Such zest and enthusiasm for life and the arts as is displayed by Elspeth Chimedza is both unique and unparalleled. But even more amazing is her energy and focus in all that she thinks and does. She’s a dreamer and a planner! She is a polyglot of sorts, with more than just passing spoken knowledge of several languages! She is a cosmopolitan and has more or less lived a jet-set life with her family. Going from capital to another and from one international school to another! She is a poet and a spoken word artist, a media mogul in the making and a veritable songwriter to book!
L’Afrique Beat’s Constance (C) engaged Elspeth (Els) in a lively conversation. We present the conversation below:
C: What is your full name?
Els: Elspeth Chimedza
C: What is your date of birth?
Els: 8 July 1987
C: Where were you born?
Els: Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Hospital, Harare, Zimbabwe.
C: How many are you in your family?
Els: Four; three girls and one boy.
C: Where and when did you do your primary education?
Els: Because we travelled a lot I went to several different schools, but I did the first part of my primary school in Kuwait at an international school, the Kuwait English School in 1995. I completed my primary schooling in Harare, at Marlborough Primary school where I was from 1996 through to 1999.
C: Where did you do your secondary education and which years?
Els: From 2000 to 2001(form one and two) I went to Queen Elizabeth High School, Harare. From 2002 to 2003 (form three and four), I was at Jameson High School in Kadoma. From 2004 to 2005 (A level), I was at Christ Ministries High School in Harare. Yes, I moved schools a lot!
C: What did you do after your secondary education?
Els: I studied nursing although it was not really my thing. Nevertheless, I learned a lot and enjoyed the experiences of being in the medical field. Very eye-opening! I then went on to do some marketing and to work for an advertising company as an advertising executive and now I am building my empire through my magazine.
C: When did you start writing poems? What was the title of the first poem?
Els: I started writing poetry when I was in form three, that’s in 2002. I confess it was during study time that I took a notebook and penned down my first poem titled, “Infatuation”. From there a series of poems came up. I even had one poem entitled, “Because Of You”- “plagiarised” by the whole school; I had written it for a ‘close’ friend of mine who was like a ‘sister’ to me so a lot of people ended sending and dedicating the poem to their sisters. Who would have thought that the ‘kid’ who didn’t fit in would be a ‘trendsetter’? Anyway that’s when I started penning down poetry.
C: What was your inspiration to want to start writing poems?
Els: I was an awkward teenager who didn’t fit in with the crowd, so poetry was an outlet; a form of expression. I also loved English Literature; in particular, I was intrigued by a set book, “Waiting for the Rain” by Charles Mungoshi. There was a particular poem that spoke to me; I even got a high score in analysing the poem. I also loved a lot of African literature and Shakespearean work so that inspired my writing.
C: What are some of your achievements as a poet?
Els: So far I have been published in compilations including Silent Voices, a Zimbabwean-Nigerian writers exchange product published by the Society Of Young Nigerian writers in 2013, Silent Drums, which is a local publication in 2013, Madzongo Endyaringo Shona Poetry DVD produced by CHIPAWO & Zvavanhu Trust in 2013 and my first anthology, “Telling Stories From The Heart” (Eloya Somaine) 2014. I have also made radio and television appearances. I am off the spoken-word scene at the moment, but I have work in progress which I am looking forward to publish and launch.
C: You are also a songwriter, have any of the songs you’ve written been recorded? If so, can you name them?
Els: Not as yet, but it’s in the pipeline. I wanted to first get my foot in the door into the entertainment industry and find the right people that I would like to work with in terms of producers and artists, so now that I have a few really amazing people in mind, I’m actually ready to jump into the studio and have my work out.
C: How did you get your pseudonym? And why did you decide on a pen name instead of your own name?
Els (Laughs): Strangely, my pseudonym came as an epiphany. I took the first three letters of my first name E.L.S and then the names just popped up during study in high school. Eloya is Hebrew, also Spanish and also French so the meanings vary; Eloya means “chosen one”, and Somaine, well, I messed up the French “semaine”-which means week. A week has seven days and seven happens to be my lucky and favourite number. I guess in my own meaning, Eloya Somaine means ‘chosen perfection’.
I chose to use a pseudonym because I somewhat wanted to be behind the scenes in the sense that, I wanted my work to represent itself separately from myself. Eloya is Eloya, a poet and writer and Elspeth is Elspeth, a work in progress.
C: How did you start writing songs?
Els: Naturally loved music from when I was very young, so my father would take me for music lessons; he got me my first proper keyboard at two. I would compose songs from the top of my head and I would sing for people. I wrote my first official song at eleven titled, “Invisible” and then from there I continued with song writing up to date. Not sure how many songs I have written in total, but I have them scribbled all over. I actually prefer writing songs because it comes naturally and it’s easier and actually most of my poems are meant to be songs; it’s only that most might not have a melody or tune to them, so I put those on hold and keep them as poems.
C: You are also an editor and CEO of an online magazine. Can you tell me more about the magazine?
