Caroleen Nqobile Masawi, known on stage as MASA, is a fast-rising Zimbabwean singer and songwriter. Before starting her own band, MASA was a singer for the Sunsets Jazz Band from which she grew and was motivated to embark on a solo career. MASA’s voice is sultry, her style traverses genres but it remains deeply rooted in her Zimbabwean heritage. Her debut album Pamusoroi was launched on 3 August 2019 and is available on all online music stores.
As a child, your favourite past-time was…
Definitely playing house – whether the child or the mother – and playing games in the streets. Oh, and dancing! I used to dance at weddings. Oh, but you said favourite, so one! It definitely has to be dancing.
Your inspiration to be a singer…
…Came from very different people – from my grandmothers and my uncles who used to sing in the SDA church and still do to this day and listening to music on the bus Chawasarira or Tenda to the rural areas. My dad made me listen to a lot of different genres of music from reggae, soul, R&B, kanindo and rhumba. So my inspiration comes from a lot of influences.
And what inspires your writings?
My writings are inspired by life, love, social commentary…essentially what I think that I have a chance to speak on or on behalf of someone who may not be able to speak it. It can be about anything really, as long as I’m moved to write about it.
Do you sing full-time?
Yes, I do and I’m also studying music. So definitely a full-time musician!
Before becoming a full-time singer, you…
…Rose through the ranks in the hospitality industry, starting right at the bottom to become a 5-star restaurant manager. I loved the industry and it taught me how to deal with people and finessed my networking skills. One day I’d like to marry my two passions – music and hospitality.
Your cousin is Bonnie Chimanikire, founder of The High Tea. Is there a creativity gene in your family or something?!
Well, for sure I come from a line of very strong women; women who are not afraid to speak their mind; women who chase their dreams; women who are royal, so I guess it’s in the genes definitely! It’s a powerful family to come from and Bonnie is my pillar of strength and anchor. I bounce ideas off her every other day. I love her very much!
We all know how tough it is to be in Zimbabwe right now – economically, socially…what can we do to change things?
Zimbabwe is definitely tough, and I think if we were to come together, if we were to get over what divides us and put more focus on what can bring us together, we could do so much more as a people. Our communities are breaking down and this should stop.
And then comes along the COVID-19 pandemic. How are you faring?
I miss my family a lot because of the lockdown. I now appreciate hugs and kisses a lot more and I now I know that nothing is really guaranteed in life. So, we just must embrace every moment and live every moment to the fullest. Laugh and smile with all your heart and be intentional about growing relationships.
Might the economic situation make you leave Zimbabwe to pursue your art?
My hope is definitely to visit the rest of the world and show them what my country is made of and the beauty that lies here when it comes to music and art. There are a lot of other artists doing this already whether they are visual artists, sculptors, painters and so on. I will be adding my own voice to the many voices that are sharing our stories to the world. So, if I were to leave it would be to do that.
Does your first album have a theme?
Pamusoroi is very me, very mixed. It’s full of different genres because I myself am a melting pot of different cultures. The theme is, ‘Here I am and this is me’.
What makes you this melting pot of cultures?
My grandfather was a Malawian Muslim who trekked from Nkatha Bay in the north and married my feisty Zezuru grandmother. They had my father. My mother is of Portuguese descent born of a Ndebele mother, so I am this bag of goodies. I was born and bred in Harare and have also lived in Bulawayo.
Is there a song on the album that really resonates with you?
Yes – it’s called ‘The River.’ I wrote it when I felt lost and needed a cleansing, a fresh start.
Your 2 biggest challenges as a singer have been or are…
Opportunities and financing.
How do you handle them?
For opportunities I fight for them. For financing I have funded myself and hopefully someone sees that what we’re doing is worth investing in.
The best thing about what you do is…
…I get to share my truth on the stage and I get to share different stories from different people through my voice and my pen. That’s really such a gift that humbles me every time.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Typical day! Oh, my word! I wake up and go to music school then rehearse with my band. Back at home, I practice school stuff. Then I make dinner for the family and we eat. After that, it’s back to music, then sleep!
Your next project is…
To shoot some visuals and record my second album later in the year. But who knows if the correct ingredients will come along; I may just record and release a song or two.
What’s the dream?
The dream is to share my music with the entire planet. I’d like to see this gift open doors for me to be in places where I can use my voice and influence for things that matter in the world and issues that are a burden to my heart.
You can get a copy of Caroleen’s debut album here:
Follow Masa Caroleen here: