By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro WINDHOEK On 18 November one of Namibia’s Oviritje musical genre pioneers touched down at Hosea Kutako International Airport to a star’s welcome by hundreds of her fans and the genre’s lovers. Since she is on a whirlwind tour of the country to squeeze in live performances in her tight five weeks or so visit to the country, I was squeezed in her manicure appointment at the Kuiiri Kambato hair salon in Katutura where she was readying herself for a series of shows countrywide. Her story reveals that she may not as yet have tasted riches. Neither has she achieved world fame. However her pioneering work of Kakazona Kavari, alias Cholla, is undeniable. Not only that but she is also today one of the most sought after singers of this genre if not the one. The six-year-old rural girl who started copycatting her sisters in singing this genre, then in its raw choral form unaccompanied by instruments, had soon overtaken them to be not only an ambassadorial voice of the genre, a singer par excellence but an assertive woman with a philosophical outlook on life. Coming from a not so constructive envious community, coming from her is a forceful voice out to destroy this vice. Her sister realising the treasure in her young unspoilt voice would escort her into the tranquility of the rural forest to listen to her. And in this way they started to make a singer if not a star. The first break came when together with Isabella Katataiza and Elfriede Kangootui they were selected as singers for the Kanokona (Otjinoko) troupe. One thing leads to another. This was followed by a string of performances in various school groups from junior to senior primary school and onward at secondary schools like the Epako Secondary School where she received the accolade of top singer in 1993. Meanwhile, she had teamed up with her male pioneering counterpart of this genre, Kareke Henguva with whom she performed at the Otjiuaneho Secondary School. It was not long before another accolade of top singer beckoned at this school, also known as Frank Fredericks School. Together with Kareke they later teamed up with another talent of the genre, Meisie Henguva to become an inimitable trio. Those were the days of bands like Korukurure and Benoni. It was time now to move on to new urban waters where fellow singers like Kareke had already treaded. The Augustineum Secondary School became her rendezvous starting with the 1980s. The urban life had its initial effect, naturally. Lack of instruments also inhibited the production of cassettes. Songs like Hunguriva Heruka and Vaherero Zemburukee Omaronga wOmbara Kapuuo are among the leading songs of the times. Cholla testifies to a steady inflow of proceeds in those days more than today but this was nullified by lack of proper management. Then master Oviritje genre keyboardist, Peter Peterson, appeared on the scene around 2000. Oviritje would since not be the same again. Muraera Kaune took the singer under his wings for more regular rehearsals at the Centaurus Secondary School. The same year Cholla released her real first hit, Ondorongo (Prison), which is about her personal experience of prison life. Sebulon then followed which was dedicated to her boyfriend then with the same name for him to mend his wayward ways. The effect was electric and Sebulon is today a dutiful member of the Namibia Defence Force based at Grootfontein. Last year she released her album Tsunami, so named after the climatic disaster in Asia. But has her effort in this music genre been bearing fruit? Yes, she answers emphatically especially when she is in charge of the sale and marketing of her cassettes and CDs. Cholla recently returned from the UK for a six-week or so visit in the country. As much as she was overwhelmed by the welcome for a star she received, she had mixed feelings about it if her send-off is anything to go by. Stage conduct and appealing to the crowd are among the things she has learnt from her exposure on the musical scene abroad. Her exposure has included sharing stage with various artists such as from the Congo with the traditional Otjiherero/Otjimbanderu dress not failing to attract attention. And Petersen extinguishing himself on the keyboard. Another lesson is not to listen to people while performing. Her stay in the UK also led to contacts that facilitated her visiting Spain and France where she performed. Her wish, and this is not mere wishful thinking, is to become the country’s leading singer. And the Oviritje music genre has come a long way since but sound engineers have to work on their act, she advises. The only reason she is in the country is because of her love for her fans but they need to be more constructive in their criticism. Cholla promises her fans that before she returns to the UK she is here to give her fans the best of her best.
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