Els: My magazine is called Groove Magazine Zimbabwe; tagline-“the beat of the nation!” It is a music and urban culture magazine focused on young Zimbabweans setting trends across the globe and global trends that influence our urban culture. A mouthful! Basically the magazine is supposed to be a standard setter where we showcase authentic and marketable Zimbabwean talent to the rest of the world whilst keeping Zimbabweans abreast with popular culture and global trends. In essence we feature ‘young’ Zimbabweans and their talents through interviews, profiles and reviews on what they are doing. As a business entity, the magazine also works towards employing and making a living out of entertainment. We want to be the bridge between the entertainment, corporate and public by exchanging and conveying ‘needs’ to all spectrums and hopefully contribute to the development of young people and the nation as a whole.
C: What are the challenges you’ve met as a young poet and as a female in the media world?
Els: Not being taken seriously! Unfortunately the industry is filled with shady individuals who sell dreams but never come through and at times request for ‘prices’ that compromise an individual’s integrity. Even if you are really talented, because you are a female and worse still you refuse to compromise your values, you are likely to be given the run around and people shut the doors on you. My biggest challenge has been in getting support as myself, without using the ‘name-dropping’ technique because I am fortunate that I have family members who are well-known public figures in different spheres, especially in the entertainment industry. But so far the challenges have become a learning curve which I am grateful for because I now can do a lot of things on my own and I have become smarter, bolder and even better equipped. At the moment I guess, like most upcoming ‘artists/entrepreneurs’, there is need for financial support and resources but I believe that I have proved that I can make a viable product and offer services which can be ‘invested’ in. So, in time, things will fall into place.
C: Where is Elspeth heading media-wise?
Els: I have a lot planned from Groove Magazine. I want to turn it into a media entity that not only covers publications but we also take on radio, television, fashion and go corporate. All I know is that by 2020 Groove Magazine Zimbabwe should be in at least five African countries and two Diaspora nations in particular the United States and the UK. But with everything I am taking one step at a time, crafting and building skills and financial capacity. I know I will get there. As an ‘artist’, I obviously want to expand my abilities as a writer, poet, and songwriter and even as a musician. I definitely want to write songs for renowned artists and also work with gifted songwriters and producers. I am going to try and win the most coveted awards including a World Music Award and a Grammy. I also aim to have books that are used as set books in schools. Obviously, best-sellers are a must! I would also like to venture into theatre and film since I am already being mentored by locally renowned script/play writers and film producers/ directors; so that might be another avenue to explore. The sky is the limit, all I need to do is learn and grow myself and take every opportunity that gets me closer to my dreams.
C: Are you married?
C: I understand your father was a diplomat and you travelled all over the world with him. Which countries have you lived in and how has this affected your childhood?
Els: I lived in two countries mainly, that is, Senegal and Kuwait, where my father was posted for five years respectively, but we travelled for holidays and shopping in France, UK, Germany, Spain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt. I have vague memories of most of the places but I like to call myself a ‘global child’ because I was influenced culturally and language-wise by the places that I have been to. I find it easy to pick on languages and I have a fairly wide vocabulary in French and Creole, both of which I spoke fluently spoke when I was young; I also have some vocabulary in Spanish and German. My father spoke a number of languages and was a translator. I was brought up in a liberal environment and because I attended international schools and interacted with other diplomats’ and ambassadors’ children, I was socialised into a multi-cultural environment although I was an introvert as a child. All this influenced my interaction, perception of the world and my artistic skills.
C: How would you describe literature in Zim?
Els: Zimbabwe has a number of prolific older generation writers such as Charles Mungoshi, Stephen Chifunyise, Chirikure Chirikure, Dambudzo Marechera, Tsitsi Dambarembga, Yvonne Vera, Albert Nyathi, amongst many others, who have set the pace for younger generations. Zimbabwe has always been recognized as a country with a lot of literate people and a culture of reading. This is largely due to the country’s educational system which has made such things both possible and prevalent over the years. However, maybe it’s just me, but somehow the appreciation of Literature has gone down due to a number of factors including the easy availability of information online, not a bad thing, but a lot of ‘copy and paste’ is done. This has seen educational standards going down and with it the zest for reading in most young people. We still have the Book Fair which is held annually, so people get to see what Literature works are out; but I think there is a need to re- instil the reading culture and to build an appreciation of it. Younger writers should step forward with their work which should range from pre-school to tertiary level. There should also be support for young writers by the older generation, with them moving away from conservative approaches towards ‘urban-literature’ because the world is evolving, so Literature is also evolving and attuning itself to the times and generations.
C: Any other information you’d like to share?
Els: Just parting words as I encourage young people to follow and be part of the beat of the nation-Groove Magazine Zimbabwe. We are a movement. We are trendsetters. We are the future. So, ‘like’ our page on Facebook: Groove Magazine Zimbabwe, follow us on Twitter: @ZimGroovemag and if you think that you are a trendsetter, send in your links to email@example.com. As for myself as an individual, expect the unexpected but most likely this year there will be singles, more poetry publications and a something in television/film so keep following.