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Nzingha: Healing through music

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I don’t have, but I will earn

I don’t know everything right now, but I will learn

I am blind, but I’ll feel my way
I am scared, but this time I won’t runaway
I am sad, but I will smile



These are lines from the first verse of Nzinga Job’s original composition A Song. When performing the song, Job, who performs as Nzingha, plays a compelling guitar riff. The music was inspired by West African rhythms. “I was working on guitar patterns based on those I’d heard from West African musicians like Habib Koite (singer from Mali) and one day I just started singing and those were the words that came out.” “It’s like I was challenging myself,” she said during an interview on her lunch hour in downtown Scarborough, Tobago. Job is a secondary school music and drama teacher. “I often use music to express my feelings and I was feeling at that time that it doesn’t matter what life throws at me, I’m going to find a way out of it.”



The song continues:

I am grown, but I know my inner child
I may lose, but sometimes I also win
I have to fake sometimes, but I also keep it real
I have no limits
I have no limits except those that I place on myself
I will be faithful to the work that I started
I will not live on a shell


Yet her preference for world music, particularly African sounds, has little to do with the fact that Job is Kenyan-born. In fact, she hasn’t been back to Kenya, since the age of two. These types of songs and rhythms will make the base for the acoustic sounds on Job’s debut album, which she plans to release in January. “I like organic things. I like the earthy sound like folk music and world music. I also like neo-soul. I’m definitely not Lady Gaga or a reggae artist. My music is soothing, calming, empowering and inspiring. “I want people to hear it. I want people to be able to listen to my music and be ok with being themselves and being weird in their own way and see that nothing is wrong with that,” she said. While studying music at Colgate University in New York, Job was able to hone her skills. Since returning to T&T in 2008, Job has done a lot of re-evaluation on the meaning of art and her purpose as an artist. She’s also observed that some audiences were more impressed by explicitly political material than subjects perceived as soft.


“There’s a lot of artists who think art is about waving a warning sign and it’s always about telling people where they’re going wrong. Originally I felt that way too like I had to be John the Baptist. But life is about living. The point of life is to be happy. We fight and have whatever struggles we go through so we can do that,” she said.
“So, you know, what are these people trying to tell me? You can’t enjoy a simple song about love? You can’t enjoy a song that doesn’t have to do with Jack or corruption? What is so less entertaining about celebrating things that are right with the world? Nothing. And it’s not less valuable but I am a person who believes that art should move you and should help to educate and edify, entertain as well as to enlighten.”


I’ve seen death but I choose to live

I have to take to survive but I find the grace to give
I am one but in fact two is in me
And I am alone and I am a woman but I’m free



Job has also had to adjust to composing with distractions and social media Web sites like Facebook have become an asset. “I have struggled with this for quite sometime on how to shape my  ideas into songs and poetry. I don’t know how to compose or concentrate with noise around me. What I’ve been doing for the past four years is going to Facebook. “I look at the comments people make and read their status updates and think about what creative response I could make because I felt for the last four years that’s all I could do. I don’t understand what it is to compose in an environment where noise can come and interrupt you at any point.” It was her Facebook posts that earned Job a position among TEDxPort-of-Spain speakers last December. She spoke about her first love of drawing and writing plays and acting while growing up, but she also spoke about being a rape survivor—she became a victim of rape nearly 15-years-ago while still attending St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain.


“It has never been difficult for me to talk about it. What’s been hard for me has been to accept that it happened and that it was so easy for it to happen. I feel like the culture has failed me and my parents have failed me in terms of not preparing me to defend myself. I really admire the whole idea of being proactive. We need to train girls to defend themselves because at some point they may find themselves alone with a man who’s not interested in their rights,” she said. Keeping a journal, writing poetry and composing helped Job come to terms with the rape. Now, she tries to impart the necessity of being prepared and truly understanding sex to her students. 



“My body is for me to praise, to extract joy, to celebrate. So if a man wants to have sex with me, he has to convince me that he can grasp these kinds of concepts and explore other concepts that are not sexual before I can get involved.” And as Job continues to create, she explores these ideas and more. “Art has always been for me my value system. When ever I’m really depressed and I actually get to that point where I’m considering leaving the world, I remember the times that people came to me and said, ‘You can really sing and it really affected me.’ And it reminds me that I must have worth on this planet.”



I have no limits,
I have no limits except those that I place on myself
I will be faithful to the work that I started
I will not live on a shell

If you’d like to keep up with Nzinga Job, you can find her Facebook fan page under: Nzingha.


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