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Albert Nyathi revisits emotions of ‘Senzeni Na?’

by Godwin Muzari
08 Apr 2016 at 06:45hrs | Views
"Her mother Joyce Njenje-Makwenda was present when we were shooting the video and she was surprised. She thought there was something wrong beyond the video and she had to take her daughter aside to confirm all was well after the scene, but we all realised she had just been a good actress."When Albert Nyathi's 1994 song "Senzeni Na?" is mentioned, most people think about the girl who shed tears on its video.The song became a hit mainly because of its emotional video and it was Nyathi's breakthrough.

As the song made waves, so did debates about the crying girl. Some people claimed her tears were induced while others argued she really cried. Even now, those tears can still ignite debates.

So, when Nyathi went down memory lane on Wednesday in an interview at The Volt, he revisited the emotional video.

The crying girl on the video is Naomi Makwenda and she is now based in the United Kingdom. Nyathi says her tears were real as she was actually touched by the mood of the song.

"She really cried and we were all surprised. Our idea was to make it an emotional song and everyone had to portray that mood, but we never imagined someone would cry. The shooting of that video became an emotional event because of her. Even some women that were behind the scenes ended up crying and I had to withhold my tears because it was a touching moment," Nyathi recalled.

"I think she internalised the mood of the song and was overwhelmed with emotion. I had done my best to coach her into experiencing a sad situation. I made her imagine various sad things before she went on set. I was particularly keen on her because of her character. She is a jovial person and I was afraid she would smile on set.

"Her mother Joyce Njenje-Makwenda was present when we were shooting the video and she was surprised. She thought there was something wrong beyond the video and she had to take her daughter aside to confirm all was well after the scene, but we all realised she had just been a good actress.

"Even now, some people are still adamant that we used a tear-inducing substance but no one among the crew ever thought there would be tears on that video. It was just a pleasant surprise, but it inevitably made the shooting of the video tense."

Naomi was probably the little-known character on the video that featured other popular artists like Mateo, Muzi Mangena, Marian Kunonga and Jeys Marabini among others.

Naomi had come as a replacement for Prudence-Katomeni-Mbofana who was writing her Lower Sixth mid-year examinations that time.

Prudence did the original vocals of the song but could not be in studio the night of shooting as she was preparing for the examinations.

Nyathi said he had to find a replacement for Prudence since he had got studio time just two days before he travelled to Denmark where he was to spend six months, so the video had to be done.

Prudence's voice makes the song outstanding and Naomi's tears enhance "Senzeni Na?" emotions.

Nyathi said he had discovered Prudence's talent when she was doing Form One at Girls High School where he had gone to perform.

"I saw her doing a solo performance on stage and I was touched. The girl showed that she had great talent. I had to talk to her headmistress and then her parents to get permission to have her do my backing vocals. By the time we did 'Senzeni Na?' we had done various projects together and she was a marvellous singer."

Nyathi wrote the poem for "Senzeni Na?" after the assassination of South African nationalist Chris Hani.

"I was touched by the news of his assassination and thought about all other nationalists that had been killed in the past. I asked myself 'what have we done to deserve this?' and that was the birth of 'Senzeni Na?"

The poem led to the song and finally the touching video, which was Nyathi's breakthrough. While the song was making waves in the country, Nyathi was in Denmark on a cultural exchange programme and only got to know about his new fame through friends and relatives.

When he finally returned home, he fell into a sea of popularity and promptly entered the mainstream arts industry.

Before then, Nyathi had strengthened his arts career through performances at the University of Zimbabwe where he was studying for a BA (Hons) English Literature.

He would do poetry and theatre performances at the college and other events outside and also went to be part of Alcyti Dub Poets, a poetry trio of himself, Cynthia Mungofa and Titus Moetsabi.

But on return from Denmark, Nyathi started bigger projects spurred by the popularity of "Senzeni Na?".

He has performed poetry at big international gatherings and is one of popular poets in the country. He has toured countries that include Holland, Belgium, Hawaii, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Italy, Libya, Algeria and Sweden.

In 2013 he was United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly brand ambassador and has served in the same capacity for Telecel Zimbabwe and Population Services International.

He was UN Regional Creative Artists Advisory Council Women Gender Champion between from 2013 to 2015

Nyathi was appointed the British Council Climate Icon by the British Council in Zimbabwe.

His programme has seen him working with a number of schools in Zimbabwe, creating poetry collectively with the pupils, that has to do with climate change and global warming. A lot of pupils are benefiting from the programme, which is still going on, particularly those who study Geography and Science as well as those who are interested in the literary arts.

One of his biggest achievements was performing for Heads of State and Government at SADC summit in 2010 in Namibia.

His novel "My Daughter" (2012) won a National Arts Merit Awards accolade and added to three other NAMAs that he has in poetry and arts in general.

Nyathi was once acting director for National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and he is the current board chairman of Zimbabwe Music Rights Association.

He works closely with fellow poet Chirikure Chirikure and they have done local and international tours together.

Although he has not been able to achieve the "Senzeni Na?" success in music again, he remains an active performer and works with various corporates in various capacities.

Source - the herald

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