Vol No: 83,
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Shingai Shoniwa: The acrobatic show girl of British music
AS TIMES online put it, Shoniwa is the most natural, charismatic frontwoman in British music today, an acrobatic showgirl-cumdisco diva; her voice, too, is something else, swooping from Eartha Kitt purr to Broadway holler via acoustic soul breathiness.

Shingai Elizabeth Maria Shoniwa, born in 1981, is of English and Zimbabwean descent. She is the vocalist and bassist for the UK indie rock band Noisettes. Her first name, Shingai means ‘persevere’ in the Zimbabwean Shona language.

Shingai Shoniwa performed in the band called Sonarfly with other Noisettes member and songwriting partner and guitarist Dan Smith. Shoniwa grew up in a South London publichousing estate and the experience, Shoniwa says, absolutely informs her music. “Wanting to escape from reality can inspire the greatest and most trivial creative natures in people,” and “I think escapism is something that connects all of us. Everybody has their own little soundtrack, and I guess I’m trying to make my own soundtrack to my escape plan. I want people to realize that there’s so much more.”

Shingai first wanted to be an actress, and for a while joined the Lost Vagueness crew as a burlesque performer and co-creator of the now legendary ‘Golden Egg Routine’. She studied circus skills at a London youth club as a teenager. Shoniwa Joined Amnesty’s Make Some Noise and appeared in an Instant Karma! video singing John Lennon’s song, ‘Imagine’ to help stop the violence. Shoniwa has been romantically linked with Musician Jack Penate and Eastenders star Mohammed George. Shoniwa made an appearance on Annie Lennox’s 2007 album, “Songs Of Mass Destruction” on the single ‘Sing’. The track, about the fight against HIV Aids, will included 22 other renowned female artists such as Madonna, Melissa Etheridge, Gladys Knight and Celine Dion.

Shingai Shoniwa has provided backing vocals for different indie rock, electronic, and punk rock artists including, Guillemots with their song ‘Made Up Love Song #43’ and ‘Over the Stairs’.

Shingai Shoniwa, along with Patti Smith and Juliette Lewis helped celebrate Jack Daniel’s birthday in Lynchburg, Tennessee on 13 October 2007. The three joined by The New Silver Cornet Band for the show which took place at the company’s distillery. The show is part of the 157th birthday celebrations for Jack Daniel, who was born sometime in September 1850. The Birthday JD Set opened to specially invited guests and competition winners only.

Her family’s Zimbabwean background, in particular their Shona culture, meant that she grew up in a musical environment in which singing was part of everyday life.

“I never felt the need to aspire to be a singer when I grew up,” Shoniwa says, “cause I was always singing anyway. It wasn’t like I’ve gotta be a singer ... everyone in the family is a singer or a bass player, on my mum’s side anyway.”

Her father, an academic, died when she was 11, and she grew up in an extended, close-knit matriarchal family. Her mother, a social worker, promoted musical events at the Africa Centre in Central London. “I remember falling asleep there many times as a little girl,” she recalls. Her nonidentical twin sister, she says, is theatrical rather than musical. “She’s good at art, media, whereas I was more interested in writing little pieces that we’d perform for the family.”

The singular fashion style that has led to her signing with the Storm model agency was equally intuitive, and also reflects her African heritage. “My mum and my grans are all very flamboyant. Even if I left the house very, very dolled up, I would always mess something up. Clothes for her have always been fun. “And mum always knew how to turn copper into gold.”

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