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Shingai Shoniwa On Finding Independence In The Music Industry As A Black Woman

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Shingai Shoniwa On Finding Independence In The Music Industry As A Black Woman

Shingai Shoniwa is a force — you can sense it in her music and voice, equal parts Billie Holiday, David Bowie, and something of her own. You can feel it in her aesthetics, as seen in her recent music video “We Roll,” unique and celebratory of her London and Zimbabwean roots. And you can sense it in speaking with her, as I did earlier this year over a languid four hours during which she talked passionately about her latest project from an isolated bungalow in the Caribbean where she was on lockdown.

The musician, who goes by Shingai, is the former frontwoman for the U.K. rock band Noisettes, who splashed the U.K. charts with their 2009 album “Wild Young Hearts.” Now, 12 years after navigating the belly of the beast that is the music industry, Shingai has released an independently produced solo album, “Too Bold,” an Afrobeat- and soul-infused journey through self-discovery and self-love. The album is, in many ways, the culmination of the artist’s fight to return to herself after navigating a white- and male-dominated music world that never quite understood her or, perhaps more accurately, never cared to.

Shingai Shoniwa

In our conversation below, Shingai discusses how the COVID-19 lockdown changed her, healing from post-colonial trauma, and why music is the ultimate tool for connections. Wow. First, I’m just so moved to be asked a fundamental question. For the last decade or so, it’s felt like nobody really took the time to get to know me and all the facets of my creativity. When you read a lot about white male musicians, you tend to know all the details about them; their music, songwriting, process, inspirations, and what they’re doing this for.

And there’s a whole club. You know, you’re either on the cover of Mojo and Uncut and all those kinds of “rock ‘n’ roll” Rolling Stone magazines, but you don’t get pieces that tell you about the inner workings of beings like us, right? Like, what makes us tick? What makes us move? What gives us energy? Right now, you can probably hear the waves in the background. I had to get out of, well, some might say Babylon — or just whatever this.

Western “lockdown” thing that everyone is experiencing and coping with in different ways. But it started to take a toll on me, and I needed to get out. I needed to get away from all of that concrete. I needed to get away from all of the bricks and the mortar and just all of the energies that were quite fear-based, making everybody feel like they weren’t allowed to connect and be there for each other.

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I am a writer and a blogger. In 2011, I started my first blog when I was 16 years old. Since then, I’ve written for blogs like TechCrunch, Huffington Post, Lifehack, BuzzFeed, and many more. I have an MBA from UC Berkeley, and currently work in San Francisco, CA. I write about topics like careers, startups, social entrepreneurship, and personal finance.

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