, not just because he is my brother, but because he inspired me. That's why I am doing my music. We all have someone we look up to and we all have dreams but we should thank those who have been there for us from the start so I appreciate Shanks Gumaras and late Amos Agaba and late Amigo Wawawa.
Does he give any suggestions regarding the direction of your music?
Does my brother give any suggestions? Yes he does and they help a lot.
... help like?
My brother Shanks helps me with my music production. Before I release a song, I make sure he listens to it and criticizes it. Most of the time, his suggestions work for my music. He gives great insight, He also helps with some ideas when I am writing a song.
Do you know why he changed his last moniker to Gumaras?
My brother is an artist. He can change his name if he wants to, just like I changed from Lady Chocolate to Zani. I believe anybody the right to become or choose who they wanna be.
I met Somebody by Lady Chocolate
That is true, but there has to be a reason why he changed... like the whole of Uganda is wondering....
Basically he changed his name from Vivi Dee to Gumaras because his last name is Baguma. That's how he came up with Guma. You exclude Ba and you get Guma. He kept the last four letters and Ras comes for Rasta because he is a rasta so he put two together and that's how he came up with Gumaras instead of Vivi Dee. He wanted to use his real name.
Is music financially viable for you yet?
I do music because it's in the spirit so with or without music as long as I believe, I will always have income...
You have appeared on the Cover of Immigrant Magazine, African Vibes, Trends Magazine, among others. What do you like about modeling?
(Smiles) When it comes to modeling? I enjoy looking beautiful in and on the covers of the magazines. I love the attention.
Straight up like that?
Well I like your honesty. That is the point of modeling I guess. So onto other things...What acting opportunities have you had?
Acting? I've done a few independent movies commercials and more.
Can you be more specific?
The Backyard, Only You, What About Us, some Broadway plays about HIV in Africa, other musicals, Soda commercials, Schweppes, Pepsi, Crush, Dura Cell batteries, voiceovers. Sometimes I don't even have to be the actress but they will hire me to do voiceovers.
Which music videos have you been in?
What music videos? I've been in my own and other artists like Janet Jackson, Nelly, Shanks Gumaras.
Your bio says that you perform Hip Hop, R&B, African Jazz, Dance Hall, Reggae, Soukous, Socca, Raggaeton, Zouk. Which do you think is your best?
When it comes to music, you name it I can do it. Just keep your ears open for what I got to deliver I don't limit myself.
How often do you go to Uganda?
I haven't been in Uganda in a long time. I will be going this year. Last time I was in Uganda was in 99 but I will be going back soon.
Tell us more about your upcoming album. What can we expect from it?
My album has a variety of songs so expect different styles.
Will you be touring? Say visiting Canada, Uganda, the UK etc
Yes I've been working a lot with different communities but I will also be touring in all the places you mentioned.
Do you have a boyfriend/husband?
I ain't got the time.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
From now to the next five years I am looking forward to success.
Any last words to your fans?
The last words to my fans is, I love everything about you! You are all I have got. With your support I become who I am. Keep supporting. I appreciate you! Much love!
For more information on Zani please go to www.zanimusic.com.
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First published: August 3, 2008
Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada.
Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.
She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting including the 2007 Planet Africa Rising Star Award and the 2008 African Canadian Women Achievement Award. Her first book Butterflies of the Nile was published in May 2008. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.