Shungudzo (BMG)

As a mechanism of activism, powerful impacts of poetry happen when the message irrevocable permeates and alters our beliefs moving us forward with a new understanding. This form of ancient, deeply-rooted communication connects willing listeners to the speaker rendering it impossible to fall backwards into ignorance of injustices. In this spirit, debut full-length I’m not a mother but I have children by Zimbabwean-American singer Shungudzo takes direct aim in calling out inherent societal oppressions and dangers faced exclusively by women and people of color setting the tone with intro “Black breath” leading into first single, the upbeat, “It’s a good day (to fight the system).”

In spite of their emotionally-charged and at times raw content, the tracks nurture compassion through their haunting beauty and graceful delivery. In “There’s only so much a soul can take,” Shungudzo sings of burning crosses in a way that’s so buoyantly disarming, the message lands softly and stays put. Same for “‘Merican dream.” As for what to call it, “My genre is socio-political,” Shungudzo says. “Traditional genres often create boundaries rather than opportunities for artists of all races, but most often for artists of color. I'd really like to push the industry's long-standing notion that Black artists ought to fit into a one-dimensional box while white artists are allowed to jump fluidly from sound to sound without being questioned or criticized for having diverse tastes as people and musicians. I am a person of many interests and backgrounds, and also one of many musical tastes. Why can’t my music express all of me? Why can’t artists and their music be as multifaceted as all humans are?”

Throughout her many interests runs the current of poetry, a commitment to craft she made to herself as a small child by making a personal rule that she would write a poem every day, a practice to which she still adheres and the result is expressive freedom. “So much of what I’ve done has, over time, taught me how to express my knowledge, desires and feelings openly,” she explains. “Allowing ourselves to feel is a very important beginning step in healing. This is why it was so important for me to try to express a bit of every emotion I've felt surrounding race, society and trying to build a better one on my album. I wanted to express hope. I wanted to express sadness. I wanted to express unparalleled optimism. I also wanted to metaphorically punch a few people in the face. I hope that being open about the range of emotions I’ve felt over the Black experience, the female experience and the human experience encourages other people to be more open about what they’re going through.”

“It’s a good day (to fight the system” is spinning for listeners of KXT, WAPS, WRLT, and WDST to name a few, and Shungudzo is on tour now